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06/15/07 10:00 AM ET

Father a big part of Saito's career

Dodgers pitcher 'grateful' to both parents for baseball support

LOS ANGELES -- Along with cheeseburgers and baseball, the American custom of Father's Day was imported by Japan around the end of World War II and, according to Dodgers closer Takashi Saito, is celebrated on the same day and in much the same way as in the United States.

For Saito, that means a day for appreciating Isami Saito, a 67-year-old retired office manager for a building design company in Sendai, a city with a population of 1 million and the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture.

"It's not as big a day in Japan as it is in the United States and many people do not celebrate it to the extent they do here," said Saito. "People do give gifts. Maybe not as many do that on Father's Day as on Mother's Day."

Saito won't see his father this Father's Day, as Isami will make the same midsummer trek to the United States to watch his son pitch as he did last year.

Saito said his father coached his elementary school baseball team, but after that level, he turned the coaching chores over to others and served as more of an "adviser" to the right-hander, who followed a 12-year career as a Japanese star pitcher with his Major League rookie season last year at the age of 36.

"My older brother became more of my coach, but the main thing my father did for my baseball career was provide me with anything I needed to play baseball. He and my mother created an environment that allowed me to succeed in the game that I love. I am very grateful to him for that."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.