American vs. Japanese Baseball
My observations from watching OoFuri:
In Japan they report the count as strikes then balls rather than balls then strikes in the U.S. The players bow before and after a game. There's ground maintenance at end of the fifth inning. I think they do that during the seventh inning stretch in the U.S.
Japan's professional baseball association is called Nippon Professional Baseball. Japan has two leagues, the Central and Pacific Leagues, each consisting of six teams. The Pacific League uses the designated hitter. The pro baseball season is eight months long with games beginning in April, and a Championship held in October, like American baseball. Teams play 144 games, as compared to the 162 games of the American major league teams.
The rules are essentially the same as those of Major League Baseball. In the Nippon League, however, tie games are allowed, and technical elements are slightly different: a smaller baseball, strike zone, and playing field are used. The Japanese baseball is wound more tightly, and is harder, but smaller and lighter, than an American baseball. American fields are standardized, while Japanese fields are smaller and irregularly shaped, with five Nippon League teams having undersized home fields. Almost all Japanese infields are dirt compared to American infields, which are all either well-groomed grass or Astroturf. (Always wondered why the fields the Nishiura team played on had no grass!)
(This part I don't understand.) Pieced from several sources: The strike zone is irregular. The strike zone is narrower "inside" than away from the batter. The strike zone is bigger. (I think it varies by umpire just like in American baseball!)
Pitchers throw more breaking pitches, and batters have a much shorter swing in Japanese baseball. (That probably means they don't go for the long ball and pitchers aren't as strong.) Players are neither as large nor as swift as Americans. (Japanese people are smaller!)
If the score is tied, in Japan, the game doesn't continue until one team wins. They stop the game around 10pm and the game ends in a tie. This shows where Japanese priorities lie not in competition and being the winner, but in the importance in getting home. If the ballgame ends after the trains have shut down, no one would be able to get home. (Ha, this is very important!) Unlike American baseball games, the games consistently begin at 6:00 right after the Japanese work day is over. Also, the people are allowed to bring in their own food and drinks. (Wow, you can save lots of money that way!)
Japanese coaches focus more on the fundamentals of bunting, base running and fielding whereas American baseball has come to rely heavily on pitching talent and long ball hitting. Because of these differences, Japanese baseball games typically have closer and lower final scores than American baseball games. Japan is more into fundamentals, such as making the opposing pitcher work and throw a lot of pitches. The Japanese make every attempt to prevent the opposition from scoring, while the U.S. teams don't. Japan stresses pitching and defense whereas America focuses more on offense.
A controversial rule allows a team to have no more than four foreign players, two position players and two pitchers, limiting the cost and competition for expensive players from other countries. Because of the different customs of players from the U.S., the gaijin are not looked upon favorably by many in Japan. Their flashy manners are a "grievous sin" in deportment conscious Japan.
Japanese players seem to be better sportsmen as far as politeness is concerned. You'll hardly ever see a player act disrespectful to another player and if a poor call has been made, officials and managers will discuss it for lengthy periods of time to find a happy medium that everyone can be satisfied with without causing someone to lose face. On the other hand, Japanese coaches could learn to take a few more chances during the game instead of playing it safe.
Japanese baseball rewards collective effort and conformity over individual flash and achievement. Japanese players are expected to work out rigorously as a group as opposed to the loose stretching and sprinting you'd see before an MLB game. Japanese pitchers are expected to be able to pitch everyday in any role demanded by the team, and strategy so enforced that the best hitters find themselves sacrificing instead of bringing in the runs.
Japanese baseball can be compared to American baseball as it used to be, about 50 years ago. The players have no agents and there are no wild card teams.
The Japanese teams are owned by major companies and are essentially a form of promoting the companies. Teams are identified with their owners, not where the team is based (with the exception of the Yokohama BayStars). For example, the Hanshin Tigers, named after the Detroit tigers, is owned by the Hanshin Electric Railway. To the U.S. owner, the teams are the top priority while Japan 's teams are corporate subsidies, and are not high on the priority list.
The salaries of the players are incredibly different. In the U.S., the contract between the players and owners is the basic agreement that governs baseball. In Japan, the contract between the owners of the central league and the owners of the Pacific league governs baseball. The players in Japan don't demand more money because this would be placing their own wishes above the team interests. Top annual salaries for players in Japan are about $5 million a year.
In addition, the life of the Japanese player is very different from the life of a player in the U.S. The Japanese live in dormitories, have one month off a year, and an extra week if their team wins the championship. They practice for hours each day, have daily meetings and film studies, and they have little bargaining leverage. Some teams can't smoke, drink, or even grow a mustache. But, they can have a job with the organization for life. The players typically comply with the management because after they retire, they can expect to get another position with the organization or an affiliated company. Similar to the fact that the Japanese don't change jobs as often as people in the Untied States, they don't change baseball teams either. The team loyalty that is seen in Japan would never be seen in the U.S.
One aspect of Japanese baseball that exemplifies a huge difference between Japanese and American baseball involves the Japanese fan clubs, oendan. (Hama-chan's group!) The fans sit in the bleacher sections and unreserved outfield bleachers. (That's pretty far!) The fans are stereotyped to be hysterical groupies, but the cheering in the stands is the mood maker and a way for the fans to feel attached to the game from far seats. For instance, each player has his own hitting march that is chanted by the fans from the time he steps in the batters box until the end of the bat. There is also a reward chant if the player gets on base or scores in a run. The chants are accompanied by trumpets, bugles, whistles, Japanese taiko drums, Western base-drums, flags, and banners. In addition, the fans' arsenal includes pre-game chants, opening player name calls, "Lucky seventh" inning fight song and balloons. After victories, the fans display their hitting marches, their bonsai cheer, and their prideful anthems. The fan support is central to the baseball game. It can be compared to the U.S. collegiate cheering seen at football games.
Schoolgirls are ushers and whistles are blown to warn spectators of foul balls. No one fights for these foul balls because the person who recovers the ball readily hands it to the usher who returns it to the home team. There is also no brawling on the field like in American baseball. (Where's the fun without that?)
Another important aspect of Japanese baseball can be seen best when the visiting team is at bat and the home fans are quiet. Instead of cheering against the visiting team, the fans drink, eat, and even talk business.
Another difference most people can imagine without anyone even mentioning it is food. American baseball food consists of popcorn, hotdogs, pizza, ice cream, cokes and beer. As for Japanese baseball food, you'll find sushi, udon, and ramen noodles, okonomiyaki (Japanese vegetable pancakes), takoyaki (similar to okonomiyaki shaped into balls and eaten with toothpicks), curry rice, in addition to pizza, hotdogs and beer. There is mid-game garbage pickup and vendors selling shots of whiskey throughout the game.
Based on info from: