Over the course of the All Star break, there wasn’t really any baseball to watch. The MLB had no games, all the minor league teams were also off, and there were no sports on besides tennis, which I have little to no interest in. With a lack of sports, what would I be watching?
Well, I may have found a new morning routine, and it includes watching the Nippon Professional Baseball league (NPB). I had never watched a NPB game prior to this past week, but what I found out is I need to be tuning in more often. So what makes the NPB a good watch? Well, here are my three takeaways from watching the NPB over the past week.
The Vibes Are Amazing
If you watched a MLB game without any broadcasters and you could only hear crowd noise, it wouldn’t be the greatest experience for watching a baseball game. However, the NPB broadcasts I’ve been watching has no broadcasters. They have just the sounds of the game and the crowd noise. And it is amazing.
I recently watched a game between the Chiba Lotte Marines and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, and the crowd noise was great through all nine innings. With the Marines being the home team, there were a couple chants I could make out due to former Pittsburgh Pirate Gregory Polanco playing for them. It was hard for me to distinguish chants regarding the Japanese players, as I don’t know the name of every single player. But while Polanco hit, I could distinctly hear them chanting his name: “Polanco! … Polanco!” It lead to Polanco hitting a home run, the first of three homers he hit in the game.
The fans chanted throughout the entire game, with the whole crowd into it. It felt a little bit closer to the atmosphere of a European soccer game than a baseball game, considering what we are used to here with U.S. crowds. There were instruments being played as well, and it felt more like watching a special event than a baseball game. Also, this may just be a thing the Marines do, or maybe it was a special occasion, but they had a fireworks show in the middle of the game between innings. They actually stopped the game for a couple minutes for the fireworks display, which was pretty cool. All in all, watching the game was a great experience. I’ll be watching plenty more of them.
Preview of Future MLB Talent
The only games I could find to watch were the Pacific League, where lot of NPB talent resides.
Roki Sasaki plays for the Chiba Lotte Marines, Yoshinobu Yamamoto plays for the Orix Buffaloes, and Yuki Matsui plays for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. I outlined all three of these players in a column last month covering some of the best international players that could be soon coming over to MLB. So far, I’ve gotten the chance to see both Matsui and Yamamoto pitch, and I plan on watching Sasaki’s next start too. It’s great to see potential MLB talent as they work in Japan. Even if you miss these players, you know you are watching the best players in the world outside of the MLB, along with some former MLB players like Gregory Polanco and Masahiro Tanaka (who also plays for the Golden Eagles).
Another reason the NPB is good is that, while you do get to see some future MLB players that you wouldn’t watch otherwise, you never really know what you might find there in terms of talent. There are a ton of players in Japan right now that could probably play in the MLB, but just haven’t come over yet or elect to stay in Japan. Think of the active MLB players who came over from Japan. Masataka Yoshida, Seiya Suzuki, Kodai Senga, Shintaro Fujinami, Yu Darvish, Kenta Maeda, Yusei Kikuchi, and Shohei Ohtani. Not everyone who comes over from the NPB is successful, but not every player who gets called up from Triple-A is successful either. But there have been a bunch of players that have found success coming over from Japan, and there will be many more in the future.
More Traditional Baseball
If you love baseball being played the old fashioned way, or the more traditional way, you will love the NPB. There’s no pitch clock, no bigger bases, and no shift bans, and there is an emphasis on bunting, defense, and more. If those things sound like fun, you need to check out the NPB. To be honest, I have noticed the games dragging out a bit without a pitch clock, especially with multiple runners on base. But the lower scoring games don’t have too much of a draggy feel to them. In the most recent games I watched, I did catch a car being used to bring the pitchers in from the bullpen, so that is something that some American fans may have to get used to. But it’s quicker than the pitchers jogging in from the pen, so I love the bullpen carts/cars.
Speaking of traditional baseball, there are a bunch of hitters poking the ball the other way to advance baserunners or to squeeze a hit through the right side of the infield against a tough pitcher. It’s old school baseball with a bit of new school mixed in, which is a great combination. It’s a different style of play than MLB, but it’s great in its own way.
— Jeff. (@JDubz_YT) April 6, 2023
To wrap up, I’d like to give a shoutout to a specific tweet that helped me find where to watch NPB games here in the U.S. for free. There are a bunch of different options in this twitter thread, but I went with the third option.
With that, the NPB is great to watch. Most of the games start at 5 AM EST, so if for whatever reason you find yourself up early like I had been, make sure to check it out. They occasionally do have a game start at 12 AM or 1 AM EST, so those games might work for the night owls as well. And even if you don’t watch them due to what time they are on, it may not hurt to keep an eye out for what’s going on over there. There is legit talent in the NPB, and some of that talent may be in MLB soon.