A month or so ago, my three-year-old son said to me, “I know how to play baseball, daddy. You need a bat and ball and glove. And songs. And lots of people.” He was bang on with what he said, and Japan is back to having real baseball again! From Friday evening, a limited number of fans (5,000 maximum) were allowed into the ballparks. They were not disappointed, for the most part.
Four of the five home teams won the opener (and the other got rained out), three of them coming on walk-off home runs. Talk about the players getting the boost they needed, and the fans, too!
In Fukuoka, Hawks superstar center fielder Yuki Yanagita smashed a J.T. Chargois (Rakuten Eagles) pitch deep to left-center in the bottom of the 10th to break a 1-1 tie. It was his seventh homer of the year. Ultimately, he would tack on one more later in the weekend, and the Hawks got the better of the PL-leading Eagles, winning 4 of 6 during the week. (That being said, Hideto Asamura of the Eagles leads NPB with 9 long balls.)
Another dome, another walk-off. Chunichi Dragons first baseman Dayan Viciedo got all of Hiroshima Carp reliever Geronimo Franzua’s ninth-inning delivery and lofted it into the left field stands, as the Dragons took the opener of their series against the Carp. They would go on to lose out the series, allowing 19 runs on Saturday (worst home game in team history) and then falling 7-2 in the rubber match on Sunday.
Another dome, another walk-off. The Orix Buffaloes started the season ice-cold (2-10) but have been on an impressive run of late. On Friday night, newcomer Aderlin “A-Rod” Rodriguez roped one into the left field seats to lift his team over the Nippon-Ham Fighters. They would finish off the series with two more wins, and have successfully climbed out of the PL cellar with an 8-11-2 record.
The other home team to win on Friday night was not so lucky to have a roof over their heads. In fact, the game at Koshien between the Hanshin Tigers and the Yokohama DeNA BayStars was called after 5 innings because of deteriorating field conditions. The still-last place Tigers clung to a slim lead as time ran out on the Stars’ comeback attempt. The rest of their series was close, with the BayStars pulling off a huge come-from-behind win on Saturday and nearly staging another comeback on Sunday but falling short.
Meanwhile, the surprise of the weekend came when the Yakult Swallows, playing “on the road” in Kobe against the “home team” Yomiuri Giants, vaulted into first place with a pair of victories. Also playing against each other this week were the Lotte Marines (2 wins) and the Seibu Lions (3 wins).
The big news of the week comes from those Marines, whose import pitcher Jay Jackson was released on the 9th. Hiroshima prefectural police found cannabis in his apartment in Chiba after being tipped off by an informer. While the whole story has not been released yet, there is probably more to this story than meets the eye. Kyodo News reporter Jim Allen has written about the story here, so read on if you want a look into things bigger than baseball.
The fans are back, and Japanese baseball is on the way to another great season. Interested in getting to a game yourself? Check out our ticketing site for potential visits to the ballpark! In the meantime, we’ll have more NPB updates soon!
For more Japanese baseball news, check outJapanBall’s Articles and Features section!