Jarrek Posted June 20, 2007 Share Posted June 20, 2007 Bobby Valentine says Japanese baseball losing ground to soccer By JIM ARMSTRONG TOKYO (AP) - Manager Bobby Valentine says baseball in Japan risks a steady decline in popularity unless it competes with soccer when it comes to recruiting young players. "Japanese baseball has to do more to appeal to young players," Valentine said Wednesday. "In the old days, baseball was the only choice but those days are over and the people who run baseball here need to wake up and smell the coffee." Valentine, who took the New York Mets to the 2000 World Series, is now in his fifth season managing the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan's Pacific League. With more and more Japanese kids opting for soccer instead of baseball, Valentine said it's up to the people who run Japanese baseball to find a solution. "This isn't about me," said Valentine. "I'm 57 years old, I don't need the publicity. This is about the future of Japanese baseball." Valentine said part of the problem is Japanese baseball's failure to connect with the youth of Japan, a job he says the domestic soccer league does much better. "J-League players go out to schools and hold clinics, they are beating us at what we should be doing," added Valentine. "For most kids, the closest they get to a Japanese baseball player is the TV set." Valentine has long said that Japanese baseball needs to expand its minor league system to create more opportunities and suggested earlier this week that the Marines should purchase a club in an independent developmental league. There's little doubt that soccer is popular among Japan's youth. According to the Japan Club Youth Football Federation website, there were 107 registered clubs and 2,575 players in the under-18 category in 2006 and 1,028 clubs and 40,549 players registered for under-15 teams. "In the old days, dads would teach their kids to play baseball," said Valentine. "But they are too busy now so the moms take the kids to the park and if they have a choice between baseball and soccer they teach the kids soccer and who can blame them?" Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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