Last Friday, September 21, 2012 we attended a baseball game between the Yomiuri Giants and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Upon arriving in Japan, one of my first thoughts was to attend a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome. It was pretty easy to buy tickets from the Giants website, and I selected the last few remaining seats down the left field line. It was the first of a three-game homestand against the Swallows, and I figured that Friday night would be a good time to watch a game.
I’ll never forget walking into the stadium and seeing the field. It was breathtaking and unbelievable at the same time, a giant, open, airy space smacking you right in the face. All indoors!
We went in a couple of hours before the first pitch and just sat in our seats watching batting practice and taking in the surroundings and the interesting sights. It’s been a while since I’ve been to an MLB game, but I don’t remember there being staff on hand to warn you of impending foul balls with an LED device and a noisemaker, like this fellow here:
A little later on, the Swallows fans started streaming into their designated area in the left-field bleachers. The trumpeters and drummers rehearsed their fight songs. In right-center, the Giants’ trumpeters and drummers did the same thing. During the game, each side sang songs and chanted to the beat of the drums, but of course Giants fans were throughout the stadium and much louder.
In addition to the atmosphere, another difference between MLB and NPB games is the vendors. I noticed only young women vending items, each wearing brand-specific outfits. The girls selling beer wore kegs on their backs, like this Yebisu girl here:
As for the game itself, it was very entertaining. There were 10 runs scored, and the game was tied at 4-4 for a while. There were a lot of pitching changes (something common in Japanese baseball?), and I was happy to find out that we were watching a Central League game, in which the pitchers go to bat just like the San Francisco Giants in the MLB’s National League. One player, catcher and cleanup hitter Shinnosuke Abe of the Giants, really caught my attention. In his first at-bat, he blasted a home run into right-field. In his second, he almost did it again, but settled for a single instead after the ball hit the fence. In terms of on-field action, we definitely got our money’s worth.
The crowd erupted and tossed out streamers at the end of the game, and flashbulbs lit up the stadium. As it turns out, the Giants had just clinched the Central League pennant! Wow! Everyone was going crazy screaming, chanting, and cheering. The team lined up in the infield and the manager gave a speech and accepted a couple of trophies. I couldn’t believe that we were a part of such a momentous occasion.
We crowded back onto the train, happy that the home team won. What began as “just another Friday night game” ended up being the first time the Giants won the pennant since 2009. Awesome!
Here are a couple more souvenirs from the game:
And, a link to a summary of the game.