Monday, March 18, 2013

Baseball in March?

Sort of. Last night I went to the Semi Finals of the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park. In a way it was amazing- I was at the ballpark, with a beer and the season hasn't even started. In another way, it was so strange- baseball in March? Baseball with non-teams? The Olympics of Baseball? Very odd.

So, in honor of THB, I decided to write it up. It was a little awkward to take notes on my phone, but I guess that's modernity for you.

PR fans go crazy over exactly nothing
Our seats were in section 106, under the overhang, in the second to last row. THB can give you the run down on MLB ballparks, but there aren't a lot of BAD seats at AT&T. These seats weren't bad- even being way under the overhang only the very top of the giant scoreboard was obstructed, and that meant we didn't have to see the ads. It did mean that whenever the Japanese guy across the aisle stood up, I couldn't really see home plate. There was a small press box next to us, complete with two Japanese photogs with extra super duper long telephoto lenses.

The park was EMPTY. We're not talking Marlins empty, but a semi-crowded (not Yankee's or fireworks) A's game empty. I had heard a couple days before that tickets were selling on facebook and twitter for $8, and I believe it. We had no trouble getting into or out of the ballpark. There were no lines for food, and I only waited at the bathroom one of the times that I went. The only sign that we were at a popular event at all is that they ran out of hot chocolate sometime in the 6th inning. (I attribute this to the temperature, though, not the crowds.) The bleachers were packed- the Japanese fans had clearly bought at least the three middle sections of the bleachers well in advance and were sitting as a group.

Yes, you can keep score in Japanese
Before the game, flag bearers came out with a flag for each country that had participated in the WBC (yeah for nationalism) and the Puerto Rican and Japanese teams stood on each base path. My first thought was how BIG the Japanese guys were. There was only one guy who looked like the small, Ichiro-type that we are used to in the MLB- the rest were tall and big-boned kind of guys. Not beefy, but big. Everyone, though, even on the PR team, looked small compared to MLB: it's clear that steroids are still everywhere in the majors. During the pre-game we heard 3 national anthems, all piped in. Lots of singing along, at least to the Japanese and Puerto Rican anthems, not so much for the star spangled banner. Many fans had brought flags in, and some of the flags were on really long poles- pretty sure they wouldn't have gotten by the security at the Coliseum.

Two Japanese guys from the winning team of the last WBC threw out the first pitches, and Orlando Cepeda came out to ceremonially greet them. Cepeda didn't look so good- might have had a stroke.

Angel Pagan of the Giants led off for PR and before he stepped in they showed him just beaming- I had this moment like "baseball season's almost here!" You could really see how happy he was to be back home in his park, playing his game. It was awesome. The PR fans liked it, too, and they started what was to become a routine: they did a drum/percussion/dance/song routine pretty much any time they were happy. The 10 or so fans in our section seemed to be the ringleaders of said drum circle, and there were many people taking videos of them throughout the game. It was quite infectious.

Announcements were made in Japanese and Spanish, but only for the offense. "Angel Pagan is batting," for example, would be in Spanish. Then Spanish for 3 outs, then when Japan came up, three outs of Japanese. Very odd. When the Japanese batted, the group out in the bleachers would play songs on trumpets and bang those white rally sticks together. Everyone in the stands seemed to know the songs- it seemed there was one for each player, kind of like players here have their walk-up music. The trumpet would play and the fans would sing and the player would bat. Meanwhile, Puerto Rican fans would be drumming and cheering and waving flags with frogs on them.

In the second inning, the Japanese pitcher looked a little shaky and a guy got up in the bullpen. The Japanese pitcher settled down, but Japan kept someone up in the bullpen for the rest of the game. Different guys in the bullpen, but always someone up. Couldn't tell if this was a mental strategy for the guy on the mound or if the manager really was constantly thinking of bringing someone in.

Notably, the Japanese batters did not all charge at the ball or out of the box like I was expecting. There were plenty of right handed batters. Even the pitchers didn't take an exorbitant amount of time on the mound, though they took plenty. The style of baseball on both sides just seemed fairly routine, if a little amateur (duh).

Between innings we were treated to (?) Emeryville Taiko, Irish Dancing (it was St Patrick's Day) and the Orquesta Boriquen.

Lastly, and most importantly, the winner of the dot racing equivalent, Delta flight around the world was RED.


thb said...

Loved the scorebook in Japanese! In Japan, they have specific cheers for each player (let's go, saka-mah-toe) and the most organized fans are in the bleachers.

Great on-the-scene reporting, even if notes taken on a phone