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Japan's Baseball Teams Debate When To Start Their Season

The Eagles' home field in Sendai, via japanesebaseballstadiums.com

I read on Hardball Talk this morning that Japan’s baseball league, the NPB, is trying to decide when to start their season, which was originally scheduled for March 25th. Per the Yakyu Baka blog, it sounds as if the Central League wants to start on time, while the Pacific League wants to postpone the games, and they haven’t yet been able to reach an agreement. Exhibition games have already been canceled; The Rakuten Golden Eagles’ stadium in Sendai, near the epicenter of the earthquake, is obviously not ready for games, and neither is the Chiba Lotte Marines’, which sustained liquification under its parking lot and plumbing damage. The Eagles’ future is uncertain in many ways, and night games could be tricky all over the country, since the government has asked everyone to conserve electricity whenever possible.

Obviously, this is hardly Japan’s biggest concern right now. I’ve felt a little weird writing about silly baseball stuff all week with everything that’s happening there; but that’s my job, and it’s not like anything I write can help anyway. Anyway, this news seems like an opportunity to acknowledge, again, that while we will certainly continue to write about Kyle Farnsworth, we at the Banter are still very much thinking about Japan.

The only thing from my own baseball life that I can think to compare the NPB’s situation to is September 11th, and the tragedy in Japan is on a larger scale than even that, particularly considering the ongoing nuclear emergency (which is terrifying to read about). I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong answer as to when to start the season. There is nothing wrong with waiting, out of either respect or just practical necessity, to say nothing of safety concerns. That said, I know I felt just a little bit better on September 17th in 2001 when baseball came back, and a little bit better yet on the 21st when it came back to New York (and yes, that Mike Piazza home run made me cry). Maybe, in Japan, this is one of those times when all the emotion people invest in the game can pay off in some larger way… then again, maybe not. Players and front office personnel in Japan are torn, and they would know better than I do.

Categories:  Baseball  Emma Span

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1 bp1   ~  Mar 16, 2011 3:11 pm

Nicely said, Emma. It's hard to put into words the feelings about the events in Japan. Truly heartbreaking. I wake up each morning hoping for some good news, and I pray for their continued strength and determination.

The Piazza home run did feel like a turning point maybe because I was a baseball fan and it was something that was cliche - out of Hollywood - one of those dramatic moments that sometimes can only make sense in real life. I would expect non-baseball fans to have a similar moment they can point to and say "Yeah - that's when things started to feel better". Let's hope the people of Japanese have their Piazza moment soon, whether it's resumption of baseball games or something else equally trivial, but critically important in the return to normalcy.

Anyway - that was well written, Emma (as usual). Handled with your usual tact and perfect pitch.

2 Sliced Bread   ~  Mar 16, 2011 5:26 pm

yeah, everybody seeks normalcy at a different pace after these kinds of tragedies. I remember about 2 weeks after 9/11, my wife and I decided to finally turn off the news and go out to dinner. We were living in L.A., and life there had already resumed, but being New Yorkers, we were still stuck in the misery. It was a depressingly helpless feeling being so far away from home. Anyway, we go to a restaurant, and I'm listening to the chatter at the adjacent tables, and I can't believe NOBODY'S talking about what happened. I was angry, and obviously not as ready to move on with Hollywood talk, and general chatter and gossip (the usual fare in Los Angeles restaurants on a Saturday night).
I remember seeing a headline about the Piazza home run, and thinking it was too soon for baseball. Mid September and too soon for baseball? Strange days.
Around the All-Star break of the 2001 season, me and some guys I worked with decided to get tickets to the last series of the season in San Francisco. Bonds was on a tear, and we thought we'd go see some baseball history.
We got tickets to the Saturday, September 29th game. When the time came, I almost didn't go because I still didn't think I was ready for baseball. I went anyway. Flew to San Fran the morning of the matinee game vs the Padres.
It was strange to get on a plane a few weeks after 9/11. It was strange walking into the ballpark under such tight security. Life was not back to normal, and it felt like it never would be.
We sat in the sunshine, down the first baseline, near the foul pole in right, and watched Bonds hit a laser into the water. We knew it was gone off the bat, never took our eyes off it as it sailed over our heads, and we were already on our feet when it disappeared over the wall, and into the cove. His 69th. Bonds gave us all what we were looking for that afternoon, and in every sense of the word it was a blast.
It jolted me out of my funk.
Thinking back on those days, and considering the scale of the disaster in Japan, the profound losses, and devastation, I can't see how the baseball fans of Japan are anywhere near ready for the games to resume.

3 Sliced Bread   ~  Mar 16, 2011 5:41 pm

another thing I should mention about that game in San Francisco. I wore a Yankees hat to the game, which I never do to away games. I have a weird thing about that, I feel like it's disrespectful to wear your team's hat in someone else's stadium. I'll cheer for the Yanks at an away game, just won't show Yankees identification.
Anyway, as I walked into and around the ballpark in San Fran (which is gorgeous) I got more than a few pats on the back, and supportive comments from Giants fans who rightfully presumed I was from NY because of the hat. It was a little embarrassing, and felt unnecessary, but also very cool, and very much appreciated.

4 bp1   ~  Mar 16, 2011 10:15 pm

[3] Way cool, Sliced.

5 Boatzilla   ~  Mar 17, 2011 4:46 am

Nice, news hook post, Emma. It's funny but I have not had any thoughts on baseball since this thing started, expect for occasionally checking the Banter.

It's so weird in Tokyo now. Imagine NYC on a work day with about half the people gone. Many of my expat friends (different from Jazz and I) have left the country. And lots of foreign locals like Jazz have split to Kyoto or Osaka. Actually, I think it's cool walking around a near empty Ginza, where I'm usually doing an O.J Simpson and cursing old ladies, just to get down the street.

We are regularly getting aftershocks...6.3 yesterday...6.0 today...that a few months ago would have been considered a big deal. I was in a private room at bar last night and the chandelier was swinging, just like in a movie. I sat there sipping my martini, thinking if I and my friend should move. We didn't budge...the waiters did even bother to check on us.

Anyway, there have been so many people heading out that I made up this joke headline:

American expat family flees Tokyo to safety of Detroit


CNN provides in dept coverage of tsunami devastation from studio in Atlanta

That's about the shape of it. But life is good, because we are alive. Do us a favor, don't watch CNN and be wary of what you read in the Western press.

6 Boatzilla   ~  Mar 17, 2011 4:47 am

in depth

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