Back in my day, it was hip for rock and rollers to make live albums at Japan’s famous Budokan Theater.
Once the Beatles broke ground in the once-sacrosanct martial arts facility, everyone played there—and made live recordings. Deep Purple. Cheap Trick. Bob Dylan. Ozzy Osbourne. Bryan Adams. Sheryl Crow. Quincy Jones!
Likewise it’s been hip for MLB to tap the Japanese market with a regular winter tour (although no live recordings have been released to date). 36 times since 1908, an American-based team has journeyed East to take on the best of Japan.
This year’s team includes four Venezuelans, an indicator of how many outstanding players represent the Bolivarian Republic.
In last night’s kick-off game in Koshien, an 8-7 victory for the MLBers, Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Jose Altuve and Franklin Morales played for the winning side.
First the good news: Escobar and Perez, fresh off a stunning playoff run with the Royals, both went 2-for-3 against the combined Hanshin-Yomiuri team (Japan’s two biggest teams, the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants). Altuve, who led the American League with 56 stolen bases this season, came in as pinch-runner in the seventh and scored a run; he also struck out twice and made an error.
On the opposite end of the scale, Morales got bombed. The big lefty from San Juan de los Morros came into the game in the seventh inning, completed 2/3 of the frame, and gave up 5 runs on 6 hits for a whopping 67.50 ERA. Blame it on the jet lag, Frankie.
The series continues tonight in Osaka. Coincidentally, Japan has been a place of great fortune for a handful of Venezuelans, three of whom have won the MVP there: Roberto Petagine also won three Gold Gloves; Caraqueño Alex Ramirez has more than 2,000 hits in NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), the only foreign-born player to reach that number; in 2001, Alex Cabrera hit 55 home runs for the Seibu Lions, nearly eclipsing Sadaharu Oh’s league record.