Here comes MLB 2007 with Opening Day this week and, as you might have expected, extensive coverage of games on Japanese TV featuring teams with favorite son players — the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
NHK BS-1 plans to air a whopping 290 major league games this season, and will start the schedule on April 2, with the New York Mets and Cardinals playing ball at 9 a.m. JST.
On April 3 it will be the Devil Rays and Yanks on live, if you want to get up at 2 a.m. Tokyo time for a U.S. East Coast day game.
The Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics tilt airs at 8 a.m. on April 4.
In addition, SKY PerfecTV will televise the Mets-Cards game on the 2nd and the Rays-Yanks game on the 3rd, and will also include the White Sox game against the Cleveland Indians at 3 a.m. on April 3.
SPTV will show a third contest — the Mariners and Athletics — on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m, and three more games on the 4th: the San Francisco Giants-San Diego Padres at 5 a.m., the Cardinals and Mets at 9:05 a.m. and the Texas Rangers against the Los Angeles Angels at 11 a.m.
Too bad about MLB-hopeful pitcher Masumi Kuwata. The 39-year-old (April 1 is his birthday) “rookie” with the Pittsburgh Pirates suffered that severely sprained ankle injury and will be out six weeks before he can resume his quest of trying to make it in the majors.
You may have seen the accident where Kuwata ran into plate umpire Jerry Bell during an exhibition game when the player was hustling to back up a play at third base, and Bell was also moving toward third as the umps rotated to make sure all bases were covered.
They were working short-handed, using a three-man crew, and the collision may not have occurred if a fourth umpire had been there.
Knowing Kuwata, I am sure he will not give up, but this is obviously a tough break and a major setback.
Meanwhile, here at home, the Central League began its season this weekend with some key players also missing the openers due to injuries.
Jeremy Powell and Koji Uehara of the Yomiuri Giants and Tomonori Maeda of the Hiroshima Carp are among those on the disabled list as the schedule began.
Uehara, the Giants ace, has been nursing a bad hamstring, and Maeda, the Carp captain and one of the club’s top hitters, was also on the sideline with a pulled hammie.
Maeda returned for Saturday’s game against the Hanshin Tigers.
J.P., another of the top pitchers in the Yomiuri rotation, went back to the U.S. to have an ailing knee checked, and Japanese sports papers have reported he may be sidelined for two months or longer.
Have you seen the Asahi Super Dry Beer ads featuring Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox and Hideki Matsui of the Yankees?
Of course you have.
In a TV commercial version, Matsui hits a “home run,” and the pitcher appearing as an actor and serving up the gopher is Matt Skrmetta, a former major leaguer who also threw here in 2003 with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks and 2005 with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Count me as one agreeing with Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, who said it’s about time for a woman umpire to break into the major league ranks.
You may have read where 30-year-old Ria Cortesio, a Double-A umpire, worked the Cubs exhibition game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Mesa on March 29, and it reminds me again of Perry Lee Barber.
Perry was the lady ump who worked a couple of exhibition games of the then-Orix Braves in Kansai in 1989 and got high marks and praise from another American first sacker, Boomer Wells of the Braves.
It’s time for a woman to attempt umpiring here in Japan, isn’t it?
Any girls out there interested in giving it a try?
Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we see a female out there calling pitches and making the “safe” and “out,” “fair” and “foul” decisions. In the meantime, I’m pulling for Ria to make the grade and get to the big leagues as soon as she can.
Finally this week, a warm welcome to our new baseball writer at The Japan Times, Jason Coskrey, who replaces Stephen Ellsesser.
Jason, from Detroit, comes to Tokyo via Birmingham, Ala., where he studied some Japanese language at UAB. He filed his first game reports on the Lotte-Nippon Ham openers from Chiba Marine Stadium March 24-25.
Steve says he will be filing for MLB.com from time to time, so we may be seeing his work online.
Friends & Fans: The 2007 edition of my Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide will be available on April 12.
It is the complete English-language guide to Japanese baseball and includes league and team directories, team rosters, league schedules, profiles of the foreign managers, coaches and players, statistics from past seasons, directions to the stadiums, ticket prices and much more, packed into 124 pages.
The quickest way to get your copy is to order directly from me.
Please send 1,000 yen in cash, Japanese postage stamps or postal check “kawase,” along with your name and address, to: Wayne Graczyk, 1-12-18 Kichijoji Higashi-cho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo-to, 180-0002.
Fans outside Japan can order through the JapanBall.com Web site.
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com