One of the most popular sports in the world that has such a long history behind it is baseball. Especially in Japan, baseball is so popular that there are some fans that anticipate the games and book tickets in advance just to ensure that they have the best seats to watch and support their team. One of the teams that were formed when baseball began to gain popularity in Japan is the Hanshin Tigers.
The History Behind the Hanshin Tigers Team
Considered as among the oldest professional baseball teams in the country, the Hanshin Tigers team was founded on the 10th of December in the year 1935. A year later, the team was formed in the year 1936. Initially, the name of the team was the Osaka Tigers. Due to anti-foreign sentiment, the name was altered to the Hanshin Tigers in the year 1940. Seven years later, the name was reverted back to Osaka Tigers before finally assuming the name Hanshin Tigers in the year 1961.
Prior to the establishment of the two league system in the year 1950, the team had already won four titles. The two league system is composed of the Central League and the Pacific League. Since applying this system, the team was able to win the Central League pennant five times. There were in the years 1962, 1964, 1985, 2003, and 2005. The team was also able to win in the Japan Series in the year 1985.
The Hanshin Tigers was given the opportunity to play in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees during the Major League Season in Japan in the year 2004. The game was held on the 29th of March at the Tokyo Dome. Having practiced vigorously prior to the game, the Hanshin Tigers emerged victorious at 11-7.
The team is so famous in Japan that millions of people attend the games hosted by the Hanshin Tigers. The games that they hosted in the years 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009 were able to amass over three million attendees each. Out of the 12 Nippon Professional Baseball teams, only the Hanshin Tigers were able to achieve this feat. It was on the 31st of January in the year 2007 that the Tiger uniforms were presented for the season.
The home field of the Hanshin Tigers is the Koshien Stadium. Usually, several high school baseball teams coming from different parts of the country visit and play in the Koshien Stadium for national championship tournaments. These events are typically held in the seasons of spring and summer.
Because the summer tournament falls in the middle of the season of the Tigers, the professional baseball team has to take a yearly road trip that lasts for three weeks to give way for the tournament. There have also been well-known players that played as Hanshin Tigers throughout its history. These include Fumio Fujimura, Minoru Murayama, Masayuki Kakefu, Asaru Kageura, Yutaka Enatsu, and Randy Bass.
Due to the intensity of the fans when it comes to supporting the Hanshin Tigers, there have been incidents when the fans went overboard in showing their support for the team. The most well-known incident is when the fans grabbed the mascot of KFC and threw it into the river due to its resemblance to Hanshin Tiger Randy Bass. After this incident, the Hanshin Tiger coincidentally failed to win any titles for several seasons.
When the team finally reached the Japan Series after an 18-year drought in the year 2003, fans were again ecstatic. However, several KFC outlets located in Osaka and Kobe hid their Colonel Sanders throughout the season upon seeing that the Hanshin Tigers had the best record in the Central League. This action was motivated to protect their mascots from being victimized by the Tigers fans yet again.
Hanshin Koshien Stadium: Home of the Hanshin Tigers
More commonly known as the Hanshin Koshien Kyujo in Japanese, the Hanshin Koshien Stadium serves as the home of the Hanshin Tigers. Situated close to Kobe in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, the baseball park is usually just called the Koshien Stadium. The reason why the stadium was built was to serve as the location of national high school tournaments. When it was opened on the 1st of August in the year 1924, the stadium was the biggest one in Asia.
Many may wonder where the name Koshien came from. It was based on the Sexagenary cycle system. The year when the stadium was founded was the first year kochi in the cycle system. One of the major influences in the design of the well-known stadium is the Polo Grounds located in the city of New York. The stadium only began to serve as the home of the Hanshin Tigers in the year 1936. Because of its connection to the Hanshin Tigers, the stadium finally incorporated the word “Hanshin” to its name on the 14th of February in the year 1964.
The stadium serves as the host for the annual National High School Baseball Championship, which is held every month of August. In addition, it also hosts the yearly National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament, which is held every month of March. Both tournaments are commonly known in Japan as Koshien.
Even though the stadium serves as the home of the Hanshin Tigers, it still prioritizes the high school tournaments to be held there. After all, the stadium was originally built for this purpose. Hence, if there are any conflicts between the schedule of the high school tournaments and the home games of the Hanshin Tigers, the latter would have to be postponed and rescheduled.
Aside from the high school national tournaments, the stadium also serves as the host of the Koshien Bowl, an American college football national championship game in Japan. The stadium was also graced by the presence and performance of the legendary baseball player Babe Ruth during his Japan tour in the year 1934. A plaque was made in order to commemorate the event.
In all of Japan, the Koshien Stadium is also among the three primary stadiums that utilize natural grass. The two other stadiums are the Hotto Motto Field Kobe and the Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. The Hotto Motto Field Kobe serves as the part-time home of the Orix Buffaloes while the Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium serves as the home of the Hiroshima Toyo Carps.
Only the Koshien Stadium consists of an all-dirt infield. The other two fields mentioned incorporates an American-style infield. Furthermore, the stadium is also the oldest one in the country. The stadium is owned by Hanshin Electric Railway Co., Ltd. On the other hand, it is operated by both the Hanshin Tiger Co. and Hanshin Engei Co.
