TOKYO — When it comes to U.S.-Japan baseball family members, Ichiro Suzuki is without peer, the top, the final. No less an authority than Rickey Henderson says so.
“He’s like Elvis, period, here,” the A’s Hall of Famer stated. “Ichiro is the legend of all of them. He’s accomplished a lot for the sport of baseball, especially for his use and coming to the U.S. And being able to do what he did there. It’s unreal.”
Ichiro is being feted all week on the Tokyo Dome throughout Major League Baseball’s season-establishing collection between the Mariners and A’s. The outfielder, a surefire Hall of Famer in the U.S. And in Japan, has ended up an image of the game’s global enchantment. As Ichiro strategies his very last innings, his presence will remain felt as the subsequent Japanese gamers upward thrust within the U.S. and baseball spreads its borders in Asia and past.
Ichiro made his majors debut in opposition to Oakland in 2001, and his final massive-league sport is probably Thursday against the A’s.
“I don’t understand if there’s been a more impactful participant than Ichiro, at least when you consider that I’ve been doing this,” stated A’s supervisor Bob Melvin, who has been near pals with Ichiro since Melvin controlled the Mariners in 2003-04. “He is cherished in Japan. He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame right here. He’s going to be within the Hall of Fame within the U.S.
“It was the first time we saw what Japanese baseball changed into all approximately, while he came over right here. He’s been an ambassador, he’s been an entertainer and he’s a first-rate participant on top of it. He’s one of the maximum impactful players, for me, in baseball history.”
Ichiro has stated several times that he has no wish to retire, however at 45, he’s not going to stick inside the majors a great deal longer. His effect in both countries cannot be overstated. He kick-began the wave of large-cell Japanese gamers coming to the majors, and his fulfillment in Seattle installed Japan as a prime TV and merchandise market for MLB.
“Even though Hideo Nomo had come over earlier, it clearly began with Ichiro,” stated Jim Small, MLB’s vice president of global business. “There turned into a few resentments inside baseball in Japan about him going to the U.S. At the time; I assume now that’s gone — the established order of Japanese baseball desires to see how nicely the ones gamers can do in opposition to the satisfactory within the international.”
There is a brand new group of Japanese gamers in the U.S., consisting of Angels -way participant Shohei Ohtani, closing season’s AL Rookie of the Year, and Seattle left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who will start Thursday’s sport against Oakland.
Interest in MLB is wholesome in Japan, and in Asia in general. The organization makes approximately $120 million annually across the world, and the Asian marketplace, which incorporates Korea and Taiwan, money owed for 70 percent of that. China is emerging as a strong part of the equation, with TV scores growing, 300 stores certified to sell merchandise and U.S. Baseball academies taking part in fulfillment. There are seven Chinese gamers within the minors, consisting of one of the Brewers’ higher pitching prospects, Jun Zhao.
The relationship with Japanese baseball is what helped to open the Chinese market, in keeping with Small, and games consisting of the season-establishing collection this week also help — they’re on in top time, eight p.M., in China.
“That’s a huge aspect for us,” Small said. “Another huge gain Japan gives us is that the Chinese observe baseball as an Asian recreation, now not an American recreation. That’s again. They need to beat Japan. They need to beat Taiwan. They want to overcome Korea. And we’ll help them do it.”
What’s next for MLB? The game is exploding in New Zealand, which boasts 6,500 gamers, 30 of whom have played university ball within the U.S., together with five who’ve signed with essential-league groups. New Zealand was admitted into the Australian Baseball League ultimate year and QBE baseball stadium will open q4 in Auckland.
MLB has its sights set even higher, though: India and its 1.1 billion population. Small stated the league will spend the next 3 years exploring the marketplace, supporting convey baseball programs to colleges and taking benefit of TV and social media — 90 percent of the USA makes use of related devices. Plus, MLB is locating that countries with a cricket historical past (together with Australia and New Zealand) adapt quickly to baseball.
The A’s, who usually volunteer for the worldwide journey, can attest to the cost of advertising the game and the crew international. Oakland’s merchandise sales shot up in Japan after the crew’s appearances right here in 2008 and 2012, and while Hideki Matsui played for the A’s in 2011, each of the games were broadcast in Japan.
In addition, “Moneyball” changed into one of the maximum popular movies in Japan while it changed into launched in 2011, and A’s VP of baseball operations Billy Beane, who turned into portrayed via Brad Pitt in the movie, sees group gear everywhere in the global, along with once throughout a Liverpool soccer game. He made sure to ship a picture of the Liverpool fan carrying an A’s cap to Tom Warner, who owns Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox.
This week in Japan, Beane and his circle of relatives have spotted A’s products at the subway and in shops.
“I was seeking to figure out if they had been fans coming to the games — or from time to time you may be out of the country and a person is just sporting an A’s hat, which is quite cool,” Beane stated. “There are not a lot inexperienced and gold groups, so there’s a quite top hazard if you see an inexperienced and gold hat, it’s going to be an A’s hat.”
“Moneyball” details the A’s capability to do more with much less, seeking out undervalued property to compete with clubs with larger payrolls, and within the beyond few years, one street to accomplish that has been the international marketplace. Oakland is maxing out its worldwide spending and beefing up its scouting efforts, nicely, anywhere.
“I love the truth our game has turn out to be so worldwide and hopefully there are extra countries even beyond Japan wherein we see gamers coming from to the essential leagues,” Beane stated. “There’s going to be a time every principal-league group has the complete globe blanketed. It’s going to show up, sooner than later.”