Although Japan’s new ball is not meant to replicate the American major league ball, a conscious effort was made to make it much more similar than before. That is a crucial point in Japan, where performance in international competitions like the quadrennial World Baseball Classic, which uses the American ball, weighs on the national conscience. Kato, the commissioner, said as much at a news conference when he unveiled the new ball before the season.
“Certainly, an impetus for the uniform ball was seeing with my own eyes the difficulties Japanese pitchers had with the different ball at the W.B.C.,” he said of the 2009 tournament, which Japan won. “By unifying our approach to the domestic game, we can lessen such discomforts that arise for our players on the international stage.”
Surprisingly interesting article, via Hardball Talk, about the different baseballs used in the Japanese leagues. Until just a moment ago, I was under the impression that the baseballs used in Japan were slightly smaller and slicker than their American counterparts. As it turns out, there wasn’t even a single standard ball used by all teams until this year. Teams would even change the ball they used depending on the series. And, apparently, a good deal of teams were using juiced balls before, as home runs dropped precipitously in Japan these season with the standardized ball. Anyway, check it out here.