Hayato Sakamoto, the home-grown shortstop who has played for the Giants since his Nippon Professional Baseball league debut in 2007, secured a victory against the Yakult Swallows with a home run in the 6th innings.
Having never been to a baseball game in my life before, I thought, whilst I’m in Tokyo, I might as well give one a try, with it being one of the biggest sports in the country. The people from DMU attending also thought it would be a nice send off for our professor who had been with us for 2 weeks to check on us half way around the world.
The Yomiuri Giants played the Yakult Swallows on the 11th of July for the second time in as many days, part of their 3 day visit to Tokyo Dome City, home of the Giants. Their game, the lowest scoring of the series, ended 2-0 to the Giants with runs in the 4th and 6th innings.
The crowd were unlike anything I have ever witnessed before. I’ve been to Anfield, Stamford Bridge, The Emirates, The Riders Arena, Welford Road and many more, but the level of showmanship offered by the club and its players was something I have never seen in person before. The indoor stadium hits you first, the ceiling and the temperature are the first to hit you. If it wasn’t air conditioned, I would struggle to be there for 4 hours.
The about a dozen dancing Pikachu’s on the pitch with cheerleaders was one of the most bizarre things I have ever experienced. The fans cheered and with each player being announced in their batting order, they chanted their names religiously. When the Pikachu’s had been cleared off by the mascots, the players took to the pitch to throw a number of balls to the crowd as they took position on the field.
Fielding first, the Giants quickly dispatched the first batsman. Though the second and third batsmen were able to make bases, they didn’t move from 1st and 2nd base as two were easily removed from the game, ending the opening innings for the Swallows.
The Giants put in a reasonably poor performance when batting in the first 3 innings, with very few bases actually being made. Fan favourite Hisayoshi Chōno led the batting but was unable to produce anything to gain bases as the batsman were out quickly before any could do any damage. The first 3 innings barely made any difference with only the Swallows pitcher, Tomoya Hoshi making any damage, literally. He hit two batsman consecutively, allowing them to move to the next base due to his poor accuracy. Otherwise, the first 3 innings was full of poor batting performances.
Whilst Yakult were unable to make their 4th innings count, but the Giants made it count after 2 long hits avoided the fielders to allow the batsmen onto 2nd and 3rd base. With a poor hit, the ball was quickly gathered and blocks the batsman who hit it, but allowed Shinnosuke Abe, the 38 year old Japanese international catcher, to run through to put the Giants into the lead.
The 6th innings showed off the hitting power of Hayato Sakamoto as he smashed it into the far stand, running around the diamond celebrating with the home fans as he ran. His hit sending them into a 2-0 lead after 6 innings. The Swallows were full of anxiety and worry as their hits became easier to catch throughout the innings, to the point where they could barely make a single base. By the end of the 9th, they were unable to cause any damage and the Giants won without their final innings.
The crowd played an unbelievable role throughout, cheering and chanting in every single inning without hesitation. The fact the club have bands place in the stands to start chants shows that they believe fans make a difference. The showmanship of the club was brilliant to see and definitely something unlike any other experience I have ever had. If you ever get to come to Tokyo, a baseball game is a must, even if you don’t like baseball!
Final score: Yomiuri Giants 2 – 0 Yakult Swallows