In (American) English, there are a number of metaphors about baseball, including “hit a home run” and “touch base”. This is also the case in Japanese, the language of the country where baseball is one of the most popular sports. This article introduces unique Japanese baseball metaphors that you can “pitch” in a casual conversation! (However, don’t go overboard, as you may sound like a middle-aged baseball fanatic!)
ストライク (すとらいく, sutoraiku)
one’s taste of men/women; men/women one finds OK or acceptable
Wow, is that girl your “strike”? Your “strike zone” is very wide!
Likewise, a “ball” refers to men/women out of your “strike zone”. To describe someone on the borderline, you may say “ぎりぎりストライク/ボール” (borderline strike/ball). Here, “ぎりぎり” is an adjective that means something is on the borderline (e.g., 締(し)め切(き)りギリギリ: very close to the deadline).
変化球 (へんかきゅう, henkakyū)
a breaking ball/curveball
something twisted, unorthodox, unusual, surprising
It’d be good to give a present like a “breaking ball” (= unusual) to your boyfriend sometimes.
During the interview, I was asked a “breaking-ball” (unexpected, twisted) question and couldn’t answer it.
* To put emphasis, ド is often added before 直球.
“Why did you divorce”, I asked a “fastball” (very blunt) question.
It’s important to confess your feelings for your crush using “fastball” (straightforward) words
置(お)きに行(い)く (oki ni iku)
to pitch a slow ball so that you can surely get a strike (as if putting an egg on the strike zone)
to opt to take a secure and passable route and avoid doing something challenging or risky
That company has been recently criticised for “pitching a slow ball” by only making similar products.
打席に立つ (だせきにたつ, daseki ni tatsu)
stand at a batter’s box/be at bat
make an action/try something without worrying about the outcome
* Instead of 打席 (だせき), the katakana word バッターボックス loaned from “batter box” can also be used.
To make your girlfriend, you first need to “stand at a batter’s” box many times (make some actions) and experience various things.
To be successful, it is important to keep “standing at a batter’s box” (= “making actions”) .
代打 (だいだ, daida)
a pinch hitter
a person who does something on behalf of someone who cannot make it
* The katakana word ピンチヒッター from “pinch hitter” can also be used
Because he is on his business trip, I am in charge of this work today as a “pinch hitter” for (on behalf of) him.
Because he was not able to go to the group blind-date, I was invited as a “pinch hitter” (instead).
キャッチボール (きゃっちぼーる, chatchi bōru)
a mutual conversation/communication
* It’s often used as “言葉/会話のキャッチボール” meaning “playing catch of words/conversation”
“Playing catch of words” (mutual communication) is very important between a child and parents.
Without listening to others, you cannot do “playing catch of a conversation” (have a mutual conversation)
ホームラン (ほーむらん, hōmuran)
* In comparison to “homerun”, ヒット (a hit) is used as a small success.
In order to “hit a homerun” (make a big success), you must keep striving without giving up.
Let’s aim to hit many hits (small success), not a homerun (big success).
逆転ホームラン (ぎゃくてんほーむらん, gyakuten hōmuran)
a come-from-behind home run
big success after failure
* To put emphasis, you can add 大 (だい, dai) meaning “large”, or 一発 (いっぱつ, ippatsu) meaning “one-shot” before the phrase.
One year after I failed all the entrance exams for universities, I “hit the come-from-behind home run” (a very big success) – I got into The University of Tokyo.
In investment, you should not aim for a “one-shot come-from-behind home run” (one big success after failure).
トップバッター (とっぷばったー, toppu battā)
a leadoff hitter/a batter who bats first
someone who performs something first
* トップバッター literally means “top batter”, but actually indicates a leadoff hitter in baseball.
Because I am “the leadoff hitter” of tomorrow’s presentations (“the first person who gives a presentation”), I feel nervous.
The “the leadoff hitter” (the first performing group) on today’s TV show is AKB48!
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people who are not concerned with or not responsible for one’s things
Shut up, “outfielders” (those who are not concerned with our things)
Sorry for saying lots of things from “the outfield”
= Sorry for saying lots of things although I’m not in charge of/related to your things.
九回裏ツーアウト満塁 (きゅうかいうら つーあうと まんるい, kyuukaiura tsūauto manrui)
loaded bases, two outs (out of three) in the bottom of the ninth (= last) inning
a last stand, a last big chance, a win-or-lose situation
* To put more emphasis on this expression, you can add フルカウント (full count) after it.
This is exactly the situation when “bases are loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth”, (a last big chance)
(Trivia) It is said that ファイナルファンタジー (“Final Fantasy”, a globally popular Japanese video game) was named after the idea that this game was going to be the “final dream” — the company was then facing a last stand without any big hits. In the end, the company hit the “come-from-behind home run” in the situation when “bases are loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth”.