Growing up in three of Canada’s provincial capitals Winnipeg, Manitoba, Regina, Saskatchewan, and Edmonton, Alberta, all I knew and cared about was hockey. Whether it was winter, spring, summer, or autumn didn’t really matter. If we could get enough people and find a rink or street, we played. It was that simple. I loved it. I never really thought about how much it dominated my childhood until coming to Japan.
Since coming to Japan about eight years ago, I’ve met countless foreigners and Japanese who have thankfully introduced me to the “Wide World of Sports”. I had always followed the sports pages, but never really took the time to get into any other sports. What a shame I waited so long!!
First there was football (soccer). It swept over me like a wave during the World Cup of Soccer. I was amazed at how exciting it can be. I even started playing a bit with the kids in the Junior High, but soon realized I missed the boat on my footie career. Next, there was golf. I used to think it was an extremely boring and slow sport. Then, a couple of foreign friends took me to a driving range and short course. I quickly learned that it was more challenging and enjoyable than it looked. It’s even a bit of exercise if you walk the course. It sure is stress-relieving punishing that small golf ball with a driver.
I even got into bowling, American football, rugby, and cycling for a bit.
Lastly and most importantly, I discovered baseball. When I first arrived in Japan, back in 1999, I started the Smith School of English Moriguchi Franchise. It was in Moriguchi, that destiny would lead me to a small izakaya full of crazed Hanshin Tiger fans. I don’t mean crazed in a bad way. Better put, I’d say they were extremely passionate about their team. Luckily for me, they were intent on sharing their passion, knowledge of baseball, and an invite to Koshien!!! So, I went to my first professional baseball game at Koshien and watched my new favorite team in the world lose the game. Then I went again and they lost again. This trend continued and still does to this date, but the thrill and excitement of those fans at Koshien is an experience that everyone should have at least once. You can learn the cheers, sing the songs, and eat and drink till your heart is content.
I was so moved by the Japanese baseball experience that I have since become a fan of Major League Baseball and have started my own baseball team here in Japan. We’re called “The Wolf Pack”. We’re made up of mostly foreigners, many of whom had also played and watched baseball for the first time in Japan. I’m the Canadian hockey guy playing third base, the Australian cricketer is the catcher, our first baseman is the tennis star, and our pitcher is a pretty darn good bowler. We play on a beautiful natural grass field in the mountains near Tondabayashi. Clearly too much for us, but it really is our “Field of Dreams”. Had I not gone to that first Hanshin Tiger game, I’m not sure what I’d be doing this summer, but it’s a safe bet that the ice skates will packed away for a while. Batter up….