On the day it opened, the stadium had an approximate capacity of 60,000. However, not all seats were completed yet. Upon its completion, the capacity increased to 80,000. It decreased to 55,000 in the year 2001. Two years later, the capacity declined to 53,000. From 2004 to 2007, the capacity became 50,454. The number further declined to 46,229 in the year 2008. Some seats were fixed and the capacity increase to 47,808 in the year 2009 to 2011. At present, the capacity of the stadium is 47,757.
The left field of the stadium has a size of 95 meters, which is equivalent to 312 feet, while the left-center field has a size of 118 meters, which is equivalent to 387 feet. Both the center field and the right-center field have a size of 118 meters while the right field can be measured at 95 meters. It is typical for the left and right fields to have the same measurement.
Due to the age of the stadium, many consider the Koshien to be a “sacred” ballpark. In fact, it is traditional for some players to bow prior to entering the stadium as well as before exiting the hallowed field. It is also customary for the losing team of a high school baseball game to take some dirt from the infield, as these are considered “holy soil.”
Fans Shopping for Merchandise Like Hats/Caps, Jerseys, and Tickets
While every professional baseball team has its own set of fans, probably the most fanatical of them all are the fans of the Hanshin Tigers. More often than not, Tigers fans outnumber the fans of rival teams even in the latter’s home courts. This shows just how dedicated Tigers fans are to the team. Back in the day, Tigers fans were also known to engage in brawls against other fans although these seldom happen these days.
Similar to other fan traditions, it is customary for Tigers fans to release thousands of air-filled balloons into the air following the 7th inning stretch. Simultaneously, the Tigers also sing the Tigers’ fight song in support of the team. This tradition is not confined in the home field but is done in all Tigers games except when the opponent is the Yomiuri Giants.
In fact, the biggest rival of the Hanshin Tigers is considered to be the Yomiuri Giants. It is considered a national Japanese rivalry, much like the rivalry between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. It can also be likened to the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry in Major League Baseball or the rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spanish football.
The Tigers fans also wear the colors of the Hanshin Tigers. Team uniforms, jerseys, and caps of yellow, white, and black are worn by fans to show their support for the Hanshin Tigers. These merchandises can be bought in several baseball stores and may get out of stock once the baseball season begins.
As for the tickets, fans can buy them online. Hence, even people from overseas can get access to the tickets. Simply go to the page where tickets can be reserved known as Ko-Ticket. People may also use their phones to purchase the tickets. Payments via credit cards that carry JCB, MasterCard, or VISA are accepted. After purchasing the tickets, buyers would get a QR code to be shown at the pickup stand in the stadium. Should the game be postponed due to inclement weather, the ticket is refunded via the credit card company.
The prices of the tickets vary depending on the day and the type of seat. The different types of seats are Ivy Seats, Breeze Seats, First Base Alps Seats, Third Base Alps Seats, Right Outfield Seats, and Left Outfield Seats. The prices also differ based on whether the person is a child or an adult.
Its Current Roster of Players and Game Schedule for 2018
At present, the Hanshin Tigers are under the management of Tomoaki Kanemoto. The pitchers of the team are Takumi Akiyama, Koyo Aoyagi, Kosuke Baba, Rafael Dolis, Daiki Enokida, Kyuji Fujikawa, Shintaro Fujinami, Kosuke Fujitani, Shungo Fukunaga, Masumi Hamachi, Tsuyoshi Ishizaki, Kazuo Ito, Yuta Iwasada, Minoru Iwata, Suguru Iwazaki, Kentaro Kuwahara, Yen-Ching Lu, Joichiro Maki, Marcos Mateo, Ryoma Matsuda, Randy Messenger, Atsushi Mochizuki, Diego Moreno, Koki Moriya, Atsushi Nomi, Yosuke Okamoto, Yuya Onaka, Taiki Ono, Hiroto Saiki, Hiroya Shimamoto, Akifumi Takahashi, Haruto Takahashi, Daichi Takeyasu, Masaki Tanigawa, Shoya Yamamoto, and Yuya Yokoyama.
Currently, the team has seven catchers for this season. These catchers are Shinya Azuhata, Fumihito Haraguchi, Shinji Komiyama, Kenya Nagasaka, Taichi Okazaki, Seishiro Sakamoto, and Ryutaro Umeno. As for infielders, the team has Fumiya Araki, Fumiya Hojo, Ryota Imanari, Kento Itohara, Takahiro Kumagai, Yuto Morikoshi, Naoto Nishida, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Yusuke Oyama, Wilin Rosario, Takashi Toritani, Kai Ueda, Hiroki Uemoto, Noriharu Yamazaki, and Naomasa Yokawa.
Outfielders in the team are Taiga Egoshi, Shunsuke Fujikawa, Kosuke Fukudome, Yutaro Itayama, Hayata Ito, Yoshio Itoi, Masahiro Nakatani, Ryosuke Ogata, Kairi Shimada, and Shun Takayama. The Hanshin Tigers also have their own developmental squad. As of today, it is composed of two pitchers, namely, Masaki Ishii and Hiroaki Saiuchi, and an outfielder named Shintaro Yokota.
As with all professional baseball teams in Japan, the Hanshin Tigers began their game schedule around March to April. Their schedule for 2018 will end in the month of September. Their specific game schedules can be found on various baseball websites. Hence, for the huge fans of the Hanshin Tigers, it is highly recommended to purchase tickets as early as possible so that they would be able to get the best seats. Wear yellow to show utmost support and cheer on for the growling Hanshin Tigers.