Saturday, March 24, 2012

MLB and NPB Meet in Tokyo - and JapanBall is There (or Here)

JapanBall organized a special spring tour as fourteen Americans converged on Tokyo for MLB's season opener in Japan. The official Opening Day for the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics begins on Wednesday, March 28, but before that the JapanBall crew will take in a few exhibition games between both the Mariners and A's against the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants.

The group - some familiar faces, some new - met baseball writer and broadcaster Wayne Graczyk and his wife, Yoshiko, and daughter, Gayle, at Roje Cafe Noodle, otherwise known as the JapanBall Hall of Fame. It was a time for dinner, drinks, camaraderie, and for familiarizing ourselves with the itinerary for the week. 

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, I'm now an official member. My plaque has found its way to the wall.

Yes, I'm wearing koala ears

Cafe Roje Noodle proprietor, Jun (in white T-shirt), and Wayne Graczyk (red sweater) talk to the group in the narrow restaurant

Wayne gave us each a welcome packet containing our tickets for the games, a Suica card for subway and railway access, a map of Tokyo, The Japan Times 2012 Baseball Guide, and the Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook and Media Guide, which Wayne compiles each year. 

Welcome packet

Most of the group gathered in the lobby the next morning for an optional exhibition game between the Seibu Lions and the Yakult Swallows at Meiji Jingu Stadium. While waiting in the hotel lobby, we caught a glimpse of a wedding ceremony.

Hotel wedding

Our JapanBall tour was off to a rainy start, but we braved the sprinkles on our way to the stadium.

Starting lineup

Swallows mascot, Tsubakuro

Players take the field

The first three innings were slow, but the food was good.


I had curry rice, which was perfect for the chilly weather.

Todd from Seattle enjoyed udon, a thick noodle soup . . . 

. . . and yakisoba, grilled buckwheat noodles.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Japanese baseball game without a beer girl.


The sun finally decided to join us near the end of the game.

The game featured line drives, but no power hitting. In the end, the Swallows held off a Lions rally to win the game 5-4.

Final score

Among the ads that ring Meiji Jingu Stadium, I found a reminder of the devastating earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster that struck Northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

Ganbarou, Nihon! Don't give up, Japan!

The tour continues today with a day/night doubleheader at Tokyo Dome: The Seattle Mariners vs the Hanshin Tigers at noon, and the Yomiuri Giants vs the Oakland Athletics at 7:00 p.m.

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