Baseball isn’t really a thing back home in the UK. We have cricket, which is super boring and well Tory. We played rounders at school, but for some reason we hella genderised it. Rounders was for girls but boys were supposed to prefer cricket.
This means Baseball has always seemed really exotic to me. I see it being enjoyed on American television with a cold beer and a hot dog, I see Mario and his friends enjoying it. I fired it up on Wii Sports to see all my Miis. I hear people talk about first base and they’re talking some ancient and mysterious code.
So coming to a Baseball game was definitely on my list of things to do here in the land of the rising sun. The national pastime here in Japan. Apparently, baseball is so big in Japan that people are surprised to hear that Americans are into it as well.
Here in Hiroshima, the local team are the Hiroshima Carps. Formed just after the second world war, The Carp were perennial underdogs for a while, kept afloat by public donations. In the 70s their fates changed, and they went on a great run for a few years. Now they’re a mainstay and serious contenders, but I like the cut of their jib.
They also have a bit of canny cross-promotion with the local Pokemon Centre, selling Carps t-shirts with Magikarps and the serendipitously appropriate Red Magikarp. They were also the first team to have a Ball Dog who was trained to bring out new balls. And they have this hilarious dance. I think I’m happy to say The Carp are gonna be my guys, if I follow any Baseball while I’m over here.
Going down to the stadium, it was pretty cool seeing how many people turned up to support their team even for this pre-season friendly. The whole city seemed to be wearing red and gravitating towards the stadium.
Watching the game it actually didn’t feel that different from similar events back in the UK. Chanting and singing and clapping to the beat. The difference was how organised everyone was. People all sang to the same tune (away fans were almost nonexistant) and knew all the words, all the beats. Watching the lady next to me drum along with her miniature baseball bats, she reminded me of the drum beaters at Buddhist ceremonies.
You could drink alcohol in the stadium, which was a step up from watching football back in the UK. There were even girls walking around the stadium with a big backpack full of beer that they could hose into people’s cups, like Mario and his FLUDD. On the other hand, there were no pies for sale, only bowls of noodles and soups.
Swings and roundabouts. You win some, you lose some. At the end of the day, it’s a game of two halves. You pay your money and make your choice.
At one point a bat flew into the stadium. A tiny, fluttery little bat, who dropped into the sky above us and few lazily around for most of the game, not worried about the flying balls or the ominously circling hawks high above. It did feel a little odd, but nobody else paid it any mind.
Baseball, as it happens, is a pretty fun game. I was sat pretty close to the action, and it was all action. Because Baseball doesn’t have a clock, there was no down time. It was always a battle, mano e mano between pitcher and hitter. Even with my extremely limited understanding of the rules, I could enjoy the drama between the two combatants, the mindgames, the bait and switch, the visceral thrill of a man hitting a ball really hard with a stick.
Balls going into the crowd were a nice regularity, and people always seemed thrilled to catch one. Half way through the game, the mascot game out and, flanked by a pair of ninjas, launched balls into the crowd. The mascot was some kind of blue horse-dragon. I am not making any of this up. Did I mention the dance?
In the end, the Carp lost. It was a low-scoring game overall, both teams treating it more as a warm-up and a chance to test out young players rather than a real competition. Nobody in the audience seemed too sad, more excited at the home run they did get to see.
Baseball’s pretty cool, all said.