Take Me Out to the 野球 Game

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Baseball! We love baseball. Back in Washington DC that means cheering for the Nationals. In Yokohama, it’s the DeNA BayStars. Mark’s office organized a group outing for last weekend, so off we went.

A short bus ride delivered us to Yokohama Stadium, where we joined 29,996 other fans to watch the BayStars take on the Hanshin Tigers. The Tigers hail from Koshien in central Japan; Hanshin is the rail company that owns the team. Tessa immediately noticed that the stadium was divided into Tigers fans in yellow on one side of the stadium and BayStars fans in blue on the other.

The BayStars fans in blue
The BayStars fans in blue
The Tigers fans on their side of the stadium
The Tigers fans on their side of the stadium

IMG_2640The weather was insanely hot and sunny with no shade. Thankfully we were in the last row of the very highest section, and we found a little shade in the overhang right behind our row, which you can see in the photo of Tessa and me. Most of the kids stuffed back there. And me, because I have no shame.

While any American sporting event begins with the singing of the national anthem, Japanese baseball games kick off the festivities with cheerleaders, mascots, and Power Rangers. Naturally.

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Washington Nationals games used to feature a t-shirt gun. In between innings the cheerleader-ish people ran out onto the field with clumsy, single-load t-shirt guns. One cheerleader would load the the gun one shirt at a time, ram the shirt down with a stick, and the other cheerleader fired the gun. It seemed like a cool enough idea, but somehow the execution never really worked. About two years ago they nixed the t-shirt gun and starting throwing shirts into the stands. Yawn.

The SUV-mounted Power Ranger bazooka.
The SUV-mounted Power Ranger SWAG bazooka

Enter the SWAG bazooka. The Power Ranger mascot dude fired something (baseballs, maybe?) into the stands with a bazooka mounted on the back of a tricked-out, BayStars SUV. It was awesome. He reached the highest sections, where we sat.

Most of you have likely heard something about the non-stop cheers and songs at Japanese baseball games. I had, and I was still completely unprepared for the constant cheering. There’s a team song, plus a song for every player. I’m not talking about “Let’s Go Harper! -clap, clap, clap clap clap-“. Actual songs, with a pep band in the stands to keep everyone together. Like this.

Notice the plastic baseball bats, constantly in use. It’s loud. Really, really loud.

The game itself showed few differences with American baseball. The scoreboard showed the same kind of info. One difference I noticed was the listing of players by position number (1-9) instead of jersey number. The jersey number and name in romaji only showed up on the screen when that player was at bat. Since I don’t read kanji it was a bit difficult to figure out who was who unless they were at bat.

Snack time! Tessa tried Japanese-style curry at first but opted for fried rice instead, while Cy ate shu mai dumplings. We saw some hot dogs on a stick for sale but no one actually eating them.

Tessa tried the curry at first, then traded for fried rice
Tessa tried the curry at first, then traded for fried rice
Cy's shu mai dumplings, eaten with a toothpick
Cy’s shu mai dumplings, eaten with a toothpick

Heeeeey, beer lady! In Japan the most important of beverages is delivered by young women roving the stands sporting beer backpacks.

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Note the fluorescent-colored uniform, which makes the beer gals easy to spot across the section. Because Priorities.

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Apparently Japanese relief pitchers are delicate, hothouse flowers, just like in the U.S. Walking from the bullpen must exhaust them terribly–hence the delivery to the mound by souped up vehicle.

We hoped to make it to at least the seventh inning stretch, and we did. The Tigers fans launched their yellow, sperm-shaped balloons earlier in the game, and the BayStars fans had their turn during the seventh inning stretch.

We left after the seventh inning stretch, which was already three hours in to the game. Perhaps if the weather were cooler we would have stuck around longer, but we were pretty much puddles by then. We later learned that the BayStars won, 7-5. Go BayStars! See you next time.

See you next time, BayStars!
See you next time, BayStars!

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