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Special Guest At Rays Camp

Baseball is America’s game. The game was invented and perfected in America. The love of the game has been brought to all corners of the world. The first country outside of North America that embraced the game was Japan. Baseball magnates coordinated barnstorming trips to Japan in the 1920s to spread the game. Babe Ruth would bring his Bustin’ Babes to play in the land of the rising sun. Ruth and other players would head over to Japan to play exhibition games for Japanese fans excited to learn about the sport. One catcher named Moe Berg, joined the traveling team to Japan which could be the biggest unseen foreshadowing of all time.

Now baseball is played in Asia, Europe, and Australia on a regular basis. Every four seasons the Baseball World Classic is played. Ruth would proud to see baseball played in countries such as Italy and Israel.

In addition, during Ruth’s time, deployed Canadian forces brough the game to battlefields in Europe. Author Graig G. Greenham’s contribution titled The Minor Leagues and a Major Conflict in the book Base Ball 12, explains the unknown fondness of baseball in Canada. A minor league baseball system was established in Canada. Most games were played in Montreal and Toronto half a century before the Montreal Expos joined the MLB in 1969. However, this minor league system in Canada predated the minor league system Branch Rickey designed and implemented.

The Rays welcomed a special guest into camp this week. The guest, Hideki Kuriyama, is a legendary baseball manager in Japan. Kuriyama and Kevin Cash met on Thursday. The honored guest actively shadowed Cash during a Rays victory over the Phillies. Both managers conversed during the game and shared strategies options. Kuriyama has had a successful career managing and has won the Japanese Series title and a World Classic title. He serves as Nippon-Ham’s chief baseball officer. Kuriyama managed Naoyuki Uwasawa in Japan and was instrumental with Uwasawa’s non-roster invitee status.

Culture shock is common for players entering MLB. Uwasawa is no exception. Although Uwasawa is highly endorsed by Kuriyama, Uwasawa struggles were noticeable in his first outing. In his second outing, Uwasawa had better results. The game is the same in both countries with minor differences. The newcomer is learning to adapt to using a pitch clock and the PitchCom pitch-calling systems, which are two components used in the MLB not used in Japan. The three-time All-Star has obstacles to overcome no other Japan player had to deal with. Other successful Japanese pitchers like Hideo Nomo, Hiroki Kuroda, and Masahiro Tanaka did not have a pitch clock speeding up the pitch selection. It seems trivial to fans but shortening the time to select a pitch could provide a batter an advantage. Even the great Shohei Ohtani had an adjustment period to adapt to these new rules.

The Rays organization are patiently supporting Uwasawa’s adjustment period. In his second outing, Uwasawa allowed a single run on two hits and three walks. He was displeased with himself for giving up three walks. Through a translator, Uwasawa said, “I’m not happy about the walks.” The known issue is a target area for him and pitching coach Kyle Snyder to work on. Uwasawa could prove to be extremely valuable as he could fill in a spot in the starting rotation or be a long relief pitcher.


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