FLEACT Yokosuka Family Day showcases Japanese minor league baseball for U.S. military community
Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka Sailors and families experienced the Japanese form of “great American pastime” by attending the Yokohama DeNA BayStars vs. Chiba Lotte Mariners minor league baseball game held at Yokosuka stadium, March 19.
The game was FLEACT, Yokosuka’s Family Day event and Commander, FLEACT, Yokosuka Capt.David Owen had the honor of throwing the first pitch.
“Having good relations with our host nation and local community is vital to our alliance,” said Owen. “We [U.S. military service members] are part of this locale and see ourselves as neighbors with the Yokosuka populace. Getting out among them is being friendly and fun.”
The history of baseball arriving on the shores of Japan dates back to 1872. According to baseballreference.com, Professor Horace Wilson, an American expatriate educator, introduced the sport while teaching at the Kaisei Gakko in Tokyo, now known as Tokyo University.
The first Japanese baseball team was called the Shimbashi Athletic Club Athletics and was established in 1878 by railway engineer Hiroshi Hiraoka, an avid Boston Red Sox fan from his days as a student in the United States. He is considered to be the father of Japanese baseball. Due to Wilson and Hiraoka’s efforts, the sports’ popularity grew into what it is today.
The birth of the Bay Stars dates back to the 1950 inaugural season of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), when they were named the Taiyo Whales.
The team has changed its name a total of seven times to its current one. The minor league Bay Stars were formally known as the Shonan Searex, but now they share the same name as the major-league club.
NPB is technically the same as the original Major League Baseball (MLB) American game, but with a few differences.
First, a Japanese baseball is smaller in diameter than an American one, but is harder due to it being wound tighter.
Also, Japanese use a smaller strike zone and some parks are undersized by U.S. specifications.
Another difference between NPB and MLB is that there are “hard” limits to game lengths.
In the regular season, the limit is 12 innings, while in the playoffs there is a 15-inning limit.
The main reason for this is due to ensure that fans do not miss the last train home.
In MLB, on the other hand, ties are not allowed, with the exception of the 2002 All-Star Game, which was an exhibition match.
In the case of the BayStars and the Mariners, they fought to an 11th inning 1-1 tie, the rule for minor-league play. For Americans in attendance, the chance to watch the Japanese play baseball was culturally enlightening.
“Actually this is my first Japanese baseball game and it has been an experience,” said Gas Turbine System Technician – Mechanical 2nd Class Aldane Aarons, who also participated in a pitching challenge prior to the start of the game. “Working at FLEACT Port Operations, we are usually busy with day-to-day work, but we have found some downtime and our boss decided that we should come out during our day off and enjoy a baseball game. I am definitely glad that I had the chance to come here today.”
Owen encourages Sailors and their families to venture outside of their comfort zones and witness some of the attractions the country has to offer, with baseball happening to be one of them.
“Attending Japanese baseball games offers a unique opportunity to experience the local culture and interact with our neighbors,” said Owen. “Even though you might not be able to carry a full conversation with those sitting around you, you can share in the cheering and understanding of the game. There is more available than the game itself. For example, there are several restaurants on the way to and from the stadium. After the game, I had tonkatsu at a very nice place on the way from the stadium to Oppama train station. I highly recommend getting off the base and venturing out to enjoy the environment that surrounds us.”