I saw this movie before I left for school and I definitely recommend this flick from 1992. You should see it if you are a baseball fan or just enjoy a story about adapting to a new culture.
Jack Eliot, played by Tom Selleck, is shown as a former productive first baseman for the New York Yankees, but those years are behind him. He struck out in many critical at-bats and as a result of the rookie first baseman (played by Frank (Big Hurt) Thomas) hitting moonshots during batting practice the coaches come to the decision that Eliot is not needed anymore.
When he is called into the coaches office he thinks he might be traded to Cleveland, (he probably thought they were the only squad that would want him since they were at the bottom in 92) but he is very surprised when he realizes that the only interested team is in Japan. He is initially angry that he has to go all the way to Japan to play baseball.
At first, Eliot has a lot of trouble adapting to the culture because and unique style of play in Japan. He has a personal translator, but when the press interviews him he is overly honest and sometimes critical, which is frowned upon in Japan, so the translator has to spin it in another direction.
Another main character in this movie is the attractive Hiroko. It seems like she is somebody who is assigned to the American when they first join the team in order to help them enjoy/adapt successfully to the culture.
The first time they meet is on the field at practice and she says they need to connect later in the day at his apartment. He is shocked to realize that she knows where he lives. Eliot thinks that she is a prostitute because of the circumstance, but she assures him that is not the case.
He has differences with his manager’s style, so Hiroko tells him how to adjust and deal with the Japanese team-first style. He has trouble doing this because he is used to trying to hit home runs and never bunting. A memorable scene from one of Eliot’s first games is when the third base coach gives him the sign to bunt, but he emphatically refuses because it was never his style to bunt in a game.
He gets fined what seemed like a lot of money, but Eliot did not really care, and willingly picked up another fine by throwing all of the helmets to the ground. This would not really merit a fine in America, but they are all about the team and portraying the right image.
Dennis Haysbert’s character was the other American on the team, and in addition to Hiroko, he tried to tell him right from wrong. Haysbert had the correct mindset of trying to excel in Japan in order to get a call from an MLB team, and it would take until towards the end of the movie for Eliot to have the correct mindset.
He would start to observe and accept the Japanese culture after more time spent with Hiroko. They went to a traditional Japanese garden together, she taught him to accept Japanese food and she even gave him a massage with words that she thought would motivate him.
This was all part of the process for Eliot, but Hiroko’s last resort was taking him to a surprise destination. He had no idea what to expect, given that this mystery was outside of the city, but once he met the host it is revealed that Hiroko is the coach’s daughter.
I will not give away too many details of this at first alarming encounter, but he reluctantly decides to eat the traditional Japanese meal prepared by Hiroko’s mother while listening to more advice from his coach aimed at being helpful.
Towards the end of the movie, he observes the correct customs in the locker room, is a leader for his teammates, starts hitting consistently with power, while using a team-first approach to help his team beat their rival for the championship.
The championship victory helps both Americans get back to the MLB. However, Eliot and Hiroko develop a relationship and some tension arises before the final game. Eliot informs Hiroko that he can’t refuse an offer from the Tigers, which makes her think that he is being selfish.
However, the fact that he put team over self in a critical moment, which lead to victory, made Hrioko want to come to the States with him. The movie had a happy ending while proving how one can benefit from spending time in a new culture. He only started to excel at the plate when he embraced the Japenese on-field style, and the country’s cultural differences.