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ICYMI: The Week on Front Row PLUS An insider’s preview of OTL feature on tireless Japanese pitching arms

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A recurring theme of Producer David Lubbers’ tale of traveling to Tokyo from Des Moines, Iowa was “quiet.”

He mentioned the Japanese metropolis (“The quietest big city I’ve ever been in — we were walking down a major street and heard no horns.”); and the post-baseball game celebrations (or lack thereof). There was also the quiet that made taping a major segment for Sunday’s Outside the Lines feature on high pitch counts in Japan (9 a.m. ET, ESPN) possible.

“We were going to interview our main pitcher [Tomohiro Anraku] and his manager [Masanori Joko] at practice, and we set up, no problem,” Lubbers said. “Even though we were quite a distance away, their practices are so loud and intense we had to ask the manager if the players could practice without yelling. A manager is pretty powerful, and he turned around, said three words, and it was silent the whole time — all you could hear was bat hitting ball.”

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ESPN The Magazine Podcast


The Magazine’s EIC Chad Millman talks to columnist Chris Jones and T.J. Quinn about Japanese baseball’s next Yu Darvish and how Quinn broke the Biogenesis story from Japan.
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While investigative reporter T.J. Quinn (OTL’s reporter) and columnist Chris Jones (who authored this ESPN The Magazine piece in “The Body Issue”) were Lubbers’ journeying journalists, Masa Niwa was equally important to the traveling troupe.

“Without him we may have survived, but it would have been difficult,” Lubbers said of their “translator and tour guide” who helped them navigate planes, trains, busses (including four trips across the Pearl Bridge — the world’s largest suspension bridge), and located Nobuyoki Takatsuka, a multi-purpose find.

“We knew he would be a good part of the piece — he was a pitcher who threw too much in high school and says that shortened his career,” Lubbers said of Takatsuka, adding he’s also an apprentice Sushi chef who works with his father-in-law. “They kept feeding us this amazing meal, and finally Masa explained because they considered us guests, they would keep feeding until we were full.”

The eight-day assignment was full of work, as Lubbers said, “We wanted to give an even-headed view of the pitch-count situation. We didn’t want to take the American stand — ‘Look at the Japanese pitchers, they throw too much.’ Who are we to say that? We just wanted to show what it’s like there.”

What baseball’s like in Japan is a “different vibe,” according to Lubbers. “It’s part of the way they conduct themselves. It’s a very respectful society.”

Such as the quiet that followed a walk-off win.

“There was screaming and yelling with the hit, but as soon as the winning run touched home plate, it all stopped,” Lubbers said. “They formed two lines on the field — the winning team bowed to the losing team, the losing team bowed to the winning team, they each bowed to the managers.

“Then, the winning team went and bowed to the fans in the stands. After winning, it was time to respect the teams, the coaches and the fans.”

– By Dan Quinn

ICYMI: Highlights from the past week on Front Row

• The Stats & Information Group discussed the influence of new ESPN contributor Nate Silver, author and founder of FiveThirtyEight.

• With the return of the CrossFit Games, ESPN employees recently endured an fitness challenge on ESPN’s campus green. Watch it here.

• Front Row introduced nine ESPN interns from SEC schools to coincide with the SEC coaches who visited ESPN this week. (Bonus: Meet seven more.)

• X Games athlete and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Travis Pastrana recently stopped by the ESPN campus. He shared details regarding his busy July and August agenda.

Row of Four
Our favorites from across ESPN over the past week

• From ESPN.com: Young female go-kart racers talk about the influence of Danica Patrick

• From Grantland’s Zach Lowe: What’s in a Name? Why the Pelicans Should Be Known As the ‘Pellies’

• From ESPN Music: The Monas on ‘NASCAR Countdown’

• Enjoy an array of photos from ESPN Images

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