New York Magazine’s Bilge Ebiri caught up with former Mets / current Chiba Lotte Marines skipper Bobby Valentine for a chat on the occasion of “The Zen Of Bobby”, heading to an arthouse…well, a DVD rental queue near you. Pete Harnisch is gonna wait for it to hit cable.
What made you decide to let three NYU students follow you around with a camera? Did you have any concerns?
For starters, they were so persistent. It was kind of a three-year trip they took ” calling me, e-mailing me, telling me about their idea, about their passion for the project. Finally, after I met them and saw the documentary they made before this [Andrew Jenks’s Room 335],I decided to do it. I did have some concerns. Eight months ” that™s a long time. But they were very special, wonderfully intelligent, and creative. And I can say it was the greatest experience of my life, hanging out with three 21-year-olds. [Laughs.]
When you first arrived in Japan, did you have any idea of the kind of media celebrity you’d become there?
When I first got here in 1995, I came to change the world. I wanted to make a big splash. And I got fired at the end of that season. That was when I realized how much the fans had taken to me ” there was a genuine outcry for me not to leave. But you have to remember what the world of baseball was like in 1995. That was the year [Hideo] Nomo went to the U.S. He was basically the first modern-day pitcher to go there. As he was going, I was coming. And I was thinking that maybe a bridge or a highway could™ve been built between the two cultures.
What is the biggest difference between Japanese baseball and American baseball?
When people watch this film, they™ll hopefully see that these three guys captured the fandom here, which is really different. The fans have an incredible amount of passion. The game on the field is the exact same game, but it™s played with precision, the way it was many years ago in the States, before it became a power game. The double play and the sacrifice run and the sacrifice play are still common here. The 100-mile-an-hour fastball and the 500-foot home run are not.