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Interview with Japanese Baseball Legend, Coach Oh

Posted March. 08, 2007 06:42,   


The road to meet Softbank head coach Sadaharu Oh, 67 – Japanese baseball’s living legend, holding the all-time career record of 868 home runs – was long and tough.

It is very difficult to interview a pro baseball league head coach in Japan. Moreover, Oh has been inundated with interview requests after returning to the field after surgery to remove a tumor in the stomach last July.

When I visited the Fukuoka Yahoo! Dome to report an exhibition game, more than 100 reporters were there to interview him. Oh was talking to them briefly over the press line. However, he made time for a separate interview with Dong-A Ilbo.

Looking much thinner than when he led the Japanese national team in the World Baseball Classic last March, Oh is still as passionate as ever about baseball.

Korea would be Number One at the Olympic Games If Korean Big Leaguers Played –

Interviewer: The WBC games between Korea and Japan were exciting.

Oh: The Korean pitchers were very good. Their balls were fast and controlled. Most of all, they had guts. A pitcher needs a lot of courage.

Interviewer: What do you think are the prospects of 2008 Beijing Olympics preliminary baseball games in Asia being held this September?

Oh: It depends on those playing in overseas leagues. If all the Korean big leaguers, such as Park Chan-ho (New York Mets) and Seo Jae-ung (Tampa Bay), were to join the national team, like in the WBC, Korea would be the strongest team. Taiwan, with Chien-Ming Wang (New York Yankees), would be a hot competitor, but Korea would be number one.

Challenging Players Raise Level of Game –

Interviewer: What do you think of Lee Seung-yeop (Yomiuri)?

Oh: Lee is growing professionally every year. Korea has good pitchers, but there are only a few. In general, Japan’s level is higher. That’s why it took Lee two years to find his hitting zone. He was a changed man when he moved to Yomiuri last year. This year, his fourth in Japan, will definitely be his best.

Interviewer: Many Korean star baseball players such as Lee Seung-yeop and Lee Byung-kyu (Chunichi) are advancing to the Japanese league.

Oh: As Korean players come to Japan, Japanese players are going to the Major League. It is good to see players with a challenging spirit. They can improve themselves when they play in advanced leagues. With Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners) and Hideki Matsui (New York Yankees) in the Major League, the level of Japan’s baseball has improved a great deal.

Baseball Is Globalizing –

Interviewer: The number of Japanese baseball fans is growing in Korea.

Oh: Baseball is globalizing, and there is no line dividing Korean baseball and Japanese baseball. We should have a broader perspective of Asian baseball. As far as I know, Japanese baseball is broadcast in Korea. This will have a positive influence to Korean players and will lift the fans’ expectations.