The first baseball sighting was on the tube the other night. The Yankee network YES had the brilliant idea of showing a game last summer with Masahiro Tanaka facing the Tokyo Giants.
American broadcasters, aware of Japanese subtleties, were calling the game, pitch-by-pitch.
In real time, Tanaka was chartering a jet to get to New York.
My reaction to watching him pitch in the Tokyo Dome -- against those classic orange-and-black-trimmed Giants uniforms -- was that Tanaka was poised, and had a variety of pitches, but not a lot of power.
Will he be able to find the extra 5 mph he will need in MLB? Not evident from the few innings I saw. That's the Yankees' problem.
More important, I saw baseball being committed. Saw a dandy over-the-shoulder basket catch by a second baseman. And I saw a Giants pitcher wince when he did not get a third strike call from the umpire. Sure enough, he fell apart, started to groove the ball, and gave up four runs. Baseball in mid-season form, with all its human imperfections.
I did have one flashback. Playing for Rakuten was Kazuo Matsui, now 38 -- the other Matsui, as he is known in Queens. He is still the only major-league player to lead off three straight seasons with a home run, but Mets fans celebrated when he went to Colorado early in 2006. The Yankees kept their Matsui, much longer.
Now the Yankees have Tanaka and the Mets have Matsuzaka.
Meantime, my high-school pal Thor Larsen visited Scottsdale the other day and took a photo of the stadium, just waiting for
pitchers and catchers. Stay warm.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.