Sunday, May 24, 2015

The First Non-Hanshin Tigers Baseball Game I Have Been to in Japan (Orix Buffaloes vs. Lotte Marines, 23 May 2015)

I've been in Japan a long time and I have seen a lot of baseball games here. But they have all been Hanshin Tigers games, many of them well documented in VAOJ. On Saturday a friend had some free tickets to the Orix Buffaloes (the other Osaka team in the Pacific League) game against the Chiba Lotte Marines. This game pitted the two worst teams in the Pacific League (Lotte in 5th place, Orix in last place). I was curious as to how this game would compare with a Tigers game at Koshien Stadium. The Buffaloes' home stadium is the Kyocera Dome Osaka. Many die-hard fans from both teams were lined up to enter the dome. The tickets we had allowed us to sit either on the first base side or the third base side. The seats were not assigned - it was first come first sit. We decided on the first base side.

There were many pre-game activities including a hula performance (as if baseball isn't globalized enough...).

And then of course there was a performance by the Bs Girls - a group that is a cross between cheerleaders and an idol group. Japanese baseball introduced female cheer girls to their teams a couple of years ago.

There was even a performance of the Japanese national anthem (everyone was asked to stand) by a children's choir.

The game was significant in that it was the first start of Orix's ace pitcher, Chihiro Kaneko, winner of last season's Sawamura Award. He had been out of action since a shoulder surgery in November. He seemed rusty to say the least, giving up 6 runs on 7 hits, including a gram slam to Lotte's Ikuhiro Kiyota. Kaneko was pulled after the third inning.

The Buffaloes cheering section is much smaller than the Tigers' at Koshien.

There were many Lotte fans in their assigned left field section. They seemed much more organized and genki compared to their Buffaloes counterparts. At times the Lotte fans would jump up and down in unison while cheering.

The Buffaloes, as well as most other teams, have adopted the release of balloons before their lucky 7th inning originated by Hanshin.

Buffaloes fans have their own unique rituals as well, waving small flags for one player and swinging towels for others.

One of three mascots...

The controlled atmosphere of the dome adds to the lonely feeling of the stadium (in my opinion...).

In the end the Buffaloes lost 6 to 5. Lotte raised itself to 4th place in the standings.

For details of the game, see "Kiyota, Marines spoil Kaneko’s long-awaited return to mound" in the Japan Times, 5/24/15:

It was a fun game although not a very well played one by either team. Perhaps the Buffaloes should spend more time and resources on their game rather than the pre-game stuff...

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