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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Game Review: World Baseball Classic March 13, 2017 Israel vs. The Netherlands

I finally saw my first WBC game, and I certainly enjoyed myself, with some reservations.

Monday is my day off, so I started the day at my new favorite taco place in town, Tex Mex Factory. Located in Shibuya, they offer an all-you-can-eat taco bar with free soft drinks (that also have free refills) for about 1000 yen. Starting April 1, the price will go up to 1080 yen, but that's still a pretty good bargain. This is my second trip, and neither visit netted me any beef for my tacos, but the pork and chicken are both pretty good. I'd avoid the fish, unless you're really into that sort of thing.

I swung by Card Fanatic, but with no new releases in Japan lately I left empty handed. I could have sprung for a pack of 2017 Donruss or 2017 Heritage, but I instead saved my money for better card purchasing decisions (which yet to have been made). A couple subway rides later and I was at Tokyo Dome City. They have an amusement park and shopping options so I killed some time wandering around the area outside of the dome while I waited for the gates to open. Two large souvenir booths are set up on either side of the main gate, both selling identical items which are also identical (and identically priced) to those that can be found in the main store located next to the Hall of Fame and inside the gates too.

I didn't buy any souvenirs. I considered a program, but at 1500 yen I felt I wouldn't get much use out of it (printed in Japanese). And as long as I stick around in Japan long enough, I'll probably come across one much cheaper at a used book store as a souvenir. There were no cards inside - if they had put some free cards inside the program I would have bought one. As far as prices go, they were typically Japanese overpriced. For example, an official ball from the WBC was about 6000 yen. Yikes!

The gates opened at 4:30, so I got to see both teams go through batting practice. Israel went first and showed off a bit of lefty power, while the Netherlands' strength came from the right side of the plate. I couldn't tell who, but someone on the Netherlands was hitting the outfield upper deck in left field during BP.

Now here's where things get a bit...annoying. Any ball hit out of the stands during batting practice had to be dropped back onto the field. Security guards and ushers were in place in the stands (as they usually are) to chase after people to retrieve these balls. If a player tossed a ball up to you, it was yours to keep, but anything hit had to be returned. Now where's the fun in that? I call that being a cheapskate on the part of the WBC. Do they do the same thing at the WBC in other places? Does anyone know? I haven't seen BP in Japan in a long time so I don't really remember what they do at NPB games.
I got a ball anyway. Suck on that, WBC. Seriously, after paying 10,000 yen for a ticket (the cheapest available for this game was 5000 yen, and the cheapest I've seen for any game is 4000 yen), they could let you keep a BP ball that cost them all of $3. (Maybe they just want to wring you for another 6000 yen for the ball from the souvenir stand. By the way, again, how much does the WBC ball cost at other stadiums?)

I didn't eat anything at the game. I was still stuffed from lunch, and food options weren't too appetizing. One stand had some typically Japanese convenience store-style food at stadium prices, and another with overpriced hot dogs. Downstairs there is a Pizza-la and a Kentucky Fried Chicken, but nothing really stood out as appealing. Other than maybe the beer and jumbo-sized french fries (1300 yen). I saved my money again.

So, finally, after the festivities - lineup announcements, exchange of lineup cards, and national anthems - the game got underway. My seat was in the "Excite Seats" section. It's right at field level and not blocked by a net. They give you a helmet and a glove to wear (yes, I wore both, just to fit in I guess). Balls did come my way, but I wasn't able to get one. Actually, I was going to move my seat just a bit and a ball landed right at that seat... before I moved. So I just stayed put, and really it made no difference after that because no other balls actually came into the section (grounders by the wall, though, did).
Didi Gregorius and The Netherlands run-ruled Israel 12-2 in eight innings. Actually, they got off to a 10-0 start, getting two runs, four runs, and four runs over three innings, but Israel stayed alive by getting a home run by Nate Freiman and later one more run. The game was over after two more unanswered runs were scored in the eighth. Gregorius hit a two-run homer and Japan favorite Wladimir Balentein got two RBI singles to help their team. Jair Jurrjens, who I haven't seen pitch since I lived in Atlanta, gave six solid innings. And I didn't realize this until game time, but The Netherlands manager is Hensley Meulens, who is a favorite player of a certain blogger I know.

Possibly due to the time of week, there weren't many fans in the stands. Weeknight games are usually poorly attended, and given the lack of interest in two foreign teams playing, the seats were mostly empty. However, when I was buying my ticket, only a few were available for sale. I wonder if that means that most of the tickets were sold to season ticket holders who just decided not to come or to people who were hoping to see Japan. Or if etix, the website I was linked to from the WBC site for buying my ticket, only had a few tickets available with the rest locked up by Lawson, a convenience store chain here which sells event tickets too.

A small crowd made things fun, though. I could hear the chatter on the field and people yelling from the other side of the stadium. It was like being at a minor league game, which I love. And there was no constant cheering or music being played like at normal NPB games; that's a lot of fun in its own right but it was good to have a break from it.
I also managed to get a 2017 Yomiuri Giants schedule while I was there.

Will I go to another WBC game? Well, not this year - I won't have another chance. But in four years, if I'm in the right place at the right time, I'll certainly consider it. But given the prices, I'll have to think long and hard. It was definitely worth it to have gone once.

So, what have your experiences attending WBC games been like?

3 comments:

  1. How close were you to that Andrelton Simmons double in the fourth? I was looking for you on the video - it looked like the ball landed right in front of the Excite! seats.

    I had a great time at the WBC games in 2013 but since it was my first exposure to games in Japan I didn't have anything to compare it to. I avoided souvenirs for several reasons - price, language and lack of any shirts in my size. I did find the food at the Tokyo Dome to kind of suck - and given that I was there five straight evenings I tried a lot of it. I thought the curry on the lower level (the one beneath the lower level of seats) wasn't too bad but I was amazed that they could find a way to make Johnsonville brats unappetizing.

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  2. Wow, cool! I won't be going to any WBC games but have taken a couple in on TV.

    And I agree that it is ridiculous for them to demand BP balls back, but its cool that you got one. How did you evade the ushers? When I was 13 I got a foul ball at a game between the Expos and the Giants (hit by Ernie Riles), it was the highlight of my youth.

    About the lack of tickets, likely there are companies which buy up blocks of them for employees or clients, who on receiving them probably think "Israel vs Netherlands? No thanks." and just don't go. When we lived in Fukuoka my wife's company used to sometimes give tickets to Hawks games to her and other employees, which was kind of cool (except that once they gave her tickets to a game and then didn't give her time off to actually go and see it, so I went alone).

    And I agree with NPB Guy about the horrible food, it is pervasive at all Japanese baseball stadiums.

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  3. I haven't gone to a WBC game yet... but I'm pretty sure I'll go one day. And when I do... I'll definitely chow down on ballpark food. It's half the experience for me ;)

    P.S. Congratulations on getting a ball!

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