Connect with us

Latest News

With Shohei Ohtani, MLB follows path forged by past Japanese stars



LOS ANGELES — Shohei Ohtani, dubbed the “Japanese Babe Ruth” because of his rare combination of pitching and hitting prowess, won his first game as an MLB pitcher last Sunday then smacked home runs in consecutive contests on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The 23-year-old Los Angeles Angel became the first player since Babe Ruth in 1921 to win a game as a starting pitcher and then hit a first-inning home run in a two-day span, according to the MLB, citing to the Elias Sports Bureau, the league’s official statistician.

There’s somebody who’s taken that path as a pitcher in Hideo, somebody who’s taken that path as a hitter in Ichiro. Shohei’s doing both.

There’s somebody who’s taken that path as a pitcher in Hideo, somebody who’s taken that path as a hitter in Ichiro. Shohei’s doing both.

But the path for Ohtani wasn’t paved by the Babe — it was cleared by a Tornado.

When Hideo Nomo first took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers in May 1995, baffling hitters and thrilling fans with his “Tornado” pitching wind-up, he became the first Japanese player to compete in Major League Baseball in 30 years.

Since 1965, when pitcher Masanori Murakami left the San Francisco Giants, both Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league had respected each other’s player contracts fully. No Japanese players came over; a handful of American free agents played in Japan.

Angels pitcher Clyde Wright, who pitched in Japan from 1976 to 78, was teammates with Japanese Baseball Hall of Famers Sadaharu Oh and Isao Harimoto.

“It never came up, them wanting to come to the States,” Wright said. “They didn’t want to leave their hometowns.”

Nomo, however, longed to test his stuff against the best ballplayers in the world.

“It was Nomo’s dream to play in the big leagues,” Don Nomura told writers Larry Burke and Pete Fornatale in “Change Up: An Oral History of 8 Key Events That Shaped Modern Baseball.” “To be with the best.”

Nomura, acting as Nomo’s agent, took advantage of a loophole in the MLB/NPB agreement to import the 26-year-old pitcher to Los Angeles.

“We were all very anxious about how Hideo would do,” Koji Bonkobara, a journalist who has covered baseball in America for Japanese outlets since 1981, said.

Bonkobara noted that Nomo’s obstacles went beyond questions about his ability, “The MLB has a harder mound. The seams of the baseball are different. It can be very difficult to command the baseball.”

Nomo’s whirlwind success — he started the 1995 All-Star Game and won National League Rookie of the Year — ignited “Nomo-mania” in Los Angeles that summer, proving once and for all that Japanese ballplayers belonged on the world’s biggest stage.

“He definitely established a road for Japanese players to come over here,” current Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda said through his translator Will Ireton. “In that way, he had a tremendous impact for all of us, including myself.”

 Kenta Maeda #18 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch during the fourth inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on June 4, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Stacy Revere / Getty Images file

But while Nomo was creating a new reality for Japanese ballplayers on the field, the Dodgers were dealing with a new reality off it.

“When you’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done before, there’s a lot of interest,” Grace McNamee, the Dodgers’ Japanese media liaison from 1995 to 98, recalled. “The whole nation is focused on you.”

“When a Japanese star comes over here, 50 or 60 writers and photographers come with you,” Wright added, laughing.

“For the media that was covering Hideo, everything was a first. It was a first for the publicity department to accommodate that number of foreign media covering one player too. There was a huge learning curve for both of us,” acknowledged McNamee, who’s taken the same position with the Angels to handle the voracious demands on Ohtani.

 Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) follows through on a three-run home run in his first ever regular season MLB at bat at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in the first inning as Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Perez (55) and umpire Jim Reynolds (77) watch on Apr 3, 2018 in Anaheim, CA. Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

The Oakland A’s issued 240 media credentials to Japanese media alone for Ohtani’s pitching debut last Sunday in Oakland, according to a report.

