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Asians Growing in Prominence in US Baseball

Posted November. 10, 2009 09:46,   


Hideki Matsui of Japan was named Most Valuable Player of the World Series last week. The New York Yankees slugger drove in six runs in the Series-clinching Game 6 to seal his team’s 27th title.

First conquering the Japanese league with his mighty bat, Matsui has become the first Asian to win the World Series MVP in his seventh season with the Yankees. He has generated pride and excitement among his Japanese fans, and is even hailed as a source of Asian pride.

Twenty-two Asians are playing in Major League Baseball, including three Koreans, 16 Japanese, and three Taiwanese. The figure is rather small compared to that of Latin American countries, but Asian players are increasingly shining and generating notable achievements in the U.S.

Japanese pitcher Irabu Hideki was the first Asian to win a World Series with the Yankees in 1999, but never played in the Fall Classic that year.

Kim Byung-hyun of Korea is the first Asian to play in and win a World Series ring. A relief pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he lost Game 4 of the 2001 World Series after giving up two late homers, but Arizona won the title in seven games.

Ichiro Suzuki of Japan has won the most awards among Asians in the majors. In his rookie season with the Seattle Mariners, he led the American League with a batting average of .350 and 56 stolen bases and won both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors.

He also won MVP of the 2007 All-Star Game.

Pitcher Hideo Nomo of Japan is the first Asian to win Rookie of the Year, winning as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995.

He also paved the way for Japanese players to advance into the U.S. majors. He won 123 games, the most by an Asian pitcher in the U.S., before retiring last year.

Among Korean players, Choo Shin-soo of the Cleveland Indians became the first Asian to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases in the same season this year. Choi Hee-seop in 2005 hit three home runs in one game for the Dodgers, the most by an Asian player.

Pitcher Park Chan-ho of the Philadelphia Phillies has 120 wins and is aiming to break Nomo’s mark for Asian pitchers. Park had 18 wins in 2000, the most for an Asian pitcher at the time, until Wang Jian-ming of Taiwan set a higher mark with 19 in 2006.

The first Asian to play in the majors was pitcher Masanori Murakami, who joined the San Francisco Giants in 1964. He had a paltry five wins over two seasons.

Three decades have passed until the second Asian, Park, joined the majors in 1994.