Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fierce Beauty

This morning's NHK news broadcast was not all over this like hair on a gorilla:
Japan routs U.S. team to win Little League World Series title

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pennsylvania — Noriatsu Osaka hit three homers and tripled as Japan limited Goodlettsville, Tennessee's potent lineup to two hits in a 12-2 victory Sunday to win the Little League World Series title.

In a symbolic gesture, Japan's players jogged the traditional postgame victory lap carrying the flags for both their home country and the United States.

"We had such a great time in Pennsylvania and we really played a good game today. It was kind of a 'thanks,'" the 12-year-old Osaka said through an interpreter.

Starting pitcher Kotaro Kiyomiya struck out eight batters in four innings and added an RBI single for the Tokyo team, representing Japan. The game ended in the fifth inning after Osaka's third homer made it a 10-run game that invoked the "mercy rule"...

What surprises about the victory of a team of Japanese 12 year-olds is not that it happens fairly often but that it does not happen every year. It is impossible for me, when I pass the fence of an elementary school on a weekend day, to no not stop and watch in utter amazement at third and fourth graders fielding ground balls flawlessly, waiting for the right pitch, throwing to the cutoff player (I do not say "cutoff man" as popping out of the backs of a lot of caps these days are pony tails, there not being enough boys around to fill up the roster spots) when every ounce of their egos is screaming, "Ichiro would throw to third and nail the runner...and so can I!"

On a kilogram per kilogram and by team basis, the young players of this country cannot find their match in their age peers elsewhere.

Something goes haywire starting in high school -- my guess it comes from the hypertrophied egos of high school coaches, who extend practices and pitch counts beyond what young, still developing bodies can handle. The games of the Spring Invitational and the August National Tourneys, where coaches leave spent pitchers out to die on the mound, tend to upset rather than entertain me (that and the round heads and the marching).

But to watch children play The Game in this blessed land is a thing of fierce beauty.

1 comment:

Caro said...

I think a great deal of the difference lies in pure time and energy spent practicing.

The middle school kids playing baseball in my area (not a baseball powerhouse, by any stretch of the imagination)have practice every single day of summer vacation...given that sort of dedication, it would almost be surprising if they didn't have excellent fundamentals.

You generally don't see that sort of practice schedule in the US until high school...