TOKYO (AP) -Satoshi Kamishige didn’t mind waking up early for Dice-K’s debut.
Kamishige was the opposing pitcher in the 1998 national high school baseball tournament, when Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 250 pitches in a 17-inning complete game. He was there when the Matsuzaka legend was born, so getting up for a game that aired at 3 a.m. Friday seemed like the right thing to do.
“It was a great start for him,” said Kamishige, who pitched 10 innings in the 1998 game. “He got to show the world what he can do, he got to see the power of major league hitters and most importantly, he got the win.”
Matsuzaka got the win in his first game for the Boston Red Sox, striking out 10 over seven innings in a 4-1 victory over the Royals in Kansas City. The only run he allowed was on a sixth-inning homer by David DeJesus.
Kamishige knew long ago that Matsuzaka was special.
“He’s awesome. The thing that impresses me most is his stamina,” said Kamishige, a sports announcer for Nippon Television Network. “I know he probably wanted to go all the way in his first game over there, but he knows that’s not how things are done in the majors.”
You couldn’t avoid Matsuzaka mania on Tokyo television. Fans who didn’t stay up all night were greeted with highlights on just about every channel.
The reports got the attention of Finance Minister Koji Omi, who complained about public broadcaster NHK’s intensive coverage of Matsuzaka.
“I think it is problematic for NHK to take up this kind of news every morning … taking into account of overall balance for news,” he said, urging the station to focus more on financial and international issues.
Matsuzaka’s first victory was top news on the station’s news program at noon.
While Japanese baseball fans have grown used to seeing their top players excel in the major leagues, Matsuzaka’s first game created more buzz than the debut of others, such as the New York Yankees’ Hideki Matsui and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki.
Having played for Japan in the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic, Matsuzaka is widely regarded as Japan’s top pitcher, and Japanese fans are eager to see how his game measures up in the majors.
Even the most cautious of fans predict Matsuzaka is capable of at least 15 wins in his first season with the Red Sox.
Ever since Hideo Nomo left to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995, there has been a steady flow of Japanese players heading to the United States.
Most Japanese are divided over the departure of stars. They realize it’s not good for the Japanese pro leagues, but are proud to see them succeed in the United States.
Masanori Murakami was the first Japanese player to go over, when he pitched for the San Francisco Giants in 1964 and 1965, but Nomo was the first to have a major impact. Now, just about every promising young player in Japan says his goal is to play in the major leagues. Matsuzaka cited Nomo’s career as providing him with the inspiration to play in America.
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