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2011 – Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows September 6, 2011

Posted by Dru in Japan, Sports, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2011 – Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-Il

It has been a few years since I had last been to a baseball game in Japan.  I had always wanted to watch another game, and in fact I enjoy going to these games every year if possible.  It is not an easy task to get to a game and the two times that I did visit, they were different games.  The first time, I went to Chiba Marine Stadium in Chiba to watch the Chiba Lotte Marines.  That time I was somewhat behind home plate.  The next game was at Meiji Jingu where I watched the iconic Hanshin Tigers take on the Yakult Swallows.  I was sitting in the Tigers reserved seating near third base.  Both of those games were fun and exciting and I was able to enjoy the game as well as the fans.  On August 14, 2011, I watched my third baseball game.  It was the same game as before, Hanshin Tigers versus Yakult Swallows.  I was at Meiji Jingu again, but this time I was sitting in the outfield.

The outfield area is an open area where people can sit anywhere they’d like.  You basically show up when the doors open and grab a seat anywhere that is available.  Being a Sunday game during obon, I decided to head there early, but it was not early enough.  I arrived about 10 minutes after the gates opened.  There were no lines but at the same time, there were no seats.  Lots of people reserved seats and the only seats available were singles.  I was lucky enough to find a couple seats open in the top corner of the outfield.  Since I was in Meiji Jingu, it didn’t really matter where you sat as almost all of the seats were good.  While my seats were a little far from the infield, it was a good vantage point as I nearly had the same view as the pitcher.  It was much easier for me to tell if the pitch was a strike or a ball.  This made analysing the throws much easier.

If you read any of my previous posts, you will know that the outfield is reserved for the hard core fans.  This is where people stand and jump all the time.  There is a small section for people to stand up in the back and there is usually a trumpet band as well.  This game was no exception.  It was literally standing room only.  The people around me were all crazy supporters.  A couple rows in front, we had a major Hanshin Tigers fan who would do a dance and help lead the cheers for each of the batters.  He constantly wore puppets on his hands.  These puppets were of the Tigers mascot and he would do a little dance with them.  Behind me, standing on the railing the entire game, was a typical Hanshin heckler.  He was hyper critical of the play.  He would shout crazy things and I think some of the kids shouldn’t have heard some of it.  To give an example, one of his more interesting rants was to tell the catcher to use his beautiful face to get a hit.  That way he would walk out to first base.  He taunted the Hanshin players when they made a bad play as well as the Swallows.  His “anger” was focused almost completely at the Hanshin players.  Hanshin is infamously known for having the most loyal, yet aggressive, fans in Japan.

While the hecklers are always present at the game, sitting in the cheering section was a brand new experience.  There is an energy that I can’t explain.  When I was in the reserved seats a few years ago, I was cheering with everyone but it wasn’t as loud.  The people weren’t really doing their best.  It was strange when we chanted for the ball to come as behind third base would have been a foul.  In the outfield, it was very natural to do it.  I learned a very valuable lesson as well.  For Japanese baseball, the fans carry plastic megaphones.  This isn’t so they can yell better, although this does happen.  It is so they can cheer and be noisy without clapping.  As I didn’t have my own set of megaphones, I had to clap only.  By the end of the game, my voice was raspy and my hands were red and in pain from all the clapping.  I highly recommend visiting the park and going to the fan section as you will get a completely different experience.

The game itself was very long.  It lasted over 4 hours to complete the standard 9 innings.  It started off well with Hanshin getting a 2-0 lead.  This eventually became 3-1 by the end of the first half of the game.  There were a lot of hits for both sides and a lot of misses.  Hanshin had capitalized on a few errors throughout the game but the final inning provided a lot of drama.  Hanshin had converted for 5 runs at the top of the 9th.  They were doing really well and all of the players were hitting well.  They had the game in the bag until the Swallows came up for the bottom of the 9th.  The crowd was ready to go home and call it a night but the Swallows had other ideas.  A couple of poor errors by the Tigers, along with 2 pitcher changes in one single inning lead the Swallows to come back.  For a tense 3 player run the score became 8-7 in favour of the Tigers.  The crowd were chanting “Only one more person”, then “Only one more pitch”.  It was heartbreaking to see Hanshin fail to get the necessary outs before they final player was finally struck out.  It was one of the tensest games of the night and Hanshin ended on top.

Watching baseball in Japan has always been fun for me.  I never expected it to be fun as I never enjoyed baseball, but going to a game has been fun since I went to my first game.  Sitting in each area is very different.  The “serious” people tend to sit behind home plate.  They don’t cheer so much but they are interested in the game.  Some of them are corporate seats/tickets, so the people aren’t as connected with the game or team as other fans are.  As you move to the reserved seats on the side, you have people cheering all the time.  They are also more serious but they are also fans of the teams they support.  Wearing the wrong colour in this area is a bad idea.  The outfield is where all the action is.  You will get the big fans wearing all of the crazy costumes.  You will see all of the flags being waved and be in the middle of the loudest cheering area in the stadium.  Each area is different and it is worth trying each area.  For a tourist just visiting Tokyo for a short time, I recommend getting reserved seats.  That way you can show up a few minutes before the first pitch and use the free time to do some sightseeing.  For others, the free seating area is great.  You can get there early, enjoy a few drinks, and just soak up the atmosphere.  Either way you will be entertained.

