Two of our friends here in Japan, are a married couple, Heidi and Naoto. Naoto loves baseball. Heidi does not, so I think both were happy to learn that I enjoy catching a game now and then. So far I've been to two ballgames with Naoto. The first game was decent. We went to the Osaka Dome to catch the Oryx Buffaloes play some other team. Neither was a contender, and their play showed why. Still, I was struck by the dedication of the fans, who bring drums, trumpets, trombones, and huge flags to show their enthusiasm.
The other game we went to was in the legendary Koshien stadium, to see the Hanshin Tigers play the Tokyo Swallows. Now this was a game, and the fans of both teams showed fanaticism on par with a Scottish soccer hooligan.
Tokyo Swallows fans cheer for Alex Ramirez
Naoto is a die-hard Swallows fan, so we were sitting in their cheering section. When I say that Japanese baseball fans are dedicated, I'm not kidding. Our little cheering section stood for easily half the game. Every player has a song or cheer which is performed at least once per at-bat. These and many other cheers are orchestrated by a leader who shouts encouragement to the fans and uses a whistle to cue the drums and horns (seriously!) It is really amazing to see how into the game these people get; the average Japanese fan easily surpasses the American in enthusiasm.
So that was the Swallows cheering section, but what about the home team Tigers?
Hanshin Tigers fans, doing what they do best: going crazy!
Naoto tells me that the Tigers fans are the most dedicated in Japan, and I'd probably say in the world. This video was taken during a Tigers at-bat, but there wasn't anything particularly exciting going on. The place was still rockin' like Safeco after a big win, and while I don't have video of the Tigers' game-winning hit, I can assure you it was pandemonium. I can't imagine how absolutely insane Koshien is during a playoff game, but I hope to get the chance to find out!