- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 26, 2004

BALTIMORE. — Watch out, Japan. Big Boss is back.

The last time I was in that country, I was big time. When I was covering the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, I couldn’t walk down the street without someone stopping me and asking to have their picture taken with me. I never paid for a drink in a bar in Nagano. They even came up with a nickname for me: “Big Boss.”

In Japan, the bigger you are, the bigger you are. Girth has worth.

This week at Camden Yards, I recaptured some of that Big Boss magic when I became the star of the Yankees-Orioles game Wednesday night, at least in the eyes of the Japanese press corps that covers the Yankees, thanks to a foul ball by New York outfielder Hideki Matsui.

Now, if you’ve ever sat in the seats behind home plate at Camden Yards, all the way up to the ground level concourse and beyond, you know foul balls can come flying back like rockets. I’ve seen people carried out on stretchers after getting nailed.

The press box at Camden Yards is one of the best, if not the best, in baseball because it is not enclosed by glass and it is close to the field. But just like those seats behind home plate, the press box is often a target for foul balls, particularly coming off the bat of left-handed hitters.

Before this week, only one writer had a computer smashed by a foul ball, and it became a legendary tale. Former Baltimore Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal wrote a column that day saying Cal Ripken should sit himself down and end his consecutive games streak. That night Ripken sent a foul ball flying back into the press box, smashing Rosenthal’s computer. It was hilariously eerie.

On Wednesday night, I joined Rosenthal among the technologically wounded in the Camden Yards press box.

Earlier that afternoon, I set up an interview with Matsui for a feature story. Through his interpreter, he was gracious and friendly and spoke of how fortunate he was to have signed with the Yankees and the responsibility he feels to the game and his country to play well. It was an uneventful interview.

A few hours later, when he came up to the plate, I was sitting in the press box writing something on the computer. Suddenly I saw people scrambling, and from my years in the press box I knew a foul ball was coming. And it was close. I also knew I didn’t have time to look up to see it, just time enough to get out of the way.

This foul came back like a cannon shot, and I barely had started to wheel my chair away when I heard “whack.” I wasn’t sure what the ball had struck until someone said it hit the back of my computer. The laptop was closed, but I hadn’t had time to shut it. I opened it, and the screen was like Jell-O. Mush. It was colorfully dead.

A fan would have thought I had just caught Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run, given the reaction of the Japanese reporters. One by one, they came over to interview me — the Sankei Sports Newspaper, JiJi Press, the Fuji Evening News and Tokyo Sports Press, trailing photographers who recorded me with my wrecked computer.

“You spoke to Matsui today, is that right?” one reporter asked me.

“Yes, but I don’t think I asked him anything that would make him mad enough to want to break my computer,” I said.

“Maybe he will buy you a new one?” another reporter asked.

“Yeah, right,” I said. “He may be a nice guy, but he’s still a ballplayer. He’s not buying a reporter anything.”

However, conjecture among the mercenary American sportswriters was that maybe I’ll get two or three computers in the mail from some Japanese companies who read about my smashed computer.

After the game, the Japanese reporters told Matsui how his foul ball broke my computer, and he suggested maybe I should have had the computer closed instead of open. I might point out if I did have the computer closed, this column instead might have been my obituary had the ball found me.

If that ball had hit me, it would have been the end of Big Boss, and that would have been a sad day in Japan.

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