Jakarta, Indonesia: In the early days of the non-aligned movement, in the early 1960s when it was heavily pushed by Indonesia's Sukarno and Cuba's Castro, a Cuban national baseball team came to Jakarta to play some games. Pak Haru, who I will be sharing a stage with on Saturday, was at those games. He's widely considered the father (pak) of Indonesian baseball. According to him, however, there is a bapak (grandfather) who he watched play in the games with Cuba. The bapak, too, will be on stage. As will the coach of the Indonesian National Baseball Team.
A couple of months ago I was invited to Indonesia to put on some presentations, and hold a workshop or two at a new U.S. Cultural Center called @america. The center targets Indonesians who want to study in the U.S., have studied in the U.S. and are generally interested in the U.S. and American culture.
But baseball? In Indonesia? I had my doubts.
Still, there are about 240 million Indonesians and anywhere from nine to nineteen million of them in Jakarta depending on where you draw the city's borders, and out of that crowd there are undoubtedly more than enough to fill the 200-400 capacity auditorium where I'll be on stage talking baseball. (And then in two weeks, talking about the "American Road Trip Tradition.")
I shall, among other things, attempt to explain - using diagrams - the suicide squeeze play (my personal favorite) to the audience. I will try to explain why I find homeruns boring, why I love Ichiro Suzuki and why I far preferred watching Greg Maddux pitch to Randy Johnson.
Yesterday, when meeting for the first time with Pak Haru, I tried to twist my love of baseball into the context of Indonesian shadow puppet plays. I was looked on with what can only be described as bemused tolerance. (Indonesians do bemused tolerance extremely well, except for on the rare occasions when they run amok - an Indonesian word that has made its way into English.)
I am not sure, but there may well be video evidence of this - possibly even live streaming video evidence on the @america website during the event. (4-6pm Jakarta time on Saturday. 1-3am in Los Angeles.) If you don't want to stay up for it I'll understand. And I'll let you know how it goes.