A Night at the Stadium: Japanese Professional Baseball

7th Inning Stretch "Release of the Balloons"
Seventh Inning Stretch

As many of my readers know, my family and I are leaving Japan next month to move to Uzbekistan. I am taking the next 40-some days to enjoy the things I like most about Japan.

I led our school’s “Junior Sabers” baseball club and club supporters to the Kyocera Osaka Dome to watch the Orix Buffaloes host the Seibu Lions of Saitama, Tokyo last night. I appreciate baseball and am trying to instill this in the students and my children. It was a raucous night, with the Lions defeating the Buffaloes, 7-5 in 10 innings. The game entertained us with home runs, spectacular plays in the field, plenty of baserunners and the outcome was in doubt until the very end. The game provided many “teachable moments” for the students regarding the rules and strategies of baseball. It is truly satisfying to teach young people and give them new experiences. Even better, my daughter Ocean is on the team and my son Owen is assisting me in the coaching. I think I accomplished my goal of inspiring the students to enjoy baseball more.

Ocean and Dad

I would like to thank the Orix Buffaloes for their hospitality. They gave us a good deal on tickets, we received a gift packet upon arrival and we had excellent seats on the first line for 1,100 yen ($10). Attending a professional baseball game in Japan is an engaging experience and much different atmosphere to that of the USA. Japanese fans are soccer-like in their passion at the stadium. A highlight is the release of balloons during the seventh inning stretch. This is a tradition in many stadiums in the league. Japanese baseball is considered “4A” meaning better than the top level of minor league baseball but below the Major League Baseball. Ocean’s favorite player was DH Stefen Romero for the Buffaloes. He hit a homerun and also had a couple other hits. He is your typical foreign player here. Romero was the minor league player of the year for the Seattle Mariners, but couldn’t make the MLB roster for the Mariners. He played briefly for one season before being traded to the Orioles. Romero has been very good for the Buffaloes are two years ago, signed a 3-year contract for 2.5 million dollars a year. Not bad for someone who had a “cup of coffee” in the MLB. The other type of foreigner is like former Detroit Tiger Phil Coke. He helped the Tigers win the American League Pennant in 2012 and pitched well in the World Series. After several seasons bouncing from team-to-team in the MLB, he ended up pitching for Orix in 2016.

Panorama View of the Game (note Ocean on both sides of the picture!)

The Orix Buffaloes are famous for being the initial club of Ichiro Suzuki. He led them to the Japan Series title in 1996 when they were the “Blue Wave” The Buffaloes formed with the merger of Kobe’s Orix Blue Wave and Osaka’s Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2004. They are perennially losers and Orix, a financial group from Tokyo, is not a good owner for a baseball club. The Buffaloes are once again in last place in the Pacific League this year.

Ocean and Owen Outside the Osaka Dome

I’ve had many enjoyable moments with my children attending a couple games every year of the Orix Buffaloes or Hanshin Tigers, the two Kansai teams. I did not get to experience a championship in my 5 years here sadly, but will continue to follow the teams, especially the Tigers and hopefully, they will finally win another title, being shut out since 1985.

The OIS Junior Sabers Baseball Club in the Dome! Go Orix!