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Trevor Bauer didn’t take the usual path to playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
Usually, former Major League Baseball players make the transition as their talent wanes with age or poor performance.
Bauer though, went to Japan because MLB teams were scared off by potential U.S. media criticism.
Even though he’s faced no charges, repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and was reinstated by the league, no domestic teams showed interest.
The Yokohama DeNA BayStars though, jumped all over the opportunity to bring in a recent Cy Young winner.
And while there have been significant hiccups, a new on-the-ground report details how popular the former Dodger, Guardian and Red is in Japan.
It also details the difference between U.S. sports media and those covering baseball in Japan.
According to the Sports Illustrated story by Kenji Hall, Bauer’s faced just one question about the allegations. From an Associated Press reporter. Otherwise, most have decided to move on.
“What made the biggest impression on me was that they told us that he had not been charged with a crime,” Hotaka Ohki, who covers the BayStars, explained.
Trevor Bauer One Of Japanese Baseball’s Most Popular Figures
Bauer’s debut was an immediate sell out that set an attendance record.
Japanese fans rushed to buy Bauer-themed merchandise, and his behind-the-scenes videos rack up huge numbers on YouTube.
The reason for his popularity is simple – fans there have moved on.
While Bauer didn’t face charges, there are perfectly legitimate reasons to be concerned about alleged behaviors detailed in the complaints. And beyond those issues, he’s had other incidents of frustrating mistakes on and off the field.
But Japanese fans have seemingly accepted Bauer’s denials of wrongdoing and focused on his on-field performance.
The opportunity to see a star player during the peak of his career is not something NPB fans have often had access to. And Bauer gives them that opportunity.
He’s also been named both the league’s MVP in June and an NPB All-Star, further raising his profile.
Hall detailed the relationship between Bauer and the Japanese fans by recalling his statement after a game.
“This is one of the most fun baseball games I’ve ever been a part of. And that’s a tribute to everybody who’s here. I love all of you. Thank you for coming and making it very special,” Bauer said.
Reportedly, applause drowned out most of the ensuing translation into Japanese.