A single catch by a fan brings out the worst and best in Japanese baseball.
On 7 March Japan faced Cuba in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. During the bottom of the fourth inning, Yakult Swallows second-baseman and noted slugger Tetsuto Yamada hit it deep to left-field heading straight for the stands. However, just before the ball crossed the fence a young fan reached out with his glove and caught it.
Surely it was a magical once-in-a-lifetime moment for the lad, but if the ball doesn’t cross the fence, it isn’t a home run. So, Yamada’s sure home run was instead ruled a double due to spectator interference – or as the Japanese slickly name it Maboroshi No Home Run (Phantom Home Run).
It ended up being a moot point anyway since Japan went on to soundly win the game 11-6. Nevertheless, online hatred towards the young man who caught the ball was visceral. Remarks such as, “stupid brat, you don’t deserve to live,” and “war criminal” were bandied about and things escalated further when a close-up photo of the boy smiling and holding the caught ball began to also circulate online.
Word of the outrage reached Yamada himself who, on 9 March, released a statement directed at the unidentified boy. It goes as follows:
“I don’t mind at all. I hope that you don’t turn you back on baseball and come back with your glove to cheer us on.
I think you were on the edge of something else that day; the edge of becoming a professional baseball player in the future.
I hope you continue to work hard at that so one day we can meet and look back at this moment we shared together fondly.
I will work hard too so I can hit home runs perfectly.”
How’s that for a class act? Not only does Yamada completely forgive and encourage the boy who erased his home run, he even takes partial blame that he didn’t hit it far enough to avoid this problem in the first place.
The Internet agreed saying:
“Yamada, you’re too kind!”
“Does that boy see this?”
“Yamada is a saint for his message to the boy who stole his home run.”
“I like Yamada even more now. I hope he knocks one out of the park next time too!”
“Stand-up guy. Show us your perfect home run. That is the path to victory.”
“Yamada is cool. I hope that kid does go on to become a professional player.”
Granted most of the feedback was simply saying how awesome Yamada is rather than agreeing with him and wishing the boy nothing but the best… but it seems to have taken the heat off the kid at least.
So, I guess all’s well that ends well. It seems ridiculous to make a pariah out of the kid anyway. Who wouldn’t make the catch if they were in his position? I mean, I wouldn’t because I catch like a drunk elephant, but I’m sure most would.