New Story: Major Leaguer

One time I went to a Nippon Ham Fighters baseball game in Tokyo and got shown on the JumboTron. Needless to say, I was very excited. For a few seconds, anyway.

The Awkward Phase of being portrayed on a JumboTron begins approximately 3.5 seconds after you recognize you're on it, and you've smiled and waved and wiggled around in a dance you've never done before in your life and you close your eyes, hoping that when you open them the cameraman will have moved on to someone else but he hasn't; he is still pointing the lens at you and giving a thumbs-up so you give a thumbs-up back and then look up at the screen and see the biggest dork in the world--you--and after ten seconds have passed you begin to wonder if the camera guy is actually trying to humiliate you on purpose, for being foreign maybe, or for buying and wearing the team cap with the stuffed pink animal on top.

It was sort of like dealing with Mister Shake Hands Man, the guy on Banzai who sees how long he can shake celebrities' hands.

Anyway, I wanted to write a story about that time with the JumboTron. The anecdote made people laugh. "You should write about that!" they said. So I did and of course by the time I finished the story, the JumboTron wasn't even in it. It ended up seeming too ridiculous, too tacked-on, too obviously something the author was trying to "use." Turns out the story was more about the dynamic between the newly-engaged couple attending the game and their run-ins with a once-great American player who's finishing out his dwindling career in the Japan League. It's called "Major Leaguer" and it's up this week at the Good Men Project Magazine.

By the way, if you like baseball, or Japan, or reading period, check out Robert Whiting's classic You Gotta Have Wa. The conflicts between foreign players and the Japanese teams who pay big bucks to import them are legendary and Whiting's book dishes the most ridiculous, hilarious, and terrifying examples. It's also a fascinating look at how Japanese culture and aesthetics have made Japan's take on baseball so different from that of the U.S.