Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Trip Overview Part 2 - Day 2 - Sendai

I had what may sound like an odd choice as my first destination for Sunday, May 26th in Sendai - I was heading off to Yagiyama Zoo.  The zoo is located west of the central part of the city in a hilly area overlooking the city.  It was a hot, hazy morning - I wondered if on a clear day you could see all the way to the ocean.

The zoo has the usual collection of animals - I saw elephants, giraffes, rhinos, penguins, zebras, monkeys and flamingos - but I was at the zoo looking for something else.  And over by the hippos, I found what I was looking for:

You’re probably asking yourself - what’s a statue of Babe Ruth doing in a zoo in Sendai?  As it turns out before there was a zoo on this site there was a ballpark called Miyagi Prefecture Yagiyama Baseball Stadium.  This ballpark hosted the fourth game of the 1934 Major League Tour of Japan on November 9, 1934 in which Ruth hit his first two home runs on Japanese soil.  The statue was erected in 2002 to commemorate this.

After finishing my visit to the zoo, I headed across town to Miyagi Prefectural Stadium (which has a corporate name that I’m not going to use until the company sends me a check), home of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.  After all these years of being a fan, I was attending my first ever regular season NPB game as the Eagles were taking on the Orix Buffaloes that afternoon.  It was “Women’s Day” and the ballpark was packed.

The pregame festivities featured a dual first pitch ceremony from Nijika Ishimori and Akane Moriya, members of the idol group Keyakizaka46.  I think these were the only people I saw throwing out the first pitch of a game who might show up on a BBM First Pitch Ceremony card for this year’s 2nd Version or Fusion sets.  Here’s the video from PLTV:

In the game itself, Orix took an early lead in the top of the second on a solo home run from Yuma Tongu (yet another player in the Japanese Collegiate All Star cards in Panini's 2019 Stars & Stripes set)) but the Eagles answered back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning.  They added a single run in the fifth to extend their lead to 3-1 and then finished their scoring on a solo home from Toshiaki Imae in the seventh.  Yuki Matsui came on in the top of the ninth and struck out the side, notching his 13th save in the Eagles 4-1 victory.

I had a great time at the game.  The two guys on either side of me were very nice to me, especially considering I can’t speak Japanese at all.  The guy on my left was there with his wife (I assume) and gave me a jet balloon to shoot off during the Eagles “Lucky 7” at the bottom of the seventh inning.

The guy on my right was there by himself.  He spoke a little English and asked me what brought me to Sendai.  When I told him I was there just for baseball and I described some of the rest of my itinerary, he laughed and said I was “baka”.  I told him that’s what my wife said too.  I was amused that he sang the Buffaloes fight song at the top of the seventh - we agreed it was a good song for a bad team.  At the end of the game he gave me a victory jet balloon to launch.

Here are the highlights of the game from PLTV:

I walked back to my hotel from the ballpark.  It was about a mile and a half walk but I figured I still got back sooner than I would have if I’d tried to fight the crowd heading for the closest subway stop.  I relaxed in my room for a little bit then took a walk to the Mint Sendai store, just on the other side of Sendai Station from where I was staying.  After that I grabbed some dinner and collapsed back in my room.  I wanted to get some rest as I’d be catching the Shinkansen back to Tokyo first thing the next morning.


Unknown said...

Awesome! Great story.



Sean said...

That Ruth statue is really neat.

I really want to take in a game in Sendai sometime, I love that stadium.

SumoMenkoMan said...