McNamee recalled, regarding the learning curve with Nomo, “We’d hold mini-press conferences for Hideo. It’s like what we do with Ohtani. We’d take him into a room, so he’d have an opportunity to talk to all of the media. Because there was no way we could have that many people in the clubhouse surrounding him. “

In McNamee’s estimation, Japanese media numbers for Nomo were similar to those for Ohtani now.

“Media demands are different here. There’s no clubhouse access in Japan,” said Angels Vice President of Communications Tim Mead, who has seen it all, from Nomo to Ohtani, having been with the team since 1980. “The translator has become a bigger part of the game in recent years.”

He definitely established a road for Japanese players to come over here.

He definitely established a road for Japanese players to come over here.

Since Nomo though, Major League Baseball clubs have handled many Japanese superstars, chiefly the Seattle Mariners with right fielder Ichiro Suzuki and the New York Yankees with left fielder Hideki Matsui.

For the fans too, the sight of a Japanese star in the MLB isn’t as out of the ordinary as it used to be.

“Once you’ve seen something happen once or twice, it’s not as eye-opening,” Mead said. “The public doesn’t read that much into it anymore. There isn’t that wonderment to it.”

But that wonderment has returned with Ohtani, McNamee said. Not because he’s Japanese, but because he’s trying to become the first great two-way player in the majors since the legendary Ruth.

McNamee noted, “There’s somebody who’s taken that path as a pitcher in Hideo, somebody who’s taken that path as a hitter in Ichiro. Shohei’s doing both.”

Follow NBC Asian America on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

Source link

Latest News

Ireland’s health service shuts down IT systems over ‘significant ransomware attack’ | World News



Ireland’s health service has closed down its computer systems after what it described as a “significant ransomware attack”.

The Republic’s Health Service Executive (HSE) said it had shut down its entire IT network as a “precaution.”

It said COVID-19 vaccinations were not affected by the attack.

“There is a significant ransomware attack on the HSE IT systems,” the HSE said on Twitter.

“We have taken the precaution of shutting down all our IT systems in order to protect them from this attack and to allow us fully assess the situation with our own security partners.”

It added: “We apologise for inconvenience caused to patients and to the public and will give further information as it becomes available.

“Vaccinations not affected are going ahead as planned.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Latest News

Israeli ground forces launch attacks on Gaza as fighting worsens | World News



Israeli ground forces began launching attacks on Gaza in a widening of hostilities as Israel braced for more internal strife between its Arab and Jewish citizens following Friday prayers.

The Israeli military said air and ground forces were firing at the Hamas-run enclave, though it does not appear to mean the start of a ground invasion, with Sky News witnessing troops launching artillery and tank rounds from Israel’s side of the border.

“I said we would extract a very heavy price from Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. “We are doing that, and we will continue to do that with heavy force.”

Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted many of the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip

Thousands of Israeli forces along with tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery are massing along the frontier with Gaza, preparing to push inside if given the order, in what would be a hugely significant escalation.

Unperturbed, Palestinian militants continued to launch rockets from the strip towards Israel into Friday morning.

At least 109 Palestinians have died since the exchanges began on Monday, including 28 children and 15 women, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Palestinian militants have said 20 of their fighters are among the dead, though Israeli officials said this figure is much higher.

Almost half of the deaths happened on Thursday – the deadliest day so far.

On the Israeli side, seven people have been killed, including two children and a soldier.

But this is a crisis on many fronts, as decades of Israeli-Palestinian trauma erupt into clashes on the streets of many towns and cities inside Israel – with Arabs and Jews, who had lived together peacefully, turning on each other, prompting warnings of a risk of civil war.

Synagogues have been attacked, cars torched and individuals beaten up by mobs in the worst internal violence in decades.

New protests could erupt following Friday prayers, with al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City a potential flashpoint.

It was at this walled compound – one of the most sacred sites in Islam, which is also revered by Jews and Christians – that violence between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters on Monday sparked the first volley of rockets from Gaza into Israel that ignited the wider crisis.

