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A Venezuelan Makes Baseball History in Japan

According to The New York Times

Alex Ramírez of Venezuela has spent the last 12 seasons playing professional baseball in Japan, and could soon become the first westerner to join a select group of players to reach 2,000 career hits in that country, according to a New York Times article on Saturday.

The article explains: “In Japan…where the annual schedule historically has contained at least 10 percent fewer games, 2,000 hits is celebrated like 3,000 in the United States. Forty-one Japanese players have achieved the milestone, but when a Venezuelan joined them Thursday, it raised questions of how to honor the occasion.”

Ramírez played briefly for the Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates before going to Japan, and “unlike most players who have ventured across the Pacific Ocean, Ramirez stayed. Twelve seasons and three teams later, he has produced 2,000 career hits in the two nations.”

The Times writes that Ramírez, age 37, “reached the milestone with two hits on Thursday, raising his career total in Japan to 1,914. Adding his 86 from the United States, he has 2,000 for his professional career.

Of his achievement, Ramírez said: “I would like to get 2,000 hits in Japan. I don’t want to combine the two. Of course, I’m very happy with my hits in the States, but this is something that is very special in Japan, and I would like to keep it like that.”

The article states: “The question of how, and even if, the combined mark would be recognized is largely in the hands of a private club. Such milestones in Japan are traditionally recognized by invitation to a society of Japan’s elite players called the Meikyukai, or the Golden Players Club, and Ramirez is expected to eventually become the first Westerner to gain entry. It was created in 1978 by Masaichi Kaneda, Japanese baseball’s most successful pitcher with 400 career wins. Admission is considered for three achievements: 2,000 hits, 200 wins and 250 saves.”

The inclusion of the Venezuelan player in the prestigious society would be an historical achievement, for many of Japan’s baseball greats have failed to reach the Meijyukai, “including Victor Starffin, the only foreigner in Japan’s Hall of Fame with 303 career wins, and Tetsuharu Kawakami, regarded as one of Japan’s greatest batters with 2,351 career hits,” the Times writes.

“Although the issue may be thorny, ultimately, Ramirez is expected to gain admission. He is wildly popular and is affectionately known throughout Japanese baseball by fans and peers alike as Rami Chan, a combination of his surname and a title expressing closeness that is commonly attached to names in Japan. When he steps onto the field for pregame workouts, fans called out his name, and he typically returns their affection with a warm wave and big smile.”

Photo: AP

Press – Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S. / July 7, 2012

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