Japan Ump Cries Foul over High Schooler’s Pepper-Grinding Gesture

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tohoku High School’s Kazushi Kaneko performs the pepper-grinder gesture during Saturday’s game at Koshien Stadium.

A high school baseball player who mimicked Lars Nootbaar’s signature pepper-grinding gesture was cautioned by an umpire during a game at the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament on Saturday.

On the opening day of the 95th edition of the prestigious tournament, Kazushi Kaneko of Miyagi Prefecture’s Tohoku High School gestured to his teammates by grinding his fists together after getting on base during a first-round game against Yamanashi Prefecture’s Yamanashi Gakuin High School.

The first-base umpire quickly rebuked the gesture by Kaneko, who had reached base on an error, as being unsportsmanlike.

The pepper-grinder gesture has become all the rage across Japan after players on Japan’s national team began doing it at the World Baseball Classic. It was started by Japanese American outfielder Nootbaar and quickly caught on throughout the team.

Tohoku High School manager Hiroshi Sato took issue with the warning.

“The whole country is going crazy over the [pepper-grinding] performance, so I vigorously oppose the caution,” Sato said. “I want them to think about how to freely make baseball fun.”

In response, the Japan High School Baseball Federation issued a statement, saying, “We have requested that players refrain from unnecessary performances and gestures. We understand the feelings of the players, but hope they enjoy themselves by playing.”