Professional Baseball in Japan
By Sasaki S.
You know that Baseball is a very popular sport in Japan. Every year, when the baseball season starts, everybody watches baseball games on TV or goes to the stadium to watch the game, just as you do in America. Baseball is also popular with children. They are able to see baseball very easily. It is easy for them to watch baseball as it is on TV every day during the season. Children observe how professional baseball players play, which is the one of the reasons why baseball is so popular in Japan. The professional players are role models and children naturally aspire to be like them. In addition, most of the elementary schools have baseball club teams. When kids want to play baseball, they can join the baseball team and play at the elementary school. If the parents like baseball, they naturally want to let their kids play baseball, too. Anyway, I think most people in Japan love baseball.
At first, let me explain about the Japan Championship Series system. The Japan Championship Series, or Japan Series, is the annual championship series in Japanese Professional Baseball, the top baseball league in Japan. Started in 1950, Nippon Professional Baseball consists of two leagues, Central League and Pacific League. There are 6 professional teams in each league.
The annual Japan Championship Series is to decide the national champion, just as they do in the American ‘World Series'. The regular season starts near the end of March. The top three teams in each league in the regular season move on to the Climax Series of each league. The teams in 2nd and 3rd place in the regular season play in the first stage of the series. The first team to win two games wins in the first stage. The winner of this first stage and the team that is in first place in the regular season play each other in the final stage. In this Climax Series, the team that is in first place in the league gets a one-game advantage and the first team to win four games wins the league pennant and moves on to the Japan Championship Series.
Annually, the Japan Championship Series is played in October or November. It is a seven-game series between the winning clubs of each of the two leagues. As in all of the best-of ?seven series, the first team to win four games is the overall winner and is declared the Japan Champion Series in each year. Different than pro baseball in the U.S., the maximum extra innings is a total of 15 innings, and if the score is even in 15 innings, there is no replayed game. However, if they have an 8th game, there is no limit on extra innings. A game played home In a Pacific league home game, they are allowed a designated hitter. The home game for games 1 and 2 and in the event of 6 and 7, alternates between the two leagues with the Pacific League having the advantage on the years ending with an odd number and the Central League on the years ending with an even number.
Any article on baseball in Japan must have a mention of the Japanese National High School Baseball tournaments, or Koshien. Koshien is the name of the stadium, Hanshin Koshien, located in Nishinomiya, Japan, where the winners of the two seasonal nation-wide high school tournaments face off to determine the national high school champion. There are two Koshien tournaments, the Spring Koshien and the Summer Koshien. These tournaments are televised on NHK and are very popular, drawing as many or more viewers than the championship tournaments of pro baseball. Indeed, the majority of professional players are drawn from the strongest teams at the Koshien tournaments. You should make a point of watching some of the games, especially the semi-finals and finals, of the Koshien. The players, the teams, and the supporting fans play with emotion and fervor comparable to the Superbowl or the World Cup of soccer, and with sportsmanship unequalled on any playing field in the world.
Here are all the team names of Japanese professional teams:
Yomiuri Giants Tokyo
Yokohama DeNA BayStars
Hiroshima Toyo Carp
Hokkaido Nippon- Ham Fighters
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
Saitama Seibu Lions
Chiba Lotte Marines
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
I would like to introduce some popular Japanese players.
Otani Shohei (Hokkaido Nippon- Ham Fighters)
He is the most hopeful rookie pitcher in pro ball with a fastball that has been clocked as high as 160km/h (99mph), a new Japanese record set in the Prefecture Tournament in Summer Koshien this year. Additionally, he hit 56 homers in his high school career. Otani has received interest from numerous U.S. MLB teams including the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. He announced that he wants to pursue a career in U.S. Major League Baseball rather than turn professional in Japan. However, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters decided to draft him anyway, knowing that there was a high likelihood he would turn down the draft. After a long negotiation between him and the Fighters, Otani announced that he will accept the draft and spend his early career in Japan before a possible MLB move.
Fujinami Shintaro (Hanshin Tigers)
Fujinami Shintaro started playing baseball when he was 7 years old. When he was in the first grade (freshman) of Osaka Toin High School, which is famous for its baseball record, he was placed on the roster. In his second grade (sophomore) of high school, he became the regular pitcher of the team. He played in Japanese High School Baseball Invitational Tournament and Japanese High School Baseball Championship and won championships in both of these tournaments. After that, he got his ‘triple crown' at the National Tournament in Gifu prefecture. His total records were: 76 wins, earned run average is 1.07 and 90 strikeouts. Fujinami was drafted by the Hanshin Tigers in 2012.
Tanaka Masahiro (Rakuten Golden Eagles)
Tanaka Masahiro was born in Hyogo prefecture and started playing baseball when he was 7 years old. He practiced as a pitcher in earnest when he was a high school student. He has a fastball as high as 140km/h, hard slider and fork ball. He played Japanese High School Baseball Championship and won 2 years in a row. Masahiro was drafted by Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2006. He has been doing well having taken many awards such as Best Nine Award, Most Valuable Player, pitcher with the most wins and more since he became a Japanese Professional player. Tanaka announced he wants to be a U.S. Major League Player. We really hope that he will work hard and achieve his dream.
There are more hopeful players who I want to introduce in Japanese Professional Baseball. Shinnosuke Abe in Tokyo Giants, Matsui Kazuo in Rakuten Golden Eagles, Takuya Asao in Chunichi Dragons, Hayato Sakamoto in Giants and more. But, I don't think we have enough space here. Maybe next time! Have fun and enjoy watching pro baseball in Japan!
Lastly, the easiest way to watch the professional baseball game near Misawa should be going down to Sendai city in Miyagi prefecture, where the Rakuten Eagles is located as a home. You can check Misawa Air Base, ITT office for their bus trip. Otherwise, you drive three to four hours on the toll road and visit Sendai City .
The Rakuten Eagles official web site for ticket and game schedules information (only in Japanese), please check the link below.
The easiest way to purchase the tickets, visit local convenience stores such as LAWSON, MINISTOP, or Family Mart. Most of the staff may not be fluent in English, but fairly kind enough to assist you if you ask for their assistance.
You: “Sumimasen. Rakuten Eagles Baseball Ticket wo kaitai desu.”
(I would like to purchase the baseball tickets.)
“The ticket machine wakarimasen. Help Onegaishimasu.”
(I don't know how to use the ticket machine. Please help me.)
Furthermore, a great news is that there is the Eastern league playing in the TOHOKU six prefectures. On July 27th and 28th, the Rakuten Eagles are playing against Seibu Lions at 13:00. On Saturday, they play at the Aomori base ball stadium. Then, on Sunday, they play in Hachinohe, Nagane Park Stadium.
E-ticket from the official website (Only in Japanese)
Check the calendar on July 27 and 28 showing as ファーム 青森 or ファーム 八戸 if you can get the Japanese assistance for purchasing on the internet. Otherwise, check the local convenience stores or check at the ticket window directly at the stadium on those dates.
Enjoy your summer!
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