Good show put on by Major League Baseball and the organizers of the 2017 World Baseball Classic Asia rounds held in Seoul and Tokyo earlier this month.
With the new Gocheok Sky Dome in South Korea, MLB was able to hold its first sanctioned event in that country, and the two rounds held in Tokyo Dome were well received and — at least in night games where Samurai Japan played — well attended with crowds of more than 40,000.
Among those enjoying their work and time in Japan were broadcasters Buck Martinez and Rich Waltz, who called play-by-play on all 12 games at Tokyo Dome for the MLB Network.
Martinez, a former manager of the Toronto Blue Jays and the skipper of Team USA in the first World Baseball Classic in 2006, calls Jays games during the regular season. Waltz is the play-by-play announcer for the Miami Marlins.
They worked together at the last edition of the Classic in 2013, calling games in Fukuoka and Tokyo. Both get a kick out of coming to Japan where Watlz developed a huge liking of edamame, the Japanese beans that go so well with beer on a warm summer evening.
True professionals, Martinez and Waltz, despite their infrequent opportunities to work together and do international games, displayed an amazing ability to spew out facts about the players from Japan, China, Cuba, the Netherlands, Israel and Australia. Their pronunciation of the Japanese and Chinese names was not bad either. Clearly, they did their homework and preparation with extreme diligence.
During their eight days of calling the games, the pair covered all the idiosyncrasies of Japan, Japanese baseball and the Tokyo Dome, from the cheering sections, to the whistle-blowing attendants warning fans about foul balls, to the “exciting” seats, to the beer vendors.
“How about a Kirin?” Waltz asked Martinez when their camera crew picked up a shot of a beer girl working the stands and squirting a brewski through the nozzle attached to the tank on her back.
Martinez did a rundown of the six Yomiuri Giants legendary players whose retired numbers hang on posts in the outfield stands at Tokyo Dome, and he especially enjoyed the play of Giants (normally) light-hitting catcher Seiji Kobayashi, who hit well for Samurai Japan in the six games he played, batting .444 with a home run and six RBIs.
Waltz kept reminding Martinez that Kobayashi hit only .204 with but four home runs in 129 games during the regular season in 2016.
“Watch what you say about .200-hitting catchers,” said Martinez, himself a lifetime .225 hitter over a span of 17 major league seasons behind the plate with the Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays.
Waltz works the microphones at the Marlins games with Eduardo Perez who played in 2001 with the Hanshin Tigers in the Central League. Martinez can also be heard in Japan doing commentary of the World Series in October on the international feed carried by NHK.
The announcers left for their return to the U.S. following the World Baseball Classic action in Tokyo, ready to hit spring training and then prepare for their seasons in Miami and Toronto.
“We’ll be back,” they said. Hoping for a chance to call another Classic in Japan in 2021 and chow down on some more edamame.
“We are so fortunate to be able to do what we do,” said Martinez.
Diamond Dust left over from the World Baseball Classic: As nice as it is, the new Gocheok Sky Dome in South Korea has a surface much faster — and harder — than most ballparks. Stadiums such as Tokyo Dome have artificial turf that contains granulated rubber. The Gocheok field has granulated ceramic.
Israel manager Jerry Weinstein said, “It played so fast, it was like we were playing in a parking lot.”
During the first round of play at Tokyo Dome, there were no home run dimensions on the fences. Then Murray Cook showed up after working in Korea. Cook is Major League Baseball’s man-in-charge of making sure everything about the game is measured correctly and the playing conditions meet MLB standards.
He made sure the distances in feet and meters were posted—at least down the left — and right-field lines and in straightaway center. Everyone could see it was 100 meters (328 feet) to left and right and 122 meters (400 feet) to the backscreen. But, just as when MLB teams came to open the regular season at Tokyo Dome in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, as soon as the event was over, down came the numbers off the fences.
Why don’t the Tokyo Dome people just leave them up there?
I promise to find out and will let you know the answer in an upcoming column.
Friends & Fans: The 2017 edition of my Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide is now available. It is the complete English-language guide to Japanese baseball and includes league and team directories, team rosters, league schedules, profiles of the foreign players, statistics from past seasons, directions to the stadiums, Japanese baseball trivia and much more, packed into 128 pages.
The quickest way to get your copy in Japan is to order directly from me. Please send ¥1,500 in cash, or Japanese 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 website. Yoroshiku.
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: Wayne@JapanBall.com
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