A Palestinian boy looks at ruins of buildings which were destroyed in Israeli air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Pic:  Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock
The blockaded strip is home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee. Pic: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

There is of course a regional dimension as well.

On Thursday night, three rockets were fired towards Israel from Lebanon. They landed harmlessly in the Mediterranean Sea in what appears to have been a show of solidarity with Gaza by Palestinian groups in Lebanon rather than the start of a separate offensive.

With so much at stake, frantic diplomatic efforts are underway to try to broker a ceasefire.

Egyptian officials have been speaking with both sides as have officials from the United Nations. The US has dispatched a senior diplomat to the region and Russian President Vladimir Putin has added his voice to those calling for both sides to de-escalate.

In Washington, President Joe Biden said he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu about calming the fighting but also backed the Israeli leader by saying “there has not been a significant overreaction”.

He said the goal is to “get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centres”, and called the effort “a work in progress”.

The UN Security Council is due to hold its first public session on the situation on Sunday after the US objected to an open session on Friday, apparently wanting to give diplomacy a little longer to have an effect.

However, with bombardments between the two sides – unprecedented in their intensity – entering their fifth day, there is no obvious sign that diplomacy is cooling heads.

The Israel Defence Forces has hit close to 1,000 targets in Gaza, including multi-storey buildings, rocket launch sites and individual Hamas military commanders. But this blockaded strip of territory is also home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee.

Overnight, masses of red flames illuminated the skies as deafening blasts from the outskirts of Gaza City jolted people awake.

The strikes were so strong that people inside the city, several miles away, could be heard screaming in fear, according to the AP news agency.

At the same time, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a fellow Palestinian militant group, have fired close to 2,000 rockets towards Israel. Many were shot down by the country’s air defence system but some have penetrated deep into Israeli territory, including the commercial capital of Tel Aviv, sending families racing into shelters.

Source link

Continue Reading

Latest News

Fresh uncertainty for UK tourists as Portugal extends ‘state of calamity’ until 30 May | UK News



Britons hoping for a holiday in Portugal when travel restrictions lift next week are facing fresh uncertainty after the country extended its “state of calamity”.

The second-highest level of alert is going to remain in place until 30 May at the earliest, almost two weeks after the country is added to a “green list” of destinations where holidaymakers can go without having to isolate on their return.

Portugal would have been one of the few options for travellers seeking a quick sunny break, as many of the other countries on the “green list” are either closed to tourists, too cold, or too remote.

Portugal would have been one of the few options for sun-seeking British tourists

Other popular hotspots such as Greece, Italy, Spain and France are on the amber list, requiring 10 days of isolation and two COVID-19 tests on return to the UK.

The new restrictions cast a shadow over the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea that is due to take place in Porto on 29 May – an event that has already been moved from Turkey, which is on the red list.

When asked whether restrictions on travel from the UK would be lifted, Portuguese Cabinet office minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said she had “no information to give yet”.

In comments reported by the BBC, she said: “Work is going on and as soon as there is a decision it will be announced, but no decision was taken in this cabinet meeting.”

She said British fans could still come to see the football game but they would need to fly on charter planes, arriving and leaving on the same day.

On Thursday, the world’s largest travel firm warned it may be forced to cancel holiday flights to Portugal, just as the UK allows them again, because of a continuing EU ban on non-essential travel from countries outside the bloc.

TUI, which told Sky News earlier this week that people were giving up on booking a break abroad because of a lack of clarity on the rules, said holidays could not happen unless “borders are open”.

The “state of calamity” means non-residents of Portugal can only enter if their travel is essential, a COVID test is required within 72 hours of departure, and even those with a negative result can still be refused permission to board a flight or be made to quarantine in government-approved accommodation on arrival.

It is understood the UK government has been speaking with Portuguese representatives this week about unlocking travel between the two countries.

The government is also talking to the European Commission about how to safely reopen travel on the continent, the PA news agency understands.

Portugal has reported 840,929 cases of COVID-19, with 16,999 deaths.

Source link

Continue Reading