Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Let's Baseball Together! Part 1

So with a bit of time on my hands, a few thousand yen burning a hole in my pocket, and an eager audience of four awaiting my next incomprehensible driveling on some random topic, I decided to bust out my Hanshin Tigers shirt and bust a move to Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya to take in a homestand for the local favorites, the Hanshin Tigers.

First a quick (or more likely unnecessarily long) primer on baseball in Japan:

Pro Baseball is divided into two leagues - The Central League and the Pacific League.

The Central League is like the National League in the US, with pitchers also batting. The Pacific League is like the American League with a DH position. Each league has six teams

Central League:
Hanshin Tigers
Chunichi Dragons
Yomiuri Giants
Hiroshima Carp
Yakult Swallows
Yokohama Baystars

Pacific League:
Orix Buffaloes
SoftBank Hawks
Rakuten Golden Eagles
Nippon Ham Fighters
Seibu Lions
Lotte Marines

Now if your wondering why you can't find Yomiuri on a map, or you are cannily noting that perhaps Orix isn't a Japanese place name, and you are almost certain that as wacky as the Japanese are, they wouldn't name a city "Nippon Ham" you have noted one of the key distinctions between US and Japanese pro baseball (go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back...I'll wait...). And that is most of the teams are owned and sponsored by a corporation - thus Yomiuri is of the Yomiuri Newspaper, Lotte is a gum company (think Wrigley) Rakuten is an internet company, Soft Bank is the cellphone carrier that sells the iPhone, Nippon Ham is...well...a ham company, Seibu is a department store, Orix is a car rental company (I think), Chunichi is another news service, Hanshin is a train line and department store, and Yakult makes tasty beverages.

Hiroshima and Yokohama are both city names, but they have corporate sponsors who have kept the name mostly out of the title, and recently in an attempt to build more local support, companies have begun including the locality as a way to build support, particularly as teams have moved away from the Tokyo/Yokohama and Osaka/Kobe regions (Still today, the Lions, Swallows, Bay Stars, Marines, and Giants all play in the greater Tokyo area) so that we have the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, and the Fukuoka Soft Bank Hawks.

And then there are the stadium names - which are often where the locality comes into play (opposite of the US, where the S.F. Giants play in AT&T Park, the Yomiuri Giants play in the Tokyo Dome) - So if you are still wondering where the Chunichi Dragons play, knowing that they play in the Nagoya Dome (ah ha!) will give you a clue to the locale. Two notable exceptions - The Golden Eagles play at Kleenex Stadium and (my absolute favorite ever - ) the Carp play at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium.

Team names also change as ownership transfers, thus the Nankai Hawks (train company) moved to Fukuoka and became the Daiei Hawks (retail chain) and then the Soft Bank Hawks (cell phone company)

So that was a pretty long aside - enough for its own post.

I've decided to make this part 1 of ? as I need to go enjoy the weather and do some actual work.

Part 2 coming later today (or tomorrow for you? I hate time zones)