Hall of Fame boss Idelson deepening understanding of Japan baseball
Mar 8, 2017? The Japan Times? by Jason Coskrey

National Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson (right) greets Mizuno's Tamio Nawa, the craftsman who has worked on bats for Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki, in Yoro, Gifu Prefecture, last week. | JEAN FRUTH / NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, has spoken to groups of kids beforeBut over 1,000, and at the same time?rnNot that many, not in one place, Idelson laughed. It was great. Ive done a lot of fun stuff here. I went to Yoro (in Gifu Prefecture) to see them turn bats at the Mizuno bat factory. I saw them turn an Ichiro batWhat happened was, I wanted to see Little League baseball while I was here, he told The Japan Times on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome. Working with the Hall of Fame in Japan, they said OK, Tokyos Little League opening day is Sunday. So they asked me to speakIdelson, who also threw out a ceremonial first pitch for the little leaguers, is in Japan to take in the sights and sounds of the 2017 World Baseball ClassicIm here on behalf of the Hall of Fame, Idelson said. The WBC has such importance on our baseball calendar that every time the event happens, I go. I hadnt been to Japan since the Mets and Cubs opened the 2000 season here, so I thought it was an opportune time to plug into the WBC, renew some relationships and develop new onesThe Hall of Fame in Cooperstown works closely with its Japanese counterpart, located just outside Tokyo Dome. The museums share ideas and officials from each have visited the otherIdelson walked through the Japanese Hall Wednesday morning and came away with a little deeper understanding of baseballs place in JapanI didnt realize the depth of amateur baseball here, he said. I knew it was big. I spoke at the Little League opening ceremonies in Tokyo to over a thousand kids, which is different than what we have in the U.S. To see in the museum this morning, all of these different tournaments and leagues . . . not just Koshien, of which Im very familiar with; the U-23 teams, to the Olympic teams, to all of the different amateur teams, it shows me just how prevalent baseball is throughout the year at all levels. That to me is different than the U.SThe Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has probably had a similar effect on Japanese baseball icon Ichiro Suzuki, seemingly one of its biggest fans. Ichiro has visited the Hall seven times, and has pledged his entire collection of artifacts to the museumHes a guy who has a great appreciation for baseball history, Idelson said. When he comes to Cooperstown, its always under the radar for the sole purpose of learning something new about the game. Hes a master at his craft not only because of his work ethic on the field, but his deep appreciation for the industry in which he works. I followed him when he was at Orix. We actually requested a bat from when he was at Orix. Then when he came to the U.S., we immediately began to document what he was doing. He came to the Hall of Fame after his rookie season and he immediately understood the Hall of Fames place in helping to promote the game and its historyIchiro may one day be among the greats enshrined, if the 43-year-old outfielder ever decides to hang up his cleatsIt remains to be seen if well be alive long enough to see him inducted one day, because he has no intention to stop playing, Idelson said. Hes had a magnificent career. I would never presume hed be inducted, but hes certainly on a very, very good path to CooperstownIf that day should come for him, I know itd be meaningful for him. I also know how special it would be for people in Japan to realize this guy reached the top of the mountain and did it with pride and represented this country wellThere are players who might not find the path as smooth as Ichiro might, owing to the myriad of steroid controversies that overshadow the voting process every year. Idelson said the Hall simply makes the rules, and that the baseball writers do the votingOur rules for election are pretty straightforward, he said. They ask writers to look at a players ability, character, integrity and sportsmanship. The emphasis is on playing career, but integrity, character and sportsmanship is incredibly important to us. The wishes of the museum that those of strong character, those who respected the game, treated the game correctly, treated the uniform well, be part of the equation for determining electionTheres always going to be controversy, but when the voting is completed, our staff is prepared to honor whomever the writers choose to electWhile the Hall remains an important part of the game in the U.S., Idelson says it will continue to evolveThe wonderful aspect of working in Cooperstown is that were always making a concerted effort to be relevant and be evolving, he said. Our evolution is ongoingrn