Back for another stint managing the Chiba Lotte Marines, Bobby Valentine says many elements of the Japanese game have been Americanized since he first piloted the team, in 1995. Players now bunt less and run the base paths more aggressively. Managers go for the big inning. Infielders are more likely to backhand. "Except for the ancillary differences--they have cheerleaders on the field here, for instance--the play of the game is actually the same," Valentine (above) says. But the ancillary culture is changing, too. Valentine clashed with management in '95 because he rested players instead of working them relentlessly. Now he's one of several managers who temper hard work with time off. And many stadiums have removed physical barriers between fans and the field; pregame autograph sessions, once unheard of, now flourish. "It's nothing new for baseball," says Valentine, whose club was in first place as of last Friday, "but it's new for Japan." --Bill Syken

COLOR PHOTO ITSUO INOUYE/AP