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 get 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 rather attractive
Wow, is that girl a “strike” for you? Your “strike zone” is very wide!
Likewise, ボール (“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
Probably it’s good to give a present sometimes like a “breaking ball” (= unusual stuff) to your boyfriend.
During the job 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 to your crush using “fastball” (straightforward) words
置(お)きに行(い)く (oki ni iku)
to carefully pitch a slow ball so that you can surely get a strike (as if putting an egg on the strike zone). If you’re not familiar with baseball, imagine those who play it too safe in bowling and throw a ball as if putting it on the lane.
to take a secure and passable route and avoid doing something challenging or risky; to play it safe
That company has been recently criticised for “pitching a slow ball” (playing it too safe) 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 anyway without worrying too much about the consequence
(* Instead of 打席 (だせき), the katakana word バッターボックス (“batter box”) is also used.)
To make a girlfriend, you first need to “stand at a batter’s box” many times (= make many 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” is also 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 couldn’t 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”, literally 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)
a home run
* In comparison to “home run”, ヒット (“hit”) is used to describe a small success.
In order to “hit a homerun” (make a big success), you can do nothing but keep making efforts without giving up.
Let’s try to hit many hits (small success), rather than a single home run (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 more 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 having been rejected by all universities I had applied for, I “hit a come-from-behind home run” (a very big success) – I got an offer from The University of Tokyo.
In investment, you should not aim for a “one-shot come-from-behind home run” (a big success after failure).
トップバッター (とっぷばったー, toppu battā)
the first/lead-off batter (* トップバッター is a Japanese-English word literally meaning “top batter”)
someone who does something first
Because I am “the lead-off batter” in tomorrow’s presentations (“the first person who gives a presentation”), I feel nervous.
The “the first batter” (the first performing group) on today’s TV show is AKB48!
people who are not involved or responsible
Shut up, “outfielders” (those who are not involved in 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)
bases loaded, two outs, in the bottom of the ninth (= last) inning
the 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: three balls and two strikes) after it.
This is exactly the situation when “bases are loaded, two outs, in the bottom of the ninth”, (the last win-or-lose situation)
(Trivia) A rumour has it that ファイナルファンタジー (“Final Fantasy”, a globally popular Japanese video game) would reflect the idea that this game was the “final dream” of the company, as the company was then struggling in business. As we know, the game had become a major success across the globe — the company hit the “come-from-behind home run” in the situation when “bases are loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth”.