Friday, April 1 – Play Ball

Sendai needs something to cheer and their pro baseball team might help galvanize the stricken city.

The Rakuten Eagles fans launch thousands of screeching balloons into the air to celebrate their team’s success in a June 2010 game.

Photo: Ian Schumaker

If ever there was a time to get the professional baseball season underway in Japan, this is it. Japanese Professional Baseball is still wrestling with the decision whether or not to start the upcoming season on time or to delay it in honor of the victims of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Now more than ever, Sendai needs the Eagles to throw out the season’s first pitch.

Photo: Ian Schumaker

Baseball in Japan is truly a national sport that is followed feverishly by its fans from coast to coast. Calling some of them rabid is an understatement. Stadiums boast entire cheering sections that never sit during a game. They have cheerleaders. They wave huge flags. They dress in costumes in their team’s colors. They launch screeching balloons by the thousands.

As Tohoku’s largest city, Sendai is home to a professional baseball team—the Rakuten Eagles. Last June, Yasue and Ian were treated to a couple of games as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of the clubhouse and other areas of Rakuten’s Kleenex Stadium (yes, that Kleenex). The owner of HONOLULU Magazine, aio Hawaii, has a long-standing business relationship with Japanese baseball through our Hawaii Winter Baseball Foundation. Through those connections, Yasue and Ian were treated to the stadium tour.

When talking with Ian over the weekend, we both wondered if everyone in the Eagles’ organization were OK. We also wondered if the team would be able to start their season on time. "I hope so," Ian said. "The city needs something to cheer."

He is right. Sendai needs something to cheer and the Eagles can provide the healing boost northern Japan so desperately needs. Would starting the season clear the debris and magically rebuild the coastal towns? No, those more pressing problems would still remain. However, it would provide one more sure sign that despite the horrific quake and tsunami, life in Sendai is slowly returning to normal. And, what’s more normal than dressing up in wild costumes and launching thousands of screeching balloons into the air? These fans deserve an opportunity to cheer. Play Ball! 

HONOLULU Magazine’s owner, aio, is organizing a fundraiser for Tohoku University Hospital. Click here for details.