Japanese Baseball (Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows) (2011) is part of a series of posts on baseball in Japan and my experiences going to various games.  To read more about other games I have experienced, continue with the posts below:

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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Japanese Baseball (Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows) October 13, 2008

Posted by Dru in Sports.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read this post complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-2Y

On October 3, I went to my second ever baseball game in Japan.  Once again, I wasn’t dissappointed.  I went to a different stadium with different teams in a different league.  I was watching the Hanshin Tigers face the Yakult Swallows in Jingu Stadium.  Rather than take the 40-60 minute ride out to Chiba, I had a nice 10 minute ride and 5 minute walk to the stadium.  Jingu is a very nice stadium and I’d say it’s better overall than Chiba Marine Stadium.  For one, it’s shape is closer to that of a real baseball stadium.  Second, the seats feel closer to the field than Marine Stadium.  Marine Stadium is built up to provide a better view.  Jingu was built out, but still feels good.

The most common way to get to Jingu is to take the Ginza line to Gaienmae and walk up the hill.  Before the game, it’s very simple to find the stadium.  Take the Jingu Stadium exit and follow the crowds.  Yes, it’s that simple.  There were many vendors selling everything from burgers and hot dogs to regular drinks and beer.  Yes, if you really crave a beer on the walk up to the stadium, you can get it.  Boy, I love this country.  After a minutes or two, you will see the stadium lights and it’s a fairly easy trip to make.  After finding my gate, I ventured up and found my seat and just absorbed the atmosphere.  I was sitting relatively behind third base in the visitor’s cheering section.  The Hanshin Tigers are very similar to watching the Red Sox or Yankees (I think), so the fans are absolutely crazy.  Many came right after work, took off their work shirts and put on their jerseys.

Hanshin Tiger's Fans

Hanshin Tiger

The Hanshin Tigers are one of the most popular teams in Japan.  They have an amazing fanbase that goes everywhere they go.  They are generally hated by everyone else as they are very vocal.  Imagine seeing a Leafs fan in any stadium.  They are everywhere.  And just like the Leafs, they haven’t won a championship in a long time.  In fact, it’s simlar to the Curse of the Bambino in which the Red Sox had an 86 year gap between championship wins.  Instead of the Bambino, it’s the Curse of the Colonel.  After the 1985 Japan Series, fans took a statue of Colonel Sanders (KFC) and threw him into a canal.  Ever since, fans have blamed the Colonel for cursing their team.

Yakult Swallows cheer

Yakult Swallows cheer

As for the Yakult Swallows, their history is not as interesting.  While they are an old team in the Japan Series, they are not a prominent team.  They are akin to the Mets.  Second to the Yankees in Tokyo.  Tokyo has two baseball teams, and the Tokyo Giants are regarded as the better and more popular of the teams.  However, like any underdog team, the Swallows also have a small loyal fanbase.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have a lot of fans at the game as their team was already eliminated from the playoffs.

Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows

Hanshin Tigers VS Yakult Swallows

The game itself started off slow.  The first few innings produced no runs, but by the 5th inning, things were exciting.  The Tigers were starting to fire themselves up and scored a few runs over a few innings.  They were holding a 5 run lead and all the fans were crazy.  Every run and big hit made the crowd stand up and cheer like crazy.  Before the 7th inning started, the Tiger’s fans did their traditional cheer.  Everyone bought long balloons that resemble sperm and prepared to release them.  If you have ever watched Anthony Bourdais’ show, don’t forget that you SHOULDN’T TIE the balloon.  Everone releases the balloons and they “scream” up into the sky.  There is a small plastic grommit fitted at the mouth that creates the sound.  After the balloons have finished flying, they sing the Hanshin Fight Song.  It’s quite amazing, and I wish I knew the words so I could sing along.  Between the top and bottom of the 7th, the Yakult Swallows had the opportunity to do the same thing.  Essencially energize their team.  However, unlike the Tigers’ and their fight song, they just dance with clear plastic umbrellas.  It felt very comical/anime-like, but it was definately fun to watch.  The only thing is, you wouldn’t catch me doing it.  🙂  After they did their umbrella dance, something horrible happened.  The Swallows took the lead in the 7th.  Needless to say, all the Tigers fans went dead silent.  I couldn’t believe it.  The fans couldn’t believe it.  The game had just ended.  I thought they would still try to cheer a lot, but unfortunately, everyone was too stunned.  Needless to say, the Tigers suffered a surprising loss and it was blamed on the manager.  He decided to take a hot pitcher out and tried 3 different pitchers in the 7th.

After the game, my thought on Japanese Baseball hasn’t changed.  It’s definately more fun than I could ever have expected.  The cheering, the beer, the food.  The only problem is the washrooms in Jingu.  Line-ups that went forever.  Oh well.  That’s how it should be in any stadium.  Again, if you are ever in Japan, and have an opportunity to go to a game, you definately should go.  Just learn the cheers when you go and have fun.

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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