Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

Baseball is back: NPB hits Okinawa to prep for regular season

by Shouji Kudaka
Stripes Japan

Every February, fields of cherry blossom trees wow the masses on Okinawa.

But they’re not the only fields generating excitement.

February also means the boys are back in town – for spring training baseball.

All 12 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) teams have kicked off practice, with nine of them here on Okinawa for the warm weather. The island is to the NPB what Arizona and Florida are to the MLB.

Without a team of its own, regular season baseball is a rarity on Okinawa. And, unlike the regular season games, fans can watch and interact with professional players close up.

A lot of quality baseball will be on display for the people on Okinawa. Prior to the actual spring training games, which are set to begin late February, there will be a number of practice and intra-squad games to be played in stadiums across Okinawa, most of which are free to watch. Some stadiums are close to U.S. military facilities.

The Japanese teams don’t have an Aaron Judge or Mike Trout on their rosters, but players like Ryan Cook or Norichika Aoki might ring a bell to MLB fans.

The weather is getting better, so why not get out and enjoy some baseball while it lasts.

 

NPB Teams on Okinawa

Central League

Hiroshima Toyo Carp
Dates: Feb. 15 – Feb. 26 
Location: Koza Shinkin Stadium (near Kadena Air Base and Camp Foster, GPS Coordinates: N 26.333087, E 127.790218) 
Days off: Feb. 14, 20 
Notable former MLB players: Kris Johnson (P), Johnny Hellweg (P), Casey Lawrence (P)

Tokyo Yakult Swallows
Dates: Feb. 1 – Feb. 26
Location: ANA BALL PARK a.k.a. Urasoe Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Camp Kinser, GPS Coordinates: N 26.251310, E 127.723570)
Days off: Feb. 5, 12, 19
Notable former MLB players: David Buchanan (P), Albert Suarez (P), Dave Huff (P), Wladimir Balentien (OF), Norichika Aoki (OF) 

Yomiuri Giants
Dates: Feb. 13 – Feb. 28
Location: Okinawa Cellular Stadium (near Naha military port, GPS Coordinates: N 26.203543, E 127.672991) 
Days off: Feb. 18, 22
Notable former MLB players: Scott Mathieson (P), Ryan Cook (P), Christian Villanueva (3B), Taylor Jungmann (P), Alex Guerrero (OF), Hisashi Iwakuma (P) 

Yokohama DeNA Bay Stars 
Dates: Feb. 1 - Feb. 27 (First team); Feb. 1 – Feb. 26 (Farm)
Location: Ginowan Municipal Baseball Stadium (First team, near Camp Foster and MCAS Futenma, inside of Ginowan Seaside Park, GPS Coordinates: N 26.282497, E 127.737381)
Kadena Town Baseball Stadium (Farm, near Kadena Air Base and Torii Station, GPS Coordinates: N 26.369679, E 127.770183)
Days off: Feb. 6, 12, 18, 22 (First team); Feb. 7, 12, 16, 21 (Farm)
Notable former MLB players: Spencer Patton (P), Jose Lopez (1B, 3B), Neftalí Soto (1B, 2B, OF) 

Chunichi Dragons 
Dates: Feb. 1 – Feb. 27 (First team); Feb. 1 – Mar. 28 (Farm)
Location: Chatan Park Baseball Stadium (First team, near Kadena Air Base and Camp Foster, GPS Coordinates: N 26.311735, E 127.758349); Heiwa no Mori Baseball Stadium (Farm, near Torii Station, GPS Coordinates: N 26.397382, E 127.745814) 
Days off: Feb. 6, 13, 20
Notable former MLB players: Daisuke Matsuzaka (P), Dayan Viciedo (1B, OF), Enny Romero (P), Joely Rodríguez (P), Zoilo Almonte (OF), Steven Moya (OF, 1B)

Hanshin Tigers 
Dates: Feb. 1 – Feb. 27
Location: Kariyushi Hotels Ball Park Ginoza (near Camp Schwab and Hansen, GPS Coordinates: N 26.484100, E 127.973340) 
Days off: Feb. 4, 8, 13, 18, 22
Notable former MLB players: Randy Messenger (P), Pierce Johnson (P), Jefry Marté (1B, 3B, OF), Rafael Dolis (P), Efren Navarro (1B, OF), Kyuji Fujikawa (P)

 

