Results tagged ‘ Osaka ’

2014 MLB Japan Tour – Making friends through baseball


koshein crowd

A whirlwind couple weeks of baseball in Japan has come to an end and with it some fond memories.  This is one of the greatest international events MLB puts on every couple years.   We worked side by side with our Japanese friends to  renovate and maintain 5 different ballparks where the MLB All-stars took on the Japan Samurai.   Crisscrossing Japan from Okinawa to Sapporo with stops in Osaka and Tokyo was fun but challenging.   We had the chance to meet some really awesome people along the way, see some old friends and make a lot of new ones.  Its so cool spending time with folks that tend to fields and work on stadiums around the world that speak the same language…baseball!  Its truly unique that event though we actually speak different languages that when were working on the field we understood each other and what we were trying to achieve.    This tour is really about building friendships through sport and I can say in that regard it was a major success.

MLB has been playing in Japan for over 80 years and this tour celebrated that relationship.  The Japanese and Americans share a passion for a sport that we both call our national past time.  This tour brought us to some new destinations that allowed us to develop new relationships by working together on the fields and ballparks.   We learned new exciting things from one another such as equipment and materials they use vs what we use.

Note:  We actually started a little more than a week before the event started prepping fields around various other events that were being held at each venue before the all star tour. .

koshein crew

Day 1-4 – Our first stop was in Osaka where we spent time with the ground crew and local ballpark staff preparing the field and venue for the first exhibition game at Koshien stadium, Home to the Hanshin tigers.  The history of the field resonates each time I spoke with members of the ground crew and staff.   There are quite a few interesting facts about this ballpark built in the early 1920’s with an original capacity of 80000. Over the years the size was reduced and now holds about 40k. Baseball actually started in this country around 1870 and the MLB tour has been a true exchange of values and cultures since the 1920s.

In 1934 Connie Mack brought a group of MLB all stars on a tour of Japan stopping to play in Koshien.    Eighty years ago players on the 1934 team of all stars included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Fox, Lefty Gomez and one interesting journeyman Moe Berg.  What I find fascinating about Moe being on this team is that he was supposedly not in koshien the day they played at the park in front of a sold-out crowd.   According to various stories from the locals he was supposedly in Tokyo filming parts of Japan. This film was eventually used by the CIA.  A book written later after World War 2 called “A catcher and a spy” outlines some of Moe’s history as a spy for the CIA. There is also a large plaque in a green garden located beside the stadium that sports the bust of babe Ruth and the importance of the 1934 tour.

koshien st

As for the history behind Koshiens darker black Infield color, it is a sandy mix with a little silt and a very small amount of clay.  There is some volcanic ash and local organics that attribute to the dark color.   It truly is hallowed ground for many reasons and we highly respected that heritage as we worked on the field.  We asked about ways to firm it up but we’re told of the history and respected their request.   Shortly after only re-building the mound and homeplate with small amounts of  MLB clays from the states,  Kanazowa-san the head curator of the field wanted to see the soil conditioner we brought over.   Obviously the red color was something they were concerned about but he was very interested in the properties of the product.  One thing led to another and he agreed to allow us to use the red conditioner on the mound and batter’s box.    So for the first time since the ballpark was constructed, there was a little color on this field (which will be removed shortly after we leave). But the real story is that he wanted to see what it did and how it was used and if he liked the product,  we explained that he could have it dyed black to match Koshiens black infield mix perfectly.

Day 2. Obviously pulling off an event like this at multiple parks requires some scheduling and help so our Brickman sportsturf team was composed of Chad Olsen, Eric Ogden, Zach Zverson and Isaiah Lienau.   These guys worked some long long shifts while crossing Japan a few times overseeing the field preparations.

osaka dome photo

Day 3 –  the Osaka dome is what we called it,  but it’s actually the Kyocera dome.  Located about 20 minutes from koshien.  Ewata-San is the head groundskeeper of this busy venue. ( sorry about spelling Ewata-san)  We helped him re-build of the mounds, bullpen and touched up homeplate.  Outside of that it was pretty easy.   What a great crew to work with and so respectful of not only the field but everyone and everything in the stadium.   This dome was designed with crazy acoustics.   You can stand in a spot directly under second base in the center and produce the perfect echo that is so clear it’s scary.   I worked with ewata 10 years ago this year when the tour came through.   So cool to see him and see how he has continued to make his field look and play so well regardless of the extremely high use.

osaka

Day 4 – this was a travel day to Tokyo for the team.  I took a quick day trip to Okinawa to see how the field renovation was coming along and check in with Isaiah.   Chad and Eric were spending another all-nighter prepping the dome in Tokyo for the next 3 games.  Photo below is the MASKED-MEN of the Tokyo dome.  Having fun. 

tokyo dome masked men

Day 5-7. The Tokyo dome has quite the history with MLB events. We have played several openers and all star tours at the Tokyo dome. These 3 games Friday Saturday and Sunday were all sell outs. The ground crew was led by kaweke and tamba.  I’m writing these names as they sound not by the exact spelling.  This is another venue that goes through some major transitions for other events.  We have worked with these talented young me since they were entry level on the crew and now they are the Chiefs…along with the “masked-man” and “mama boss.”   Always nice to see them.  photo below is Osaka dome crew

sapporo dome crew

Day 8.  Another travel day to Sapporo stadium located in the northern part of the country. Basically on the same latitude as upstate New York.   What a cool city. I mean that literal as well since when we arrived it was snowing with a few inches on the ground.  Thankful for the dome in this city!

