January 29, 2004

Indians Pitcher Sets it Straight

Two years ago the Cleveland Indians took a chance on signing a talented young Japanese pitcher that the pro teams in Japan weren't willing to touch. Now that they think he might make their team this spring, they had a little "press opportunity" to clear the air on the story of Kazuhito Tadano.

The Associated Press reports :

Indians minor league pitcher Kazuhito Tadano is asking for forgiveness for what he called a one-time mistake -- his appearance in a gay porn video in which he engaged in a homosexual act.....Tadano took part in the video three years ago when he was a college student.

Speaking through an interpreter, Tadano said, "I did participate in a video and I regret it very much. It was a one-time incident that showed bad judgment and will never be repeated. I was young, playing baseball, and going to college and my teammates and I needed money. Frankly, if I were more mature and had really thought about the implications of what I did, it never would have happened." Tadano added: "I'm not gay. I'd like to clear that fact up right now."

I understand that the uniqueness of this story is what makes it newsworthy, not the seriousness of it. After all, the words "homosexuality" and "baseball" rarely coexist in a sentence. And the Indians are probably smart to get the issue out of the way before Spring Training starts, and even having done so this story won't just disappear.

But to me the real story is the way Tribe GM Mark Shapiro acquired a talented player because he knew that his organization and the American public could deal with the side issues, even while Japanese culture could not. In fact those issues don't amount to much here.

Here's an experiment. Raise your hand if you ever engaged in any irresponsible sexual activity while you were in college, that you later (even the next day) came to regret. Now raise your hand if you ever did anything risky or stupid or irresponsible for money while you were in college. Raise your hand if you think just being a 20-year old college sophomore somehow magically causes lapses in judgment and demonstrations of immaturity. Am I the only one with three hands in the air? I mean besides you, Clarett.

In Tadano, the Indians think they may really have something. He was expected to be a high first round pick in the 2002 Japanese draft until the league office put out an edict that teams were not to draft him. By all early indications the guy can pitch. He was one of the subjects of the "Catch A Rising Star" series on the Indians home page recently, and the numbers are eye-popping.

In his first pro season, as a 22-year old playing for the AA Eastern League Akron Aeros, he didn't allow an earned run in his first 28 innings, and compiled a 1.24 ERA in 31 games overall, striking out 78, while walking only 15. This from a guy obviously in a bit of culture shock in a new country, with no English language skills and a whole new set of teammates and coaches. It's pretty remarkable really.

So I want to offer kudos to Shapiro and the Indians organization for the foresight and class with which they have conducted themselves in the Tadano matter, and two pieces of advice for Tadano himself. First, get a nickname. Maybe something "Americanized", with a sort of rugged feel to it....like "Tex".

Tex Tadano. I like it.

And secondly Tex, just get people out. Tribe fans will love you. I mean we once had a player move in with his teammate, and then move out with his teammate's wife. Your deal is small potatoes. We want to win.

I don't mean to equate your youthful indiscretion with an actual criminal sexual attack, but this example is instructive. Some years ago Indians relief pitcher Jose Mesa was charged with a crime for a rather ugly incident in a car with an young girl. Which Mesa mess do you think Indians fans find more unforgivable? That tawdry incident, or blowing a one-run lead in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series?

Show of hands?

UPDATE 1/30: I found this detailed article on Tadano from the 9/7/03 Plain Dealer, when the story first came out. It sounds like his Indians teammates have really rallied around him. But wait till he goes to Yankee Stadium for the first time. Better that he doesn't know English. (Is that what they speak at Yankee Stadium?)

Posted by dan at January 29, 2004 01:16 AM

I have the video. Tadano is actually pretty hot. He could have two careers.

More info:

Posted by: JguyUSguy at February 16, 2004 12:48 AM

Tadano video is everywhere now. See:

Posted by: Ted at April 4, 2004 10:46 PM
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