Here’s why Japanese baseball is light years away from MLB

Can you imagine MLB being this much fun?

Can you imagine MLB being this much fun?
Picture: PA

Major League Baseball is awesome. As long as no one complains about the unwritten rules and Nick Castellanos is not on the plate, the game is casual and fun. I doubt I can enjoy it any more than I already do.

No matter.

The caption in the video above is Nippon-Ham Fighters manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo. He puts the guy from Dos Equis to shame. It’s a baseball manager driving a hovercraft in a game! How not to think it’s the coolest thing ever?

The only thing cooler than the entrance is Shinjo himself. The man was the very first baseball player of Japanese descent to compete in a World Series. In 2002, Shinjo played 118 games for future NL champions San Francisco Giants. He cut .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 launched a fashion line, appeared on television and won the Japanese version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and did it all while playing baseball, eventually winning his first and only Japan Series title in his last professional game. He earned minimal nicknames and titles across Japan, such as “Mr. Two” and “Spaceman” for his eccentric, larger-than-life personality, and of course, his position as Nippon-Ham’s manager.

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

This man had four spotlights on him! FOUR ! If I hadn’t seen the hovercraft with my own eyes, I’d think this entry was unbeatable, but sure enough, less than a week later, Shinjo was 30 feet in the air above the diamond. At this rate, expect to see Shinjo teleport into a game by the end of the season.

I’ve seen some cool MLB bullpen entrances in my day. Watch Trevor Hoffman run the field with AC/DC The Bells of Hell playing in the background at Petco Park remains one of my fondest childhood memories. The bullpen cart was cool…for a while, then it did like a nosy parent on Thanksgiving and overstayed its welcome. It quickly dried.

Major League Baseball has struggled to attract young fans for a while now, and the glasses Shinjo showcased during his short time as Nippon-Ham manager are just plain cool. I can’t deny it. It doesn’t matter if you despise baseball with all your heart, hovercraft are awesome, and that might be enough to convince some young Japanese viewers to give baseball a try.

While the baseball purists of the world might despise Shinjo’s actions to “steal the show” or “do it all for himself”, I would gladly take Shinjo’s antics. Tony La Russa ridicules one of his own players to hit a home run any day of the week.

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

All I’m saying is MLB could use some of that flair in 2022. No one outside of Pittsburgh cares about the Pirates this season. They have promising young stars like Bryan Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes, and Oneil Cruz, but no one is biting their nails in anticipation of seeing this team take the field. Now imagine for a moment that when the Pirates have their home opener on April 12, Derek Shelton walks into the game with fireworks and a marching band supporting him. The Pirates could lose this game, but you can bet I’m watching every moment for the rest of this series.

Will this ever happen? No, absolutely not, but it would be fun, and it’s a word that isn’t often used when discussing the current state of Major League Baseball.

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