Day 9.  The Sapporo dome is massive.  Hosting some serious indoor sports including the ability to move a soccer field in and out of the venue in just 3 hours.   The roll up turf was installed in 12 hours for our game.   We had to work in hard hats dung the mound, base-pit and homeplate  renovations.

Day 10.  Another travel day to Okinawa.  This was almost a 4 hour flight taking us from a place compared from Maine to Key West.

okinawa crew

Day 11. And final game in Okinawa at cellular field was nice.  The field played pretty good and was similar to koshien with an all infield clay area. This field had a heck of crown at almost 1. % fall from around the mound so raising the mound and home-plate as needed.  Also we were able to add a little bit of clay to several spots around the infield. It was clay from Sapporo. This helped us in these areas as the infield skin here was much sandier than koshien.   Another sellout crowd and great weather and crew to work with.

All in All, the entire event was a success. The Japan samurai won the tour this time.  First one since 1990.   they had a great team and that played the All stars with a lot of heart.  The Japan Samurai won 4 of seven from the entire series.   Ewata-san came down from Osaka to help us at this field.  Obviously we couldn’t have completed all this work without the help of our interpreters yomuri’s sato-san and MLB’s ryo-san. These guys went above and beyond the call of duty to help us navigate the country and obtain the things we needed at the parks. Forever indebted to them and more importantly their friendship.   I wish we could have an overall team photo of this entire Japan field contingency group but at least we got a few of each ground crew.  Really cool event in a cool country.

okinawa field

We can learn a lot from other cultures.  Having had the privilege to travel to various countries I enjoy sharing what I’ve seen and learned with many of you.  I receive a lot of positive feed-back from readers of this blog and I thank you for the kind words.   I write this blog for my own pleasure meaning “I’m not paid to blog”…and hopefully things shared will help someone with their field.  The world is really not that big and when we engage ourselves in other cultures and meet new people it puts things in perspective.   Thanks again to all the Japanese groundcrews and for a job well done and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

2014 MLB Japan All-Star Tour ballparks


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The 2014 MLB all star series will be held the first couple weeks of November.  The best of five series will be played in the Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo domes with two exhibitions planned at  Okinawa and Koshien.  The history of the Japan All star tour event dates back quite a ways.  This will be the 36th time a group of MLB players will travel to Japan to compete in a friendly series and the 11th All Star tour.

IMAG1283 during the site checks our first stop was Okinawa. A small island located way south of the mainland.  It’s about a 2 hour flight from Osaka.  There is a lot of history in Okinawa as it was considered the turning point of WWII.  This is a really cool ballpark which sports a Japanese traditional baseball field which is composed of an all dirt infield.   Japanese players have been competing on these type of fields for over 75 years.     It’s a 25000 seat park and it was very loud and clear that the Okinawans are excited about hosting an exhibition game.    There is a large  military base located near by and  I’m sure there will be some serious fans supporting their favorite MLB and Japan All stars.

IMAG1309

There are two parks proposed for competition in Osaka.   Koshien stadium is the older venue with the most history of baseball in the country.   Connie Mac brought a tour here in 1934  featuring the likes of Babe Ruth and others.  In the early 90’s  MLB international  and the players union had another tour which stopped by koshien.    The park is truly unique hosting the national high school tournament every year.  The park is packed for these games.  The venue has a  all dirt infield, big foul territory and a natural grass outfield. Koshien stadium is about a 30 minutes drive from the Osaka dome.

IMAG1331The other venue planned for games is  the Osaka dome.  I remember last time it was for the 2004 MLB all-star series.   It was good seeing old friends and more importantly seeing the mound and homeplate improvements they had made.    They did an amazing job at matching the infield clay around the base pits with the synthetic turf color.

DSC06259The 4th planned venue is in Sapporo  and it is also a domed ballpark.  Again this is another impressive dome with huge foul territory and a synthetic turf surface.   The outfield wall is about 20ft tall and the distance to the fence is respectable at 330 down the lines and 400 to center.  This venue has the ability to open the center field wall and “float”  in a regulation size natural grass soccer pitch.    The size of the building is massive.  I was told by the local management that the entire Tokyo dome can fit inside this dome!

MLB Opener in Japan 2008
The Main venue for the games will be in Tokyo at the ever so popular and well-known “big-egg” .     The big news for