By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
Editor’s note: Ben Verlander is spending time in Japan exploring Shohei Ohtani’s roots, experiencing the country’s culture and meeting fans. This is the third in a recurring series that began Friday, Aug. 19.
Hello from a bullet train traveling 150 mph. World’s fastest-land-speed article ever written, and you cannot prove otherwise!
On this bullet train, I am traveling to Iwate, where Shohei Ohtani played Little League and high school baseball.
On my second day in Japan, we visited Tokyo Dome City and went to a game at the Tokyo Dome. Upon arrival, I took my usual photo from in front of the stadium and was immediately met by “Flippin’ Bats” fans wanting a photo. This will never get old. I traveled halfway around the globe, and the love and appreciation for my podcast are special.
After the first day here, I made a point to count just how many “Flippin’ Bats” fans I ran into. I had 74 people approach me and wound up taking hundreds of photos at the Tokyo Dome! There was even a fan meetup after the game that I had nothing to do with!
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After the pictures, it was off to the team store to get a Tokyo Giants jersey, as it is my mission to get a home team jersey from every stadium I visit.
It was quite difficult to find a jersey my size. Particularly because I didn’t know what my size was in Japan.
Fun fact: In this part of the world, I’m size XO.
Finally, I found the right fit for me. It was the jersey of the Giants’ switch-hitting infielder, Akihiro Wakabayashi.
From there, it was time to head into the stadium.
The Tokyo Dome isn’t just an iconic baseball stadium. It is also one of the most famous entertainment venues in the world!
I didn’t know what to expect, but it was immediately apparent that the Tokyo Dome is an experience to visit.
First of all, there’s a massive roller coaster called the Thunder Dolphin next to the stadium. There’s also The Tokyo Dome Hotel, with the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame attached. The Rolling Stones played a concert there, and Mike Tyson was handed the first loss of his career by Buster Douglas at the Tokyo Dome.
The Tokyo Dome was also the location of the final game of Ichiro Suzuki’s baseball career, when the Mariners and Athletics kicked off their season in Tokyo in March 2019.
Ben Verlander goes to the Tokyo Dome
Ben Verlander talks about his incredible experience visiting the Tokyo Dome in Japan, seeing where Ichiro Suzuki played his last game and seeing where Shohei Ohtani hit a ball through the roof of the stadium.
From my visits to two Japanese baseball stadiums, one thing is apparent: The Japanese do not mess around with stadium food. I think the Tokyo Dome has the best food I have ever had at a ballgame. Some standouts included an ice cream sandwich that doubled as a model of the Tokyo Dome, the best crepe I’ve ever consumed and a full-sized batting helmet filled with nachos, chicken fingers, popcorn, cheese, guacamole and many other ingredients.
The game itself was a great one. Think Red Sox vs. Yankees, but in Japan, it’s the Tokyo Giants vs. the Hanshin Tigers. The atmosphere was electric, and just about half the fans in the stadium were for the visiting Tigers.
Another thing that caught my attention was an actual line in the outfield separating the two fan bases. If you are a fan of one team, you cannot cross the line and sit with fans of the other team. One of my producers bought a Tigers jersey and was stopped by security from crossing the line into the other section.
The day was capped off by an incredible dinner, thanks to a recommendation from Orioles great Adam Jones. Jones played in Japan for a few years and sent me his favorite dinner spots, so naturally, I had to go to one.
On the walk back to the hotel, I just soaked it all in. This is a special place, and it’s a trip I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.
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