Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Milestone for Venezuelan, but Spot among Elite Waits

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Milestone for Venezuelan, but Spot among Elite Waits

Article excerpt

Alex Ramirez, 37, a Venezuelan who has played in Japan since 2000, recently reached a combined 2,000 hits in his pro career, and is in range of having 2,000 hits in Japan.

When Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals collected his 2,000th hit recently in Major League Baseball, the moment was greeted with polite but understandably low-key applause from around baseball; 269 players had reached the milestone before him. The real fanfare comes with 3,000 hits, a mark reached by only 28 players.

In Japan where the annual schedule historically has contained at least 10 percent fewer games, 2,000 hits is celebrated like 3,000 in the United States. Forty-one Japanese players have achieved the milestone, but when a Venezuelan joined them Thursday, it raised questions of how to honor the occasion.

Alex Ramirez headed to Japan after the 2000 season as a 26-year- old outfielder after playing briefly for Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Unlike most players who have ventured across the Pacific Ocean, Ramirez stayed. Twelve seasons and three teams later, he has produced 2,000 career hits in the two nations.

Ramirez, 37, reached the milestone with two hits Thursday, raising his career total in Japan to 1,914. Adding his 86 from the United States, he has 2,000 for his professional career. Recently, as more Japanese players have gone to the United States, such combined milestones have been reason to celebrate. In Ramirez's case, though, reaction was tempered. That is probably because he is so close to achieving the mark based solely on his hits in Japan. Going into the weekend, he needed 86 hits in the remaining 75 games with his Yokohama DeNA Bay Stars to reach 2,000 in Japan.

"I would like to get 2,000 hits in Japan," Ramirez said. "I don't want to combine the two. Of course, I'm very happy with my hits in the States, but this is something that is very special in Japan, and I would like to keep it like that."

The question of how, and even if, the combined mark would be recognized is largely in the hands of a private club. Such milestones in Japan are traditionally recognized by invitation to a society of Japan's elite players called the Meikyukai, or the Golden Players Club, and Ramirez is expected eventually to become the first Westerner to gain entry. …

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