02 May, 2023
YOKOHAMA – Wednesday, Trevor Bauer will throw his first career Yokohama DeNA BayStars start. To celebrate, a nearby department shop will display a seven-story poster of the former Cy Young champion on its façade.
After allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault, Bauer was not wanted by Major League Baseball teams this season. At least, no club signed him even though he was eligible to play.
He is a baseball star in this well-known port city in Japan, however, and when questions about his background are raised, his responses are generally well-received.
Around town, train stations are covered with tiny replicas of the department store version of the posters, which spell out “Bauer” in English and display the Japanese phrase “He’s here.”
Bauer recently told reporters that “my face is too big,” bursting into an unusual chuckle. “It’s very cool. It’s very cool. Growing up as a kid you see professional athletes and movie stars on billboards like that; kind of cool for me to be there myself.”
After an arbitrator reduced Bauer’s historically high 324-game suspension to 194 games for breaking MLB’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy, the Los Angeles Dodgers released him this season.
Bauer starts his second start and aims to increase his pitch total by ten days.
Upon learning that Bauer had allegedly assaulted and molested a San Diego woman in 2021, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred banned Bauer in April of last year. Bauer refuted her assertions and said that their interactions were always voluntary.
He was never put on trial for a crime, and a court in California deemed the woman’s statements to be “materially misleading.”
Most of his past did not follow him to Japan. Despite knowing the fundamentals, many Japanese people don’t appear to care. Some claim that a court never found him guilty. Others are completely ignorant. And baseball is the only subject that matters to the majority of fans.
“The Japanese people know that Trevor Bauer had a domestic violence problem in the United States,” said Fumihiro Fujisawa, the president of Japan’s Association of American Baseball Research. He said signing Bauer came down to a business deal with both sides seeing a “win-win.”
In Japan, where concerns of gender inequality often get little attention, there has been little indication that women’s rights organizations are targeting him. The difficulties Bauer is facing at home have not received much coverage in the major Japanese media.
Kazuo Maeda said, “We need Bauer power,” adding that Yokohama’s first league championship in 25 years could be his only opportunity to see it.
“I’m 75, and I want to see a championship. There’s not much time left for me. We know about the domestic violence [allegations], but no one has proved it,” Maeda added. “A little fake news.”
With three minor league appearances under his belt, Bauer has already thrown 93 pitches. Since the Central League in Japan does not employ the DH, his greatest challenge may be at the plate.
For this season, Bauer is still paid by the Dodgers, and he is a skilled marketer. He is quite active on social media, and one of his most recent videos on YouTube had 1.1 million views.
In one YouTube clip, he almost apologized, but he avoided becoming explicit.
“Look, I recognize that I’ve made mistakes,” he said. “I have to live with those. I’ve made plenty of errors of judgment and stupid choices that someone in my position never should have made. And I reacted the wrong way to things said about me in the press and on social media.”
The “Trevor Bauer Official Fanclub” has been founded by Bauer and his staff. Costly is joining. 2,200,000 yen, or around $16,200 for the season, buys you a “VIP” membership. It costs 330,000 yen, or roughly $2,500, to become a “deluxe” member.
The benefits range from limousine service to a “special observation seat” during the game. An “autographed actual-wear uniform,” an autographed ball, and other “original goods” are at the lower end.
“Life is about experiences, and so I want to offer an experience — not just things but an experience they’ll remember and they’ll cherish and that it brings positivity in their life,” Bauer said at a recent postgame interview.
Bauer is allegedly paid $4 million for the one-year contract and is also advertising his own line of goods and clubs. At his minor league development games, hundreds of spectators have been spotted donning his No. 96 jersey.
In allusion to the Samurai sword impersonation he often does after striking out a batter, the word “sword” is printed on the side of a new glove. He poses as putting the fictitious sword into a fictitious sheath on his left hip with both hands.
Yasuaki Yamasaki, a relief with the BayStars, criticized a video in which Bauer encouraged viewers to imitate his celebration after a strikeout. Yamasaki referred to it as “disrespectful.” He then claimed that his message was misconstrued on social media, in a picture with Bauer. But he claimed to have spoken with Bauer and expressed his feelings.
For three minor league games, fans lined up outside the stadiums, mostly men but also many women, hoping to get a glimpse or an autograph. Women in their 20s named Sayaka Chiba and Saya Ikeya panicked and yelled as Bauer crossed a stadium parking lot.
Sayaka instantly mimicked Bauer’s sword technique and stated, “Bauer is awesome. When asked about the accusations of domestic abuse in the US, she said, “I view him as a baseball player. However, I must admit that what happened does concern me a little.
Sean Atkinson, a retired US Navy officer and a supporter who went to roughly 50 Yokohama games last season, encapsulated Bauer’s allure.
Bauer is quite popular in Japan, according to Atkinson. “Cy Young winner is all you have to say.”
Former US Marine Brian Rioux said that he has a daughter who is 20 years old and that, while being a devoted supporter of Yokohama who attended more than 70 games last season, he is conflicted.
He recently said, “I have mixed feelings,” during a minor league game close to Yokosuka, the location of the US 7th Fleet. Of course I would support my daughter in a situation like this. I’m not sure how I’d respond.
He said, “But of course, we are all on the outside of this story.”