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June 04, 2005
Greetings from Japan - new baseball stat: HUI
Filed in: Current Affairs, Japan, Satire, Sports

Greetings from Japan - waking up here on Sunday morning brings NHK coverage of (mostly) Yankee and Mariner baseball games here (which are being played on Saturday night in the US - that's still a bit mind boggling to me).

I watched the Yankees beat the Twins in an exciting extra-innings game. Then began to watch the Mariners - Tampa Bay game for awhile. It's really interesting to listen to the NHK commentators - I translated a bit of the commentary in the bottoms of the 4th and 5th innings:


NHK 1: Kazmir still pitching, now facing Adrian Beltre. First pitch ...
NHK 2: Ball. How many more batters until Ichiro?
NHK 1: Let's see, that would be six more batters. Pitch 2: Ball...
NHK 2: OK, well let's hope that can happen this inning. Pitch 3: Called Strike...
NHK 1: Yes, it would be. You know Beltre doesn't swing like Ichiro does he? Pitch 4: Foul ball...
NHK 2: No he doesn't. No one does. Here's pitch 5 - Ball's in play! Oh, Beltre lines out to left fielder Carl Crawford...
NHK 1: You know, Ichiro probably wouldn't have done that - I mean line out left like that...
NHK 2: That's right, he would have hit to one side or the other - somehow would have made it on base...

NHK 1: New, batter Richie Sexon, First pitch: Swinging Strike...
NHK 2: How many batters now until Ichiro? Pitch 2: Ball...
NHK 1: Five more batters until Ichiro, Pitch 3: Swinging Strike...
NHK 2: Sexon is a great power hitter - but Ichiro makes better contact. Pitch 4: Ball...
NHK 1: I couldn't have said it any better. Sexon just can't place the ball the way Ichiro does. Pitch 5: Foul Ball...
NHK2: Yeah, it's too bad that every player can't be like Ichiro. Pitch 6: Ball...
NHK 1: Well they couldn't be. There's only one Ichiro. Pitch 7: Ball... Richie Sexson walks. 

NHK 1: Next batter: Raul Ibanez. First Pitch: Ball...
NHK 2: He stands at the plate a lot like Ichiro. How many batters now until Ichiro? Pitch 2: Called Strike
NHK 1: Four more until we see Ichiro. Well a lot of the Mariners do stand at the plate like Ichiro now - they have the benefit of studying Ichiro in fine detail during batting practice. Pitch 3: Foul Ball ...
NHK 1: Good thing they do. They will hit better if they just hit like Ichiro does. Here's Pitch 4: Ball...
NHK 2: Yes, hitting like Ichiro - nothing could be better than that. Pitch 5: Ball...
NHK 1: Here's Pitch 6: Ball hit sharply, it is going, going, going - homer runner, homer runner!
NHK 2: I told you he hit like Ichiro. That was an example of Ichiro style power hitting. Raul Ibanez hitting his 7th homer runner of the year to center field on Ichiro style hitting!   

NHK 1: Well after that exciting demonstration of Ichiro style hitting, the next batter is Bret Boone. Here's Pitch 1: Ball...
NHK 2: Boone doesn't hit just like Ichiro. How many more batters unti Ichiro? Here's Pitch 2: Called Strike...
NHK 1: That would be three more, No, Boone doesn't hit like Ichiro, Pitch 3 - Called Strike
NHK 2: Maybe he should take lessons from Ichiro. Here's Pitch 4, Swinging Strike, using a hitting style very much not like Ichiro, Bret Boone strikes out swinging.

NHK 1: Next batter is Jeremy Reed. Here's Pitch 1: Called Strike...
NHK 2: Isn't Ichiro coming up really soon? Pitch 2: Ball...
NHK 1: Two more batters until Ichiro. Here's Pitch 3: Foul Ball!
NHK 2: I can hardly wait. Here's Pitch 4: Ball's in play - to to third baseman Jorge Cantu, he throw's to first baseman Travis Lee. Ground out. That's the end of the fourth inning.
NHK1: You know, if that was Ichiro, he would probably have beaten out that throw.
NHK2: You are so right. He makes so many infield hits - it's amazing!

.... on to the bottom of the 5th inning ...

NHK 1: Finally - a Mariner at bat again - I have great news: we are certainly going to see an Ichiro at bat this inning! Here's the First Pitch to Willie Bloomquist: Foul ball ...
NHK 2: How many batters now until Ichiro? Here's Pitch 2: Foul ball ...
NHK 1: Just one more batter! I can hardly contain my excitment! Here's Pitch 3: Foul ball ... You know he's working this pitcher like Ichiro does - gets that pitch count up...
NHK1: Yes, no one does that like Ichiro, Here's Pitch 4 that ball is going to right field, and that's out one to right fielder Aubrey Huff.
NHK 2: Well, he worked him for a few pitches - but nothing like what Ichiro does.

NHK 1: On to the next batter guess what that means?, Here's Pitch 1: Called Strike
NHK 2: Ichiro is the next batter! It almost makes you want to see this at bat go quickly. Ichiro's next! Here's Pitch 2, Rene Rivera singles on a line drive to center fielder Alex Sanchez. Oh, what a perfect set up! Ichiro's next and there's a man on first base!

NHK 1: Here's what we've been waiting for ladies and gentlemen! Ichiro Suzuki is at bat! Everyone in Japan take a moment and place your hand over your chest for a moment of silence! Here's Pitch 1: It's a Ball...
NHK 2: What amazing eyes he has! He just watched that pitch go across and didn't move a muscle. Here's the second Pitch: Foul ball! Did you see how he made that contact - he just didn't want to put it into play.
NHK 1: Yes, we are seeing a master at work. Here's Pitch 3: A Swinging Strike! Ichiro is really setting up Kazmir, making him think that he can get the ball past Ichiro. Ichiro could be setting him up for the hit and run. My how exciting!
NHK 2: Yes, it is, this is the most exciting at bat in this game so far. Here comes Pitch 4 - No, it's not a pitch it's a pickoff attempt at first base.
NHK 1: What a chess match! OK, here comes Pitch number 4 now: Ichiro makes contact! He hits a squibber down the right field line. The first baseman has it - he's running toward the bag. Here comes Ichiro - here he comes! Oh, he nearly beats out the first baseman to first base. Did you see that? The first baseman was 10 feet off the bag when he fielded the ball and Ichiro was already 20 feet from the base - Ichiro made up all but an inch or two by the time they both got to the bag. Look at this replay - Ichiro's foot is ... just short - what amazing base running!
NHK 2: It's certainly the best sacrifice squibber to first base that I've ever seen. Rivera moves easily to second base.

NHK 1: Well, let's see if Randy Winn can make something out of the amazing sacrifice by Ichiro. Here comes Pitch 1:  Ball...
NHK 2: Well, now, how many more batters will there be before Ichiro again? Here's Pitch 2: Ball...
NHK1: Eight more batters now, until we get to see the best hitter in the game. Here's Pitch 3: Foul ball ...
NHK 2: Well, we'll just have to wait then, Here's Pitch 4: Randy Winn grounds out to shortstop Julio Lugo - Winn wastes the incredible opportunity given him by Ichiro's sacrifice... 


I don't think it will be long until there is an on screen stat: HUI (Hitters Until Ichiro) for Mariner games broadcast here in Japan ...

UPDATE: Of course, Ichiro initiated the Seattle comeback in the final innings to produce a 6-5 Mariner win - which perhaps proves that Japan superlatives and Seattles love for Ichiro is well founded ...

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