Just like Babe Ruth did about 75 years ago, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder(notes) is currently touring Japan on a goodwill baseball trip. He's been meeting with students, banging on big Japanese drums and most likely answering awkward questions about his estranged father, Cecil, who played for the Hanshin Tigers in 1989.
The media attention surrounding Fielder's arrival is also generating a few interesting storylines from the MLB contingent that is making the trip with him. Among them:
• The Japanese team has not yet committed to the 2013 World Baseball Classic because players from the two-time defending champions want to be paid more for their appearances.
• Jim Small, MLB's vice president, dropped a Commodore Perry reference and said that Bud Selig won't be piloting any "black ships" into the Japanese baseball scene any time soon. Translation: Tokyo isn't a candidate to become the fifth team in the AL West.
• Finally, and most newsworthy, Small says that officials from MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball will meet in January to talk about a series that would pit the champions from each league.
Of course, this isn't the first time that this idea has been brought up. The two sides had talks last January and the main public reaction was that it was a near-impossible idea to pull off.
On Thursday, Small agreed that many of the obstacles are exceptionally tough. But they continue to seek solutions, he said.
"When you really get into the details of it, it's a difficult thing to see happening, but we continue to do it," Small said. "Not all those things are insurmountable, but they do create some issues."
Not all of those obstacles are insurmountable, but the ones keeping Selig from making an attempt at adding another international achievement to his legacy — union approval, player interest, injury risk, weather, etc. — definitely are. For now, the commissioner will have to remain content with being known as the father of the WBC.