MLB popularity at all-time high in Japan
Japan Today -- Apr 18
Just over a year ago, the Japanese press was agog with stories of their "national treasure," Seibu Lions pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, going overseas to play baseball in the U.S. While bemoaning the loss of a homegrown star, there was also a hint of pride in Matsuzaka's ability to compete in the MLB.

Starting with the pitcher's initial decision to head to America, and continuing through his season with the Boston Red Sox and, of course, through the World Series championship, the press came forth with a frenzied avalanche of coverage. Magazines even devoted cover stories to Matsuzaka's semi-mythical "gyroball," which the pitcher may or may not throw.

But has all this attention signified an increased interest by the Japanese public in the MLB, or is it another cult of personality, which the Japanese - and, to be sure, the Americans - love so well?

The truth is, the steady flow of star Japanese ball players to the U.S. has been a major factor in the recent success of American baseball, and has led to unprecedented cooperation between the two countries' leagues. This year, for just the second time, MLB will start its season in Japan, when the Red Sox take on the Oakland Athletics later this month at Tokyo Dome. Yet unlike the first time MLB regular season games were played in Japan (the New York Yankees took on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2004), there are two teams which look to contend in the post season, one of which is the current World Series champions.

News source: Japan Today
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