Journals from Kanto Gakuin University
2009-09-14 Ok, I mean it this time
Since I've gotten so many emails asking for the promised baseball story, I'm going to procrastinate on homework a bit and write it today! Ok, fine, so I would probably procrastinate on homework a bit anyway, whether you had written or not but I do appreciate everyone showing such interest! It's nice to know that someone is reading all these stories I'm writing.
So, baseball I love it! Last Wednesday I went with three exchange students (Mark, Sara, and Evi) and three Japanese guys (Yusuke, Shunsuke, and Makoto) to see a game at Yokohama Stadium. On the way, we stopped off at a batting cage in Kamioooka (yes, there are three o's in that word!), which was entertaining because only Shunsuke and I had ever played much baseball, and both of us stopped playing years ago. The batting cages were high-tech: there was a holographic image of a pitcher going into his wind-up so that you could time the pitch, and there were all kinds of options for controlling the pitches: you could pick the speed (fast, medium, slow) and the location (higher or lower, and I think inside and out, too). At first I saw that as an advantage; I picked what I thought would be easiest to hit (since it's been four years since I played, and even when I was playing full-time I was a pitcher who almost always got DH-d for) and stepped into the box.
But that holographic pitcher was mean! He threw high cheese, he threw change-ups low and out, and he never threw a curve but he never threw anything the same speed/location twice, either. I was making contact, but fouling almost everything off; I only got a couple of good hits in.
When I ran out of pitches and stepped out of the cage, I realized what had happened. Yusuke, my so-called buddy, had been calling pitches! He had taken over the little control box and changed speeds and locations as well as any catcher, doing his best to make me look silly. So of course when he got up to bat I did the same, and he hit about as well (or rather, as badly) as I had!
There were also pitching cages, with a big electronic strike-zone-sized box where home plate would be. The strike zone was divided into sixteen sections and you were supposed to hit the section that lit up. The girls seemed impressed that I kept hitting the middle four sections and never hit the corners, which I guess looked good to them, but it really just meant that I would have given up some loooong base hits It really has been a while since I played!
Anyway, from Kamioooka we headed to the stadium in Yokohama, where the Yokohama Bay Stars were set to play against the Yomiuri Giants (yes, the team names are in English). On the way, Shunsuke explained to me that the Yokohama Bay Stars are kind of like the Mariners " they're not very good. And the Yomiuri Giants are like the Yankees " they're always in the playoffs. So, of course, loyal as I am to terrible teams, I decided to root for the Bay Stars! It worked out well (we ended up winning 5-3), though it was a nailbiter at the end; the Giants had two on and one out in the ninth and the Bay Stars just barely pulled off the win. The style of play was an interesting mix of small ball and home run derby; if a runner made it to first with less than two outs, they almost always bunted him over, but the next batter often ended up hitting a home run anyway because the park was so small. Between the two teams, there were five home runs, including three by Japanese players, one by an American, and one by a Venezuelan! I do love baseball; it has all my favorite languages
Honestly, though, the actual game wasn't the main entertainment. The stadium was small by Major League standards, only one deck all the way around, and I doubt the fences made it to 400 feet even in center field. The advantage of going to a small park is that even the cheap seats are good ones: for about $18 each, we sat in the front row in the right field bleachers. We soon discovered that the bleachers were the place to be: the cheap seats had the most enthusiastic fans.
In the U.S., people might watch football or soccer standing up, but most baseball fans spend most of the game sitting down, quietly keeping score, eating, or chatting, and only cheering or yelling to support/criticize when something actually happens. Except for maybe during the playoffs, watching baseball is relaxing for me, even comforting. It reminds me of home, family, and Ballard Little League; it's nostalgia, not adrenaline.
Not so in Japan. Goodness gracious, I've never seen such energetic yet organized baseball fans! Yankee fans and Boston fans may yell a lot of insults, but you can't beat the organized power of a Japanese crowd. It was like a high school football game, except more organized and with more people participating in the cheers. A guy with a whistle stood on a milk crate facing the crowd and conducted, wearing a team-color robe and little white gloves so we could see his hands. He would yell out the name of the chant, then whistle and clap the beat. We would all follow along, standing, clapping, and chanting as the horns and drums (played by "volunteers" who come to every game, presumably paying for their own tickets) provided the beat. At first we were a bit confused because we didn't know the names of the players or the words to the chants, and we kept losing the rapidly changing clapping pattern, but eventually (with Shunsuke's help) we started to catch on and get into it. We really appreciated batters who would foul off a couple of pitches before putting the ball into play, because it gave us time to figure out the chant for that batter. Long at-bats were tiring on the arms, though! Every inning, the entire time our team was up to bat, the whole bleacher section (from right field foul pole to center field scoreboard) remained standing and chanting. Then when we were on defense, it was the Giants' fans' turn over in left field. Only one side yelled at a time, and each side was unified in its yelling. No one yelled randomly while on defense; it was a group effort. It felt like a perfect example to use in one of my Intercultural Comm classes
I spent most of the game asking Shunsuke about baseball vocabulary in Japanese, and he taught me some of the many Japenglish words used in Japanese baseball. (For those of you who know me from somewhere other than school, I wrote my thesis on baseball Spanglish, so I was fascinated by baseball Japenglish!) My favorite new word was "gettsu," which came from "get two" and means "double play." Someday I would love to write a trilingual baseball dictionary One-stop shopping for baseball communication!
Oh, and one last impression of Japanese baseball: pitchers are driven from the bullpen to the infield in a convertible! Imagine that, what a stylish way to make your way to the mound. I wish we had had that at Ballard High School Then again, we didn't really have much of a bullpen, either!
All right, I have more stories, but I think two pages are enough for now. I'll just leave you with the news that one of the buddies translated my name into kanji, and my last name is now a bilingual pun: it's the first kanji in the word for "name" (pronounced "na") followed by the kanji for the word "island" (which in Japanese is actually pronounced "shima"). Get it? "Na"+"island" = "Niland!" My first name is the kanji for pear and the kanji for hometown. So overall, my name is an island and I'm the fruit of my hometown! Interesting interpretation of me Here's how it looks (last name first), for those of you who have computers that can do Japanese text: .
Thanks for reading. I hope you have a lovely day!