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Sarah's Take: The Dodgers' two Japanese imports
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05/14/2002 02:31 am ET 
Sarah's Take: The Dodgers' two Japanese imports
By Sarah Morris / Dodgers.Com

"Both Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii had to make adjustments when they came to the Dodgers. Of course, they have had to overcome a language barrier." (Jon SooHoo/Dodgers)

When Hideo Nomo came to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995, he was a novelty.

He was the first Japanese player to play in the American Major Leagues since the mid 1960s. Almost every baseball fan wanted to see Nomo pitch.

Since Hideo Nomo was successful, many other Japanese players have abandoned the Japanese leagues to play in American major leagues. Most of them have been extremely successful and popular.

This year the Dodgers signed Kazuhisa Ishii. Though he has won his first six straight decisions in the major leagues, he has not caused the same frenzy as Nomo did in 1995.

I would be surprised if Los Angeles has Ishiimania by the end of the season. Japanese players are commonplace now in the major leagues. I foresee more coming as more Japanese players are successful in the United States.

This excites me. The beauty of baseball is having players from different cultures working together. Few other businesses do this so well. To me, baseball is establishing an example for the world and aiding with world peace.

Involving other countries in baseball was a vision of former Dodger owner, Peter O'Malley. The former Dodger owner's vision  is finally coming true.

Though many people believe the leagues in Japan are not as good as our Major Leagues, I am not convinced of that. Many Japanese players have experienced incredible success when they come to this country.

Both Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii had to make adjustments when they came to the Dodgers. Of course, they have had to overcome a language barrier. Though the Dodgers have hired a translator for both Nomo and Ishii, and Jim Tracy and Jim Colborn have spent time in Japan, I think both pitchers feel left out most of the time. They want to fit in with teammates, but their language differences make it difficult.

Japanese leagues have a different conditioning program than our major leagues. In Japan, pitchers throw daily and sometimes between innings. Thus, it is extremely different from America. In America, pitchers throw once between starts. It is unheard of for a pitcher, who is participating in a game, to throw in between innings in this country. Whereas in America everyone focuses on the pitch count, in Japan, the coaches do not worry about how many pitches a pitcher has thrown.

The control of pitchers is directly related to how often they throw. When Kaz Ishii came to the Dodgers, he tried to adjust to American ways. During spring training, he struggled with his control and he often appeared unable to get out a player from single-A.

Now Ishii has reverted to the conditioning program that he used in Japan. He won six straight starts before getting a no decision on Friday. Though most Americans will view Ishii's program as weird, most left-handed pitchers are enigmatic.

Who cares what Ishii does to prepare for a game? He is getting results that the Dodgers want.

In a recent interview with Ben Platt on MLB radio, Ishii said that he enjoys playing for the Dodgers. "The weather has been absolutely great."

Ishii also said, "I hope to contribute to the team winning. My teammates have been absolutely wonderful. Because of that, it will be fun to try to win the World Series."

Ishii believes that Jim Colborn and Hideo Nomo have helped his adjustment to be easier because they can explain a solution to a pitching problem in Japanese.

Both Nomo and Ishii have been pitching great this year. The Dodgers and their fans hope it continues throughout the season. To me, it is gratifying to see foreign-born players excelling in the American major leagues.

Sarah Morris is the editor of Dodger Place. She lives in Anderson, Texas.
 





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