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All-Star Game turns international
07/15/2003 8:34 PM ET
CHICAGO -- Looking around the field during the All-Star workouts, it was apparent that baseball has evolved into more than the national pastime in the United States.

This year's All-Stars come from nine different countries, and more than 50 countries from around the world have sent media representatives to U.S. Cellular Field to cover the Midsummer Classic.

The largest foreign contingency? Japan, which has roughly 250 print, radio and TV journalists on hand in Chicago to record every move made by Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.

Gaku Tashiro, who covers Matsui and the Yankees for Sankei Sports, a Japanese newspaper, is the only beat writer to have covered Ichiro's first season as well as Matsui's. He said that Monday's All-Star workout day was his busiest since Opening Day.

"To have three Japanese players playing on the All-Star team," Tashiro said, "that's a huge story for us."

Matsui, who was voted in as the American League starting outfielder in just his first year, said that to have three Japanese players on the AL's roster is something he never would have believed just a few years ago.

"We couldn't have imagined Japanese players in the Major League All-Star Game, but we're playing," Matsui said through an interpreter. "It's great. The fans in Japan are very proud of how we have performed here."

When Ichiro and Matsui talked on the field for 30 minutes during Monday's workout, it became front-page news in Japan. The announcement of the AL's starting lineup took place shortly after 11:00 a.m. on Monday -- just in time for Tashiro's deadline, which was just after 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

"When the managers announced the starting lineups, we were still before our deadline," Tashiro said. "We didn't know where Hideki would bat, and if it was the ninth spot, that would have been a big story."

Matsui was penciled into the seventh spot, but it was still news. Tuesday night, Tashiro and the rest of the Japanese press corps will have to compete with the Japanese All-Star Game for front-page coverage, as the play of Matsui, Ichiro and Hasegawa will help determine the amount of coverage.

Of the 70 players selected to the All-Star teams this season, 49 are from the United States. The next most-populated All-Star country is the Dominican Republic, with six representatives. Five players are from Puerto Rico, while Japan and Venezuela have three All-Stars each. Canada, Mexico, Colombia and Curacao are each represented by one All-Star.

Major League Baseball issued about 1,400 credentials to the media, not including rightsholders. About 400 of those credentials were for foreign media from 50 countries, including 250 from Japan. The All-Star Game is being broadcast to more than 200 countries around the world in 12 different languages.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.