Ichiro Suzuki stands at the plate like this: side on to the pitcher he sets his feet and bends his knees slightly, he slouches back, and with his eyes fixed he raises his bat in his right hand until it's a vertical line between him and the pitcher. He draws back the bat into a very straight stance and waits. It's a very ritualistic part of batting in baseball, and Ichiro's system is very good.
He holds the Major League record for hits in a season [262 in 2004] (a hit is where you make it to a base without the fielding team committing an error) and although he had a slump last season, he is still a dangerous player to pitch to. And the question the Koreans must be asking is: why the hell did we try to pitch to him?
Ichiro batted in the two runs that won Japan the World Baseball Classic (the actual World Series) over South Korea. This, along with his many Major League accomplishments, makes him a God in Japan. It also ensures the Seattle Mariners a massive television audience.
Let me set the scene: it's the top of the tenth inning. Japan gave up a two run lead in the ninth and the game was tied. Japan got fourteen men on-base during the game and two of them are there now. Ichiro is waiting. He faces eight pitches and it wasn't even a full count: one ball and six fouls. Finally he belts one over the second-baseman and essentially wins the game (though that wouldn't come until the Koreans were all out in their innings).
I'll stop now because I can feel you readers seething. So let me just quickly say: Congrats Japan on retaining the World Baseball Champion title.
Now to the cricket (there feel better now?). As I type this Jesse Ryder is about to get a double century in the second test against India in Napier (he's eight runs away). Given the start we had (23/3!) this is formally in the "awesome bucket".
On Twitter (everyone's favourite news service) the Tweets started out being quite depressed and have become like this.
My own selfish hope is that New Zealand wins this test so that the final one in Wellington will have some weight.
In the middle of the night on a track in Eastern Europe Alison Shanks became an honest to goodness World Champion! And in the coolest event on the Velodrome (imho): individual pursuit.
But what's slightly awesomer than that? She is actually helping others to become great.
[Alison's] switch from netball less than four years ago and success at the Beijing Olympics last year where she surprised many to finish fourth prompted BikeNZ to seek out other female athletes, introducing its Power to the Podium programme.
This contrasts quite nicely with what the coach of the White Ferns has said about putting his players on contracts.
Gary Stead says that the players don't need contracts but instead need good support from their organisation. It's an interesting plan and, I suppose, quite a good one considering the small amount of money available to sporting bodies these days.
Oh Jesse Ryder just got his double tonne. Good work that contracted player!
Hey, not only do South Africa get a nifty Indian 20/20 tournament, they also get a match between the Springboks and the New Zealand Māori. How cool is that? I mean, yes, it would be cooler if the NZ Māori toured New Zealand in a series against a nation like Japan or Italy or a team like the Pacific Islanders, but this'll do.
Speaking of women blasting around a track at life-threatening speeds, I'm going to be attending the inaugural Wellington Richter City Roller Derby this Saturday. It should be a good old time, and I'll report back (with pictures!) on Monday.