Nippon Professional Baseball Admits To Switching Ball Design To Increase Home Run Rate
After months of denial and an inexplicably huge surge in home runs, "Japan's baseball chiefs have admitted they secretly switched the design of the ball to make the game more exciting," according to the AFP. Players and fans had repeatedly quizzed Nippon Professional Baseball bosses after seeing a 40% rise in the number of balls "that were slugged out of the park so far this season." In April, the NPB said the specifications of their ball -- each of which bears the signature of Commissioner Ryozo Kato -- "have not been changed," a statement that was repeated several times since. But on Tuesday the NPB came clean, saying it had asked manufacturer Mizuno to "adjust" the ball to give it greater bounce off the bat and had demanded the company keep quiet about the switch. NPB Secretary General Kunio Shimoda said, "Our understanding was that it would be a matter of fine-tuning. We thought it would cause confusion if we let it be known." Mizuno initially said that "the increase was due to foreign batters hitting so many home runs and was also related to the higher number of games being played in domed stadiums, where wind is not a factor." But union Chair Motohiro Shima said that "it was important the organisation was honest because it affected statistics" (AFP, 6/12).
SWINGING FOR THE FENCES: KYODO reported Kato said Wednesday that "he had not been informed of changes made to this year's ball to make it more lively." Kato said that the decision was made last year by Shimoda, "and that Shimoda had done nothing wrong in either ordering changes to the ball or not informing him of the decision." Kato: "What he did was to make sure the ball met agreed-on specifications. It did not go beyond the parameters set by the Baseball Charter (NPB's governing document). Therefore, there was no need for me to be informed" (KYODO, 6/12).