So being from Saint Louis and not being a huge baseball fan is essentially as big of a sin as being a Chicago Cubs fan. Even though I’ve only been to one other baseball game in my life, I had such a fantastic time this Sunday at the Hiroshima Carp game.
One of our Friday English class students, Goro-san, surprised us a few weeks ago by announcing he had baseball tickets for us. Yesterday was the big day as we went out with the WFC directors, Goro-san, and four other English class students. While Goro-san and Soh-san both attend English classes, they are also hibakusha who share their story with guests at the WFC.
Geared up with my red skirt (the Carp’s color is red) and 50 SPF sun hat, we set off to the game. Upon arriving at the Hiroshima train station, masses of folks dressed in red were making their way to the Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium (because the players zoom-zoom through all the bases…..sorry, no more dad-jokes). After getting some lunch, we settled into our seats which had a marvelous view from the 8th row from the right field. Josie and I sat between two of our students, Tommy-san and Koji-san. It’s almost funny saying that they are “our students,” as they are actually two 70+ year old men. That day the Hiroshima Carp were taking on the Osaka Tigers. The Osaka Tiger fan base took a small corner of the far left section of the stadium. Although small in number compared to the Carp fans, they cheered just as loudly if not louder than the rest of the stadium. Tommy-san leaned over to me to ask if it was too loud. I couldn’t help but laugh because that day was the loudest I have ever heard the Japanese who are typically very quiet. This was also nothing compared to the roars at American sports events.
Taking in the scene was quite interesting as well. Josie and I agreed that the field seemed somewhat smaller than American baseball fields. Yet, you can almost never escape the view of the mountains as they stretched behind the scoreboard. Just as in American stadiums, various advertisements flaunt upon the high walls. However, after squinting below one particular ad, I noticed a gym. Yes, there were actually people running on treadmills and pedaling on bikes behind the glass as they were watching the game!
When the 7th inning approached, we were handed a bag of red balloons. As per tradition, the 7th inning is good luck, so to cheer on the Carp we had to blow up these balloons and release them into the air. Right before the Carp took bat, thousands of red balloons streamed across the air, their whistling sounds lost within the singing and cheering of the crowd.
Those balloons paid off and the Hiroshima Carp won the game 5-0. You could feel the vibration of the good spirits as people left the stadium. However, in the past the Carp didn’t always have such good games. The Hiroshima Carp were founded in 1949, four years after the bomb. Without any major sponsoring, they struggled along for quite sometime until Mazda and an American manager came along and they really hit their stride in 1978. Baseball was a major way of uniting the city and lifting the peoples’ spirits. Their history reminds me strongly of the New York Yankees after 9/11. The New York Yankees played a similar large role to bring people together, to take their mind off of the tragedy, and helped them to move on – sounds very familiar.
After having such a good time with the English students at the game, I daresay that I might even sit through another one back home.