The other day, Nikkan sports critic Takashi Toritani was concerned about the “hidden issue” of Samurai Japan, which moved from the WBC semi-finals to the United States for the decisive battle. “Even people who are confident in their defense will feel uneasy and scared in America.” He experienced the WBC for 13 years, and in the semifinals he fought Puerto Rico at AT&T Park (now Oracle Park), home of the Giants. It seems that he paid a lot of attention to the difference between the grounds in Japan and the United States.
“I’ve only defended in San Francisco. I don’t know what the ground in Miami is like this time.” Mr. Toritani emphasized the importance of knowing the difference in advance. “At least, it’s completely different from Japanese ballparks. If the hardness of the turf and soil is different, the way the ball rolls will change. If the humidity is different, you have to pay attention to how the ball slides.” The words of a WBC veteran carry weight.
Samurai Japan’s last two tournaments are both crying in the semi-finals. In the 2017 match against the United States, the mistake of second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi, who is also one of the best players in Japan, was triggered, and he gave the first goal in the 4th inning. In the 8th inning, with 1 death, 2nd and 3rd base, which was tied, Nobuhiro Matsuda, who was on the forward defense, fumbled the grounder in front and allowed the third base runner to survive the home run (the record is 3 grounders). In the 2013 Puerto Rico game, which had a strong impression of a heavy theft failure, in fact, the first baseman Sho Nakata made a mistake in the 8th inning, which was 2 points behind. It means that it is difficult to defend on an unfamiliar ground in a foreign country.
The decisive battle venue of this tournament is Lawn Depot Park, home of the Marlins. It is known as “Pitcher’s Park” which favors pitchers. In the semi-final game against Mexico, where the value of one point will increase dramatically, a mistake in defense could be fatal. What is the reality of artificial turf, which is said to be as close to natural turf as possible? How hard is the soil? How much does the humidity change depending on whether the retractable roof opens or not? By the semi-finals on the 20th, there is only one day on the 19th, the day before, that you can practice at the same stadium. It seems that careful confirmation work is required.[Yosuke Sai]