Until the games begin, and maybe even when that happens, there will be lots and lots and lots of chatter about Tsuyoshi Nishioka. He has brought to Fort Myers a Japanese media entourage that is about the same size as the group from the Twin Cities that would typically cover the Twins, a group that has grown a bit in recent years because of the expectations for 24/7 coverage.
La Velle had an interesting story on Sunday about Japanese baseball culture and TwinsCentric's Parker Hageman sliced and diced Nishioka's swing, and explained he has more in common with Joe Mauer than Ichiro.
Both are filled with interesting stuff. Among other things, La Velle explains the reasons why the Twins didn't acquire a second Japanese player to "make the transition easier." According to the norms of baseball in Japan, it would do the opposite.
And Parker, along with his interesting technical analysis, offered up a line that shows why bloggers who write through the winter start spring training in midseason form: "Tsuyoshi is currently an enigma, wrapped in mystery and smothered in secret sauce."
All of their words got me to checking out Japanese baseball on the web. If you're waiting for your street to be plowed, what better way to grab a bit more baseball education?
The most far-reaching website that I've found so far (and I'm open to other suggestions) is Pro Yakyu Now, which features discussion threads about baseball in Japan and Korea. In one of the threads, someone who identifies himself as a "bleacher creature" at Target Field asked about the words of various Nishioka chants done by fans of his former team, the Chibe Lotte Marines.
He was directed here:
What you just watched was Nishioka's 2010 ouenka, or fight song, that fans of the Chiba Lotte Marines performed when he came to bat.
(Music + clapping) Tsuyoshi!
(Music + clapping) Let’s go!
(Music + clapping) Speed-o-star!
(Music + clapping) Tsuyoshi! Nishioka!
Apparently, a "speed-o-star" is what happens to a speedster when chanted by thousands.
Other interesting links:
The baseball page of the Japan Times.
Japanball.com also has daily updates and stats from the top two Japanese leagues.
The Japanball.com site also has a link to an English language Japanese baseball media guide.
The Japanorama website includes a page on Japanese baseball history. (An American teacher named Horace Wilson brought baseball to Japan in 1872 and the annual high school tournament is the biggest sporting in the country.)
If you want a Chibe Lotte Marines baseball cap, you can find it here. (But the website is shutting down next month, so order quickly.)
That's a start. If you want to add something to the list, email me here and I'll include it in this post -- and in a links directory that we'll get onto startribune.com before the season starts.
Stretch before you shovel today.