by Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
Editor’s note: Ben Verlander is spending time in Japan exploring Shohei Ohtani’s roots, experiencing the country’s culture and meeting fans. This is the second in a recurring series It started on Friday 19 August.
What’s up, everyone? It’s the second day in Japan. Before I went to the Tokyo Dome to see the Tokyo Giants play Hanshin Tigers (NPB’s ed Red Sox–Yankees rival), I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about yesterday. Which turned out to be one of the best days of my entire life.
We were at Yokohama Stadium to see Yokohama Baystars and Hiroshima Carp.
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. We showed up, got our credentials and met with various people from the Bestars organization. They could not have been more kind and generous throughout the whole experience. It was incredibly good.
Then we went to the stadium – my first time in a Japanese baseball stadium – and I was blown away. I came out of the tunnel and just took it all in. This place is impressive. It has approximately 34,000 seats and is completely circular, with vertical rows of blue seats. Even though you’re in row 50, you feel like you’re at the top of the field.
Another thing that immediately stood out was the area dimension small: 309 feet down the line and more than 380 in center, but with a 16-foot wall that wraps around the entire outfield. You can imagine some really high scoring games out there.
We walked in while the team was taking BP. One thing that was immediately clear: In Japanese baseball, two players on the home team take batting practice with two separate cages at the same time.
A lot is happening in batting practice as well. It’s basically a full workout before the game starts. There are pitchers working the outfield, guys teeing off on the sidelines, bunting drills — the list goes on. You’ll never see that in MLB.
During BP, I met the star pitcher of Baystars, Shota Iminaga. He was excited to say hello. I asked how he liked pitching in such a small ballpark. He said that if the United States batsmen played there, they would hit a ton of home runs. I also asked if he had goals to play in the MLB, to which he said “absolutely”.
After that, we headed to the team store. I have decided to buy a jersey for every game I attend this week. Naturally, I had to pick up a beautiful white pinstripe Eminaga No. 21.
Next, we hit the concession stand. tough
Stadium food is significantly different here. I tried everything from pork dumplings to ice with orange on top which is one of the best curries I have ever tasted. I will have a full video breakdown on all of this coming soon.
Then the gates were opened. And let me tell you, I was not prepared for what happened next. I’ll level with you: I’m incredibly proud to say that “Flippin’ Bats” is the No. 1 baseball podcast in Japan. However, even knowing this, I couldn’t help but think about the reaction I would get from the fans.
Within 30 seconds of opening the gate, two girls came and asked for a picture. A girl burst into tears. That became a common occurrence. We took hundreds of photos. It was a special day.
It became very clear to me how strong Sohei Ohtani’s influence is. All this happened because of him. I became the No. 1 Ohtani fan on the other side of the world, and after I flew 13 hours around the world, the admiration and love was immediately noticeable.
Ben Verlander is an MLB analyst for FOX Sports and “Flippin Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University when he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers. organization. Follow him on Twitter @Benverlander.
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