When I began this project in the mid-1990s, I already had almost 25 years of experience in Japan studies, including about 5 years living in Japan with urban and rural families, and I thought I had a fairly high fluency in the written and spoken language. Still, as I started to hang around the Kansai stadiums, talking with players and staff and fans and reading the daily sports papers, I was not surprised to discover that I was entering a distinctive linguistic world, full of terms and phrases and gestures that were unknown to me. Baseball, in Japan as in the U.S., has its own elaborate argot, which I had to learn as fast and as well as I could.
Moreover, baseball talk varies considerably across its many locations: the player chatter and coaches’ barking instructions during practices, the choreography of press conferences, the scouting reports, the annual salary negotiations, the daily coaches’ meetings and front office conferences, the language of the radio and television announcers and commentators, the umpires’ calls, the fans’ jeers and cheers, the phrasings of exaggeration and euphemism in the tabloid press: these and more are defined as much by how things are said as by what in fact is said. They share overlapping vocabularies and a focus on the “same” sport, but they are not mutually intelligible.
I cannot claim to have become fully fluent in baseball talk—even now, I come across terms and phrasings that stump me and about which I must ask someone. But like most anthropologists, from the outset I kept a field glossary of baseball terminology that I was hearing and reading and that grew day by day through the patient explanations of those around me. The following link is to a pdf of the most recent version of my glossary for anyone else who might want to venture into that linguistic world.
William W. Kelly (2018), 日本野球の和英用語事典 [A Japanese-English Glossary of Terms in Japanese Baseball]
I have since come across a few published “dictionaries” of Japanese-English terms, principally the following six books. A few are still in print; others can be found from used book sellers on Amazon.jp. They are date from the early 2000s, a time when Japanese players’ success in the MLB was drawing great interest among Japanese audiences, readers, and tourists to the U.S. in understanding American baseball. That is, they were moving in the opposite direction from me, but they can be “reverse read” to be very helpful guides for foreigners trying to learn Japanese baseball terms. Of these half dozen, the one I have found most useful is Abe (2006).
Abe Tōru 阿部達, editor. (2006) 大リーグ早わかり野球用語: 英和・和英小辞典. 神奈川県相模市: 現代図書.
Inoue Kazuma 井上一馬 (2003) 野球英語: Baseball English. Tokyo: 小学館.
Kurokawa Shōzō 黒川省三 and Ueda Akira 植田彰 (1998) こんなに違う日米野球用語小事典. Tokyo: 洋販出版.
Satō Naotaka 佐藤尚孝 (2004) 最新mlb情報 ベースボール英和辞典. Tokyo: 開文社出版.
Satō Naotaka 佐藤尚孝 (2007) ベースボール和英辞典 = a Japanese-English Dictionary of Baseball. Tokyo: 開文社出版.
Sayama Kazuo 佐山和夫 (2003) 野球の英語 a to Z―佐山和夫が語るアメリカ野球用語. Tokyo: 三修社.