When Kosuke Fukudome hit what would be the game-winning RBI single through the right side last night off Dodger closer Takashi Saito, it was thrilling. I love when Kosuke battles up from an 0-2 count, this time after two off-target home run swings, and works the count up to his favor before finding the gap in the right side of the infield with a hard-hit groundball.
That was the exciting part. One Japanese hitter getting a hit off a Japanese pitcher was not.
To be honest, I can't really understand why ever since Fukudome joined the Cubs, any time he goes up against a Japanese pitcher there is a buzz swirling the air like the at-bat is a special one for both players. Apparently, the Japanese media go crazy when it happens. I keep hearing from announcers or reporters that "the Japanese media will have a field day with this one" (to paraphrase).
Now I can understand if the Japanese media covers American baseball that they would be inclined to show highlights of Japanese players-when they should be shown. I can't imagine that if Saito and Fuku went head to head in the fifth with no one on and one out and Fuku grounded to short that they would show that clip. I could see them listing the daily stats of the major Japanese MLB players, but to think they "get excited" and live for the games where they can show an all-Japanese at-bat is a bit-not racist-but ignorant, perhaps.
When Carlos Zambrano faces a Venezuelan hitter, is that big news? When two African-Americans are head-to-head, does the "black media" jump all over that? Okay, maybe I'm reaching a lot here, as Japanese players are definitely a small portion of the ethnic melting pot that is Major League Baseball, but my feeling is that as a journalist (whether a beat writer or a play-by-play announcer), when you are picking an angle to come at with a baseball game, be smart about it. There are too many numbers in baseball to and too many interesting facts in the 162-game season to decide that the most exciting thing was a result of a racial match-up.
I don't think Fukudome so that at-bat as a big deal last night because he was facing a fellow Japanese ballplayer. I think he was thinking "hey, I got a good hit off him last time we faced each other, let me see if I can do it again"-in Japanese, of course. And I'm pretty sure no whether Fukudome was black, white or purple, Saito was trying to get him out and avoid giving up a lead.
Baseball is too diverse (not in an ethnic sense) and interesting of a sport to highlight the fact that two Japanese players are going at it. If you want to bring up some numbers from the Japanese League, that's interesting, but calling it by mere race alone is weak.