We’ve seen what they have done in the Little League World Series. We’ve seen what they’ve done in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic. Relatively recently, we’ve been able to see what they can do in a full 162-game season, traveling day after day across a country substantially bigger than their own.
Finally, we’ve seen what one of “them” can truly do in the World Series…under the brightest lights…for the brightest team. Though there was a lot of pressure, Godzilla did well. Really well.
Hideki Matsui, as this World Series’ Most Valuable Player, is a direct epitome of what Asian ballplayers (in this case, Japanese) can do. Not too many have heard of Masanori Murakami—pitcher for the San Francisco Giants in 1964 and 1965—so let’s just say that it’s still been a little while since Hideo Nomo jumped the Pacific into the big leagues in 1995. And yet still, there are at times a sort of disconnect from “them” and us.
This is supposed to be our pastime, right? Though people have acknowledged that the skill level in Asia has vastly improved, there were some blogs and comments during the World Baseball Classic suggestion they’re (Asians) continued inferiority.
How could America lose if this is our game, not theirs !?!
We’ve seen this before: "The game isn’t for Latinos. The game isn’t for African Americans."
Thankfully, that has all changed. We’ve seen Latino most valuable players, African American most valuable players, and of course, Caucasian most valuable players.
We’ve seen Latin legends like Roberto Clemente and are witnessing Albert Pujols. We’ve seen African American legends like Willie Mays and are witnessing Jimmy Rollins. We’ve seen white legends like Babe Ruth and are witnessing Mark Texeira. Now, we are also lucky to witness Ichiro and Fukudome.
Sure, Hideki Matsui may not warrant a “legend” label, but his performance in this 2009 World Series was a pretty darn good one. The 35-year-old designated hitter batted .513 in the series with eight hits and eight RBIs. But Matsui wrapped up the award—after a pretty good all-around team effort by the Yankees—by batting .615 with six RBI in the Yankees’ championship-clincher.
Only a triple shy of having the first cycle in World Series history, Matsui’s contribution to game six of the Yankee’s 27th championship and first in the new Yankee stadium will indeed be legendary. Godzilla is now the first Japanese-born player to win the World Series MVP award.
But perhaps most importantly, his performance will show that Asian players may be worth the bidding required to just contemplate a bid. Six years after Matsui made his jump in 2003, Steinbrenner finally got his money’s worth if he was thinking that he hadn’t before game six.
Ichiro has showed this continent that Asian ballplayers can hang with the best. Matsui has shown that they can hang with the best in the best of times. This year there were 18 Japanese-born ballplayers alone. Factor in the Koreans, Chinese, and Taiwanese, and you see that the game is as much their own as ours .
Together, they are showing that baseball is a pastime to some outside of American borders and thus negate that disconnect. They are with us for the long haul. The MLB is indeed ours (Asians, Italians, Norwegians, Dutch, South Africans included). It’s a world game now.
And, heck, they’re pretty good too. But we’ve seen that now.
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