Pacific League

Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
Dates: Feb. 15 – 25 (First Team); Feb. 1 – 23 (Farm)  
Location: Nago Shiei Baseball Field (First team, near Camp Schwab, GPS Coordinates: N 26.593055, E 127.966972), Akeomi Sky Dome (First team, near Camp Schwab, GPS Coordinates: N 26.592751, E 127.963803), Kaigin Stadium Kunigami (Farm, GPS Coordinates: N 26.726975, E 128.162014) 
Days off: Feb. 18, 22 (First Team) Feb. 4, 9, 15 20 (Farm)
Notable former MLB players: Nick Martinez (P), Justin Hancock (P), Johnny Barbato (P)

Chiba Lotte Marines 
Dates: Feb. 1 – Feb. 11 (First team); Feb. 1- 21 (Farm) 
Location: Ishigaki City Chuo Athletic Park Baseball Stadium (GPS Coordinates: N 24.345124, E 124.171505) 
Days off: Feb. 6 (First team); Feb. 6, 12, 18 (Farm)
Notable former MLB players: Mike Bolsinger (P), Josh Ravin (P)

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 
Dates: Feb. 1 – 9 (Kumejima Island), Feb. 11- 21 (Kin Town)
Location: Kumejima Island Baseball Stadium (GPS Coordinates: N 26.349624, E 126.734652); Nakazato Baseball Stadium (GPS Coordinates: N 26.336017, E 126.813090); Kin Town Baseball Stadium (near Camp Hansen, GPS Coordinates: N 26.462516, E 127.941525) 
Days off: Feb. 5, 15
Notable former MLB players: Frank Herrmann (P), Zelous Wheeler (OF, 1B, 3B), Jabari Blash (OF), Alan Busenitz (P)

 

Practice Games

Feb. 11
- Dragons vs. Hanwha Eagles (KPB) @ Chatan Park Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Kadena), 1 p.m.

Feb. 12 
- Dragons vs. KIA Tigers (KPB)@ Chatan Park Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Kadena), 1 p.m.

Feb. 13
- BayStars vs. Marines @ Ginowan Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Futenma), 1 p.m.

Feb. 14 
- Dragons vs. Marines @ Chatan Park Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Kadena),1 p.m.

Feb. 16
- Dragons (Farm) vs. Hanwha Eagles (KPB) @ Heiwa no Mori Baseball Stadium (near Torii), 1 p.m.
- Swallows vs. BayStars @ ANA BALL PARK a.k.a. Urasoe Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Kinser), 12:30 p.m.

Feb. 17
- Dragons vs. Swallows @ ANA BALL PARK a.k.a. Urasoe Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Kinser), 1 p.m.
- Giants vs. BayStars @ Okinawa Cellular Stadium (near Naha Military Port), 12:30 p.m.

Feb. 18
- Dragons vs. Hanwha Eagles (KPB) @ Chatan Park Baseball Stadium (near Camp Foster and Kadena Air Base), 1 p.m.

Feb. 19
- Dragons (Farm) vs. BayStars @ Heiwa no Mori Baseball Stadium (near Torii), 1 p.m. 

Feb. 20
- BayStars vs. Marines @ Ginowan Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Futenma), 1 p.m.

Feb. 21
- Dragons (Farm) vs. Hanwha Eagles (KPB) @ Heiwa no Mori Baseball Stadium (near Torii Station), 1 p.m.
- Swallows vs. BayStars @ ANA BALL PARK a.k.a. Urasoe Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Kinser), 12:30 p.m.

Feb.22
- Dragons vs. Samsung Lions (KPB) @ Chatan Park Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Kadena), 1 p.m.
- BayStars (Farm) vs. Hanwha Eagles (KPB) @ Ginowan Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Futenma), 1 p.m.

Feb. 25
- Dragons (Farm) vs. BayStars@ Heiwa no Mori Baseball Stadium (near Torii), 1 p.m. 

Feb. 26
- BayStars vs. KIA Tigers (KPB) @ Ginowan Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Futenma), 12:30 p.m.
- Giants vs. Dragons @ Okinawa Cellular Stadium (near Naha Military Port), 12:30 p.m.

 

Spring Training Games

Feb. 23
- Dragons vs. BayStars @ Chatan Park Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Kadena), 1 p.m. 
- Swallows vs. Tigers @ ANA BALL PARK a.k.a. Urasoe Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Kinser), 1 p.m.
- Giants vs. Eagles @ Okinawa Cellular Stadium (near Naha Military Port), 1 p.m.

Feb. 24
- BayStars vs. Carp @ Ginowan Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Futenma), 1 p.m.
- Dragons vs. Tigers @ Chatan Park Baseball Stadium (near Foster and Kadena), 1 p.m.
- Swallows vs. Eagles @ ANA BALL PARK a.k.a. Urasoe Municipal Baseball Stadium (near Kinser), 1 p.m.
- Giants vs. Fighters @ Okinawa Cellular Stadium (near Naha Military Port), 1 p.m.

Related Content

Recommended Content