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Rob Smaal

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Reactions vary to baseball under dimmed lights

by Rob Smaal (May 31, 2011)

With baseball pitching in to conserve electricity by dimming the lights at ballparks in the Tokyo area, reaction from players has been varied.

Although everyone is on board to help out after the Great East Japan Earthquake, some have questioned whether turning out lights at baseball stadiums is really the best way to go about it.

The players have been told not to discuss the issue, which speaks to the sensitivity of the matter. However, we were able to get a few comments from some guys, and the reactions ranged from frustration, to total indifference, to finding some benefit in playing in a less-lit environment.

One typical example of a guy struggling with the reduced lighting comes from a Central League player based in the Tokyo area who said he was having a lot of trouble this season picking up the spin on the baseball when it left the pitcher's hand. Picking up the pitch early is a key component of hitting a small sphere traveling at 150 kph with a round stick.

The player, who wishes to remain anonymous, is in the prime of his career, and he's never had problems seeing the ball in the past, leading him to conclude that the dimmed lights at his home stadium were the likely culprit.

A couple of guys who play on the Yomiuri Giants, whose Tokyo Dome home has seen power reductions ranging from 30 to 50 percent, however, were not too concerned.

"No problem," said veteran slugger Alex Ramirez, a two-time CL MVP and career .305 hitter in Japan who was hitting .276 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs through May 26.

When asked if a darker stadium was favoring pitchers, Ramirez's teammate, starting pitcher Seth Greisinger, said he was in the dark himself over the whole situation.

"No idea," said the American right-hander. "I didn't even know they (the lights) were dimmed."

Softbank relief ace Brian Falkenborg, whose Hawks were facing the Giants at Tokyo Dome for a two-game interleague set May 25-26, did see some value in having the lights turned down a bit.

"If anything, it works to my advantage," said Falkenborg, who posted a 1.35 ERA over his first two seasons in Japan and has six saves this year. "I'm not the one in the batter's box who has to track a ball. I just have to throw it.

"I'd be more concerned if they cut the air-conditioning (when it gets hot out). Sometimes (with the intense humidity) it can feel like you're in a real small room. Pitchers start to welt in the fifth or sixth inning, and these are guys used to throwing 130 pitches a game."

One guy in the stands May 26 at Tokyo Dome who attends a lot of ballgames said he didn't detect any real difference this year with the light situation.

"I didn't even really notice it, but then I'm not down there standing in the batter's box," said Cleveland Indians scout Dave DeFreitas, as he pointed his radar gun at the mound.


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