A lot of kendama players don't like calling kendama a sport, but over the years professional organized events and competitions have given it the same judgement as if it were a sport. It may not be a sport like baseball, where teams, innings, positions and a field are required in order to play it, however kendama is a sport in the same vein as figure skating, where there is a timed run and creative performance that is critically judged.
Despite these differences, kendama still carries a lot of elements that make it similar to the good old American pastime of baseball.
Kendama and baseball both heavily rely on hand-eye coordination. Think of a batter who steps up to the plate, and he's thinking of how he's going to hit a speeding ball with a thin bat that he's holding behind him. It takes a high level of hand-eye coordination to hit consistent home runs to win a baseball game. In kendama, the same is applied to landing difficult, consistent tricks that win contents. To go further, there is even a kendama trick called Baseball or Baseball Bat, where you tap the tama with the base cup simulating a hit.
The kendama community uses the term 'honed' to describe a perfectly worn in kendama that has been used over time and thus so adapted to the players preferences and sensibilities. Baseball players have a similar feeling about the gloves they use to catch fly balls. Leather baseball gloves can be stiff and uncomfortable at first, but after some dedicated use and general wear, the glove adjusts to the player.
To bring the two previous mentions together, hand-eye coordination and catching are just as important as for trying to hit one out of the park. Whether you are the catcher, shortstop or outfielder, every position in baseball besides batting requires a way to catch. Baseball players catch more than they bat, and that is really where hand-eye coordination becomes necessary to the game. And obviously with kendama, catching the tama using the 3 different cups on the ken are vital.
Perhaps another way kendama will become more similar to baseball is with recorded player averages and seasonal records. Imagine trick and consistency averages or records for tricks performed in an Open Division. Kendama 'baseball' style collectable trading cards? Will teams and companies have mascots at events? Well, baseball started small back in the day, so who knows? Zoomadanke has already performed one of their epic kendama performances for the Chicago Cubs, so it isn't like the MLB doesn't already know about it.
Big day at @Cubs camp. Zoomadanke visited and performed Kendama — Japanese juggling, balance and agility routine — at the team’s morning gathering. Joe Maddon’s T-shirt says, “Don’t mess up,” the Japanese translation for a popular Maddon mantra. @MLB pic.twitter.com/xmAXPSY7f1— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 25, 2018
Can kendama be the next pastime we start to watch at Buffalo Wild Wings while commentators on ESPN rant and rave about how Liam Router and Kevin DeSoto are out on injuries hindering Sol Kendama's chance at the GLOKEN playoffs? One can only hope. But until then, kendama's requirement of hand eye coordination and breaking in gear are very much like baseballs, and tie them together for the time being.