Trend in Japan Web Japan
Business and Economy Lifestyle Science and Technology Fashion Arts and Entertainment Sports People
East Asian Teams Compete in Konami Cup Asia Series (December 6, 2005)

Asia Series MVP Benny Agbayani (Yomiuri Shimbun)
The Chiba Lotte Marines have won the Konami Cup Asia Series to clinch the first regional professional baseball championship in Asia. After taking the Pacific League pennant and then sweeping the Japan Series, the Marines have proven themselves a powerful force in baseball. Their victory over the Samsung Lions in this international tournament was the perfect end to an exceptional season in which the Marines dominated the baseball world in Japan and East Asia.

The Number One Ball Club in Asia
China, Japan, South Korea, and Chinese Taipei each sent their champion baseball team to compete in the tournament, which was held from November 10 to 13 at the Tokyo Dome. (The Chinese team actually included players from several teams, since its professional league was founded only recently.) During the tournament's first three days the teams played each other in a round-robin format, with the two teams with the best records advancing to the final. This event marked the first time that professional teams from these four Asian countries have competed against each other in officially sanctioned games.

Lotte dropped Samsung 6-2 in its first game and then went on to trounce the Sinon Bulls from Taiwan 12-1. The Marines' second-string line-up took the field against the Chinese team and launched Lotte into the series final with a 3-1 victory. In the final against Samsung, the Marines offense scored 5 runs on 6 hits, while ace pitcher Watanabe Shunsuke turned in a fine performance to give the Marines a 5-3 victory.

After Lotte won the fifth and decisive game of the Pacific League playoffs, the team advanced to the Japan Series and defeated the Hanshin Tigers in four straight games. Including their four-game sweep in the Konami Cup, the team concluded the 2005 season with nine consecutive post-season wins.

Although the express goal of the tournament is to make it the premier baseball event in Asia, there were concerns that interest may be lacking in this, the series' inaugural year. However, the series final exceeded expectations as it drew a crowd of 37,000 and captured a television audience share of over 15%. One can attribute much of this success to the popularity of the Lotte Marines and their manager, Bobby Valentine, and to the support of their devoted fans. Another factor may be the passion that international sports competitions arouse in Japan. According to Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Negoro Yasuchika, the tournament succeeded in its trial run, and it looks as though a second tournament will be held in Japan next year.

Infielder Imae Toshiaki also had a great series. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

Displaying Asia's Baseball Prowess
The idea for a regional tournament originally came from South Korea and Taiwan, but Japan is known as one of the world's great baseball nations, and the pressure was on the Marines, who went into the tournament as favorites. The players rose to the challenge with a magnificent string of victories. The coveted first MVP award, however, went not to a Japanese but to the Hawaiian-born Benny Agbayani, who batted in a total of nine runs for the Marines during the course of the competition.

The ultimate goal of the event is to pave the way for a baseball world championship series in which the winner of the Asia Series faces off against the winner of Major League Baseball's World Series. In fact, after the conclusion of the tournament, even Lotte manager Bobby Valentine said that he would like to have a real 'world series' between the Konami Cup and Major League Baseball champions.

Recently, the United States' Major League Baseball organization has been developing various strategies to expand the international market for baseball. One result of these efforts is the World Baseball Classic, scheduled to take place for the first time in 2006. Each of the countries represented in the Asia Series will field a team for this event, which will include teams from all over the world. The Konami Asia Series will likely become a testing ground for potential world champions and will give Asian teams an opportunity to showcase their skills.

Following the Konami Cup's success, and with several of its homegrown superstars now playing in the United Sates, Japan has clearly become a major contributor to the internationalization of baseball.

 Page Top

Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

Related articles
(December 11, 2003)

(July 28, 2003)
Drop Us a Line
Your Name

What did you think of this article?

It was interesting.
It was boring.

Send this article to a friend

Go TopTrends in Japan Home

Go BackSports Home