One of Japan’s chief umpires said Saturday that Japan went farther than the majors toward collisions at home plate out of consideration for Japanese players’ “national character.”
Speaking a day after Japan’s new home plate collision rules were enforced for the first time in the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ 8-4 Pacific League win over the Seibu Lions, the chief of Nippon Professional Baseball’s umpiring technical committee, Osamu Ino, said it was necessary to make Japan’s rules at home base stricter than in Major League Baseball.
“In the majors, a fielder is allowed to enter the baseline if he has the ball,” Ino, who also sits on Japan’s rules committee, told Kyodo News by telephone. “He can block the plate if he has the ball. But we felt that if we left that door open, players would encroach on it and pretty soon players would be blocking the plate.
“We carefully considered the national character of Japanese players, and because we — and the players union — wanted to eliminate collisions completely we didn’t want (fielders) blocking the base or the base line under any circumstances.”
On Friday, Lions pitcher Kona Takahashi uncorked a wild pitch with the bases loaded that bounded far enough for the Fighters runner on second to attempt to score. Takahashi waited for the throw from his catcher with his left foot planted on home plate. As the throw arrived, runner Daiki Asama hit the dirt in a head-first slide two meters from the plate.
Takahashi planted his right foot and stepped onto the base line with his left, thus running afoul of Japan’s collision-avoidance rule. Although Asama was called out at home, a video review confirmed that Takahashi had stepped onto the base path with the ball — violating the rule, nullifying the out and allowing the run to score.
“The throw had him beat, so it is regrettable,” Lions manager Norio Tanabe said after the game.