Fri, Aug 14, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Japanese fans react to Hisashi Iwakuma’s no-hitter

AP, TOKYO

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma poses in front of a scoreboard after throwing a no-hitter to defeat the Baltimore Orioles at Safeco Field in Seattle on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Seattle Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma’s feat of becoming the second Japanese-born pitcher after Hideo Nomo to throw a no-hitter in the US major leagues was splashed on the home pages of sports newspapers and other media Web sites in his home country, greeting people as they were waking up yesterday.

“Iwakuma achieves no-hit, no-run! Second Japanese pitcher after Nomo in ’01,” the headline of the lead story on the Sports Nippon newspaper Web site said.

Japanese baseball fans keenly follow their players in the US major leagues, with highlights of their exploits a staple of sports news broadcasts and sports pages.

The reaction is was a little more muted, though, after two decades of Japanese stars playing in the US.

“The nation went berserk when Nomo threw his two no-hitters,” said Robert Whiting, the author of You Gotta Have Wa, a book about foreign baseball players in Japan. “Now, it’s: Been there done that.”

Iwakuma became the first American League pitcher in nearly three years to throw a no-hitter, silencing the Baltimore Orioles in the Mariners’ 3-0 victory on Wednesday.

Iwakuma’s father-in-law, who once coached on the pitcher’s team in Japan — the Rakuten Eagles — was at the game.

“I was excited to see [fans] cheering with a standing ovation and getting ecstatic each time he pitched in the last half of the game,” Koju Hirohashi said in a statement issued by the team. “Also, I was happy to be able to watch such a game in person. At the beginning, I felt his pitching was a bit rough, but powerful. His fast ball and slider were good.”

The last AL pitcher to keep zeros across the board was teammate Felix Hernandez, who tossed a perfect game at Safeco Field on Aug. 15, 2012. Not surprisingly, Hernandez was one of the first to greet Iwakuma as he was mobbed on the pitcher’s mound after the final out, wearing a fuzzy-bear hat that was handed out to fans earlier in the season in a promotion to honor Iwakuma.

Benjamin Lang, an American lawyer and baseball fan in Japan agreed about the muted reaction in Tokyo.

“My take is that it’s a different era,” he said. “Nomo was carrying the weight of the baseball-mad Japanese public when he left for the majors.”

“A Japanese player excelling in the majors is now old hat,” he said. “While the no-hitter will be celebrated, it simply won’t have the impact that Nomo’s first one had.”

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