Japan from the inside out

Uehara Koji in America

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, February 18, 2009

FORMER YOMIURI GIANTS star pitcher Uehara Koji signed a two-year contract in the off-season with the Baltimore Orioles. Uehara is the first Japanese player to sign with the Orioles, so both the team and its fans are intensely curious about his progress with the team now that spring training got started this week.

While I’m working on my next post, I thought I’d provide the links to several blog posts from different reporters covering the Orioles to give you an idea how things are going. The initial verdict: Everyone is very impressed with his sense of professionalism as a pitcher as well as his sense of humor.

Uehara delivers

Uehara delivers

Here are some reports from Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. (Yes, that’s his real name, and he has a sense of humor about it.)

Schmuck talks about Uehara’s first bullpen session here, saying that it was probably the most watched session in Oriole history.

This post provides more details on the session. Uehara says the American ball is slippier than the Japanese version, but that he’ll get used to it. His pitching coach, Rick Kranitz, jokes with him by saying that he just gave an interview to the Japanese media in Japanese, so now Uehara has to give an interview in English. The pitcher replied, “No problem!”

Roch Kubatko is a former Sun reporter now working for MASN, the sports network shared by the Orioles and the Washington Nationals. Here’s a quick note from his blog about Uehara’s first day.

This report describes how Uehara has taped a list of the names of all the players to his locker so he can get to know everyone quickly.

Kubatko chimes in on the first bullpen session here. Pitching coach Kranitz adds some more comments, saying he’s “very impressed”.

Here’s a slightly longer article by Spencer Fordin on the MLB website. He offers some quotes from Uehara’s new manager, Dave Trembley:

“One, it looks like he’s done it before,” said manager Dave Trembley. “He’s able to repeat his delivery, and that’s probably what’s allowed him to have the success that he’s had. He repeats his delivery, and he makes it look easy. I don’t think he broke a sweat. And obviously, that has occurred because he’s worked very hard. You can tell.”

In this blog post, Fordin describes the deal between Uehara and pitcher Jaimie Walker, in which Walker–a salty old Southerner–will teach Uehara a new English word every day, and Uehara will teach Walker a Japanese word.

What he doesn’t explain is that the first English word Walker taught Uehara was (1) unprintable in the newspaper and (2) so funny the whole team was laughing about it all day. Your guess as to what the word was is as good as mine!

Finally, in this post Fordin says that watching Uehara interact with his new teammates is fascinating.

Andy MacPhail, the Orioles general manager, is known for his insistence on recruiting players with solid personalities and good character, and it appears as if Uehara fits that pattern.

Other reports say that the Oriole players are “buzzing” about Uehara’s pitching ability, and that he’s better than they expected.

Still, it’s early in the spring, and how much success he will have against the toughest division in baseball (with the Yankees, Red Sox, and last year’s AL representative in the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays) is still to be determined. But the first signs are encouraging.

Note: I don’t know how long those links are going last, so click them while they’re hot.

5 Responses to “Uehara Koji in America”

  1. tomojiro said

    It seems that Uehara is well accepted by the local media so far.
    But as his statistics of the last two seasons in Japan were not that much impressive I guess, I am a bit worried whether he will success in the major.

    By the way, are you fan of the Orioles? After reading some of your posts about Uehara, I just got the feeling that you are rooting for the Orioles.

  2. ampontan said

    Tomojiro: I was born and grew up in Baltimore, so those are the sports teams I root for.

    I also graduated from Johns Hopkins University there, but my family had already moved to Virginia by that time.

  3. 3RunHomer said

    Go Uehara! Go O’s!

  4. Ken said

    ‘Johns Hopkins University’

    I had attended visitors from Japan to Baltimore.
    They would have liked light meal for jet lag and fatigue after long trip.
    I asked the concierge of our hotel for Japanese restaurants and he recommended the one near the camden yard on top and more inland side one as the second.
    The former one tasted Korean or Chinese and the latter one was more authentic.
    A Japanese girl was serving dishes as part time job at the latter one and she said she was a Medical Dpt of Johns Hopkins University.
    We gave her special gratuity to assist her school expenses and now I wish if she was qualified.

  5. Ken said

    NY Times should study a little more about baseball in Japan.

    “perhaps hoping for the advantage of unfamiliarity.”
    It is just Japanese players in MLB are not always the best player in each position especially for team play.

    “In the United States, no team would consider allowing its manager to take such a leave during spring training.”
    It sounds the US is preparing the excuse in case of lost.

    “The country’s manga comic book culture gives some insight into its craving for baseball supremacy.”
    There would not so big influence now any more.

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