Here's why Japanese baseball is light years ahead of MLB

Here’s why Japanese baseball is light years ahead of MLB

Can you imagine MLB being this fun?

Can you imagine MLB being this fun?
Picture: PA

Major League Baseball is great. As long as no one is complaining about the unwritten rules and Nick Castellanos isn’t at the plate, the game is laid back and fun. I doubt I could enjoy it any more than I already do.

Never mind.

The legend in the video above is Nippon-Ham Fighters’ manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo. He puts the Dos Equis guy to shame. This is a baseball manager riding a hovercraft into a game! How can you not think that’s the coolest thing ever?

The only thing cooler than the entrance is Shinjo himself. The man was the first-ever Japanese-born baseball player to participate in a World Series. In 2002, Shinjo played in 118 games for the eventual NL champions, the San Francisco Giants. He slashed .238/.294/.370. While Shinjo only played three seasons in MLB, he didn’t let his career fade into obscurity. After returning to Japan, Shinjo became a celebrity. He started a fashion line, went on TV and won the Japanese version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, and did it all while still playing baseball, eventually winning his first and only Japan Series title in his final professional game. He’s earned a modicum of nicknames and titles across Japan, such as “Mr. Two” and “Spaceman” for his eccentric personality, larger than life persona, and of course, his position as Nippon-Ham’s manager.

When first named the team’s manager, Shinjo wasted no time making waves as he officially registered his name as “Big Boss.” You can’t get any more baller than that, but Shinjo still managed to one-up himself. On opening day, Shinjo entered the game like this:

That man had four spotlights on him! OVEN! IF I hadn’t seen the hovercraft with my own eyes, I’d think this entrance was unbeatable, but of course, less than a week later, Shinjo was 30 feet in the air above the diamond. At this rate, we should expect to see Shinjo teleport into a game by the end of the season.

I’ve seen some cool MLB bullpen entrances in my time. Watching Trevor Hoffman run onto the field with AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells playing in the background at Petco Park is still one of my fondest childhood memories. The bullpen cart was cool…for a moment, then it made like a nosy relative at Thanksgiving and overstayed its welcome. It got dry fast.

Major League Baseball has had difficulty drawing in younger fans for a while now, and the shows that Shinjo has put on display in his short time as Nippon-Ham’s manager are just straight up cool. No denying that. It doesn’t matter if you despise baseball with all your heart, hovercrafts are awesome, and that might be enough to convince some younger Japanese viewers to give baseball a try.

While the baseball purists of the world might despise Shinjo’s actions for “stealing the spotlight” or “making it about himself,” I’d gladly take Shinjo’s antics over Tony La Russa ridiculing one of his own players for hitting a home run any day of the week.

Of course, it doesn’t help that Shinjo’s Fighters are 0-5 thus far and haven’t even participated in a one-run game this season. However, I’m sitting here writing about the Fighters, not the 5-0 SoftBank Hawks, so who’s really the winner in this situation?

All I’m saying is that MLB could use a little bit of this flair in 2022. Nobody outside of Pittsburgh cares about the Pirates this season. They’ve got some promising young stars in Bryan Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Oneil Cruz, but nobody is biting their nails in anticipation to see that team take the field. Now imagine for a moment that when the Pirates have their home opener on April 12, Derek Shelton comes into the game with a whole firework display and marching band backing him up. The Pirates might lose that game, but you can bet I’m watching every moment for the rest of that series.

Will it ever happen? No, absolutely not, but it would be fun, and that’s a word that doesn’t get thrown around a lot when talking about the current state of Major League Baseball.

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