Okay, I love Kleenex Miyagi Stadium in Sendai. I think it's charming, family friendly, and filled with great food establishments. It was a wonderful place to have Game 1 of our baseball tour. But the atmosphere inside the stadium during the actual game was a little, well, eh. I'm sure the bases-loaded walk and the grand slam in the first inning which led to the subsequent 14-4 beat down by the visiting Seibu Lions may have had something to do with it. At any rate, I must admit Game 2 on the JapanBall itinerary – the Yakult Swallows against the BayStars in Yokohama – provided a much needed injection of booyah into our gang of baseball enthusiasts.
After an afternoon on our own to explore Japan's second largest city, the group made its way to Yokohama Stadium. The grounds are pretty plain, and the seats and concourse of the old stadium are tight, but the oendan for both teams were rocking.
|Swimming pool at Yokohama Stadium|
|Bouncing for BayStars|
|Gate 2 for our seats|
|A little tight in Yokohama Stadium|
At our seats, we ate dinner and soaked in the atmosphere while we watched the teams take infield practice. We were treated to a nice sunset.
In Japan, the home team is always listed first, unlike in the States.
|Yokohama Stadium scoreboard|
|Tomo Ohka was the starter for the BayStars|
Former major leaguer Tomo Ohka started and won for the BayStars. The 34-year-old right-hander, who played for six teams in his 10-year MLB career, returned to his former NPB team after the start of this season. He allowed 1 run in 6 innings and struck out 7 (if I read the Japanese box score correctly).
The crowd was pumped for Ohka and the BayStars, and they really went nuts in the bottom of the 6th, when Yokohama scored 8 runs. We saw our second grand slam in as many games, this one off the bat of right fielder Seichi Uchikawa.
|Celebrating Uchikawa's grand slam|
|Fans cheer the grand slam|
I'm cannot rave enough about the food at Japanese stadiums. You want a hot dog or a burger? Sure, they have those things. But why would you want to eat that when you can have Almond and Fish?
|Almond and fish snack = great with beer|
|Fan enjoys baseball bento|
Nothing helps the fans root for the home team like liquid refreshment, mascots, and cheerleaders. There's nothing quite like those three things anywhere else but in Japan.
|Parade of mascots and cheerleaders|
|Japan's pink Grimace|
|Cheerleader loads T-shirts into the TBS pig's bazooka|
Cute and cool things abound at Yokohama Stadium.
|Checking his ticket|
|Checking other NPB scores|
|Cool hat night at Yokohama Stadium|
|Relief pitcher rides the Takashimaya car to the mound|
Vinny from Massachusetts, one of the JapanBall tour members, left his camera at his seat while he went to buy a souvenir. No fear of it getting stolen.
At the end of the game, the BayStars lined up on the first base side and bowed to the crowd.
|Players thank the fans|
After the game, a few JapanBallers accompanied Wayne Graczyk, the JapanBall media guide editor, to Benny's Place for a late night snack.