Call in the Marines (a Marines’ fan lands on shore)

When I first starting watching and choosing a team to follow in the  N.P.B. (Japanese Professional Baseball League) I was very impressed with the Tigers’ and Marines’ fans sometimes fanatical support. Giant fans are solid too, but they are the NY Yankees of the N.P.B. and thus have huge advantages in market share and more.

I’m not too keen with Johnny-come-latelies, as armchair supporters that change their support with the winds of fashion, and who are for the latest “in” or “it” team.

The Chiba Marines are the closest team to my home, yet there are so many teams in the region that one doesn’t have to go local or be starved of coverage or getting seats. The colors (black, gray, white and a dash of red) are good and the team’s name is solid too.  I’m not into making everything cute (kawai) so a team called “The Marines” is interesting too.  I later learned they use the name to mean like that of the Mariners, as opposed to the “soldiers on ship” or military reference, but either way the name is sharp.

In our time of endless fashion a historical respect is nice to be found in baseball,  yet teams named after buffaloes and whales just don’t fit a gracefully sport like baseball. So I’m glad Yokohama changed its name from the Whales. The exception to this, to date, is that of the the Hiroshima Carp, as the carp has a very in-depth meaning in Japan. That being in the times of much more social control the place for fun and entertainment was found in special walled cities or separate parts of town. There people were allowed to let off steam and find fun & relaxation, and this life was represented by “the carp” (often seen as a kind of kite on a pole). This fits very much with what baseball is about. So the Carp gets a big thumb’s up from me.

My first baseball team was the Toronto Blue Jays and from the beginning of watching them play at CNE stadium in a snowfall many years ago I liked to watch the sport, not just play. Then they won 2 World Series and all was worth the long support, this is exactly how I feel about the Marines; as they don’t disappoint.

Recently I have seen the Jays give up great pitchers every year, and seen the state of the turf in the stadium in Toronto with a bit of shame. From the Jays I became a great admirer of Pat Gillick, as what he did with the Jays and Phillies begs one to take note of what a good GM should do.  I have moved over to another MLB team to support, as I wait for Toronto to be reborn under truly competitive GM.  My parents are snowbirds and live down south half the year, so I have picked up supporting the Arizona Diamondback. Another team that  doesn’t disappoint.

So when the Chiba Lotte Marines hired Bobby Valentine many years ago I very was impressed with the GM going foreign.  Gutsy decisions by a GM needs support, and so I gave my support to the Marines all the more. I was eager to see a blend of styles to gauge how a balance could be found.

I had played the gridiron game in Japan and my years of experience in Canada were negated because I was “not Japanese.” My talents were claimed to be due to my size, not so much because I could possibly know more.  One of the biased issues here in Japan for foreigners was and is the idea that “ Japanese are just smarter.” So when Bobby came to manage I very much eager to see how he handled it.  I had hoped that when Bobby helped take the Marines from the bottom to mid-table, that he might escape some of my experiences being he was more well known, and thus would allow the blending with the “Japanese Way” with other ways to take place.  Then the shoe dropped and they fired him as I’d feared and I was pissed as they then dropped down the league table again.

Happily Bobby’s return and the teams great success proved a great step to bringing a mixing of ideas in the sport. From Bobby’s  getting  rid of the cherry blossom pink uniforms to his raising pressure in practice. That being by giving  money for hits, and a lose of money for strike outs, while at the same time lessening the pressure during games on his players he was able to loosen his players up as he increased their focus. Overly hard work outs before the games was stopped, and likely other well thought out ideas came to be seen as successful. They have continued to do well after his leaving, and as many have seen in 2010 they peaked at the right time to come from a very low playoff position to win it all.

The Korean ownership brings a Asian fell to the league as well. Cross your fingers and keep your powder dry Marines (and your bats clean), as you can never count out the Chiba Marines!

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About Rafe Milo

A young switch pitcher & switch hitter and his father coach. The experiences of living, playing & coaching baseball in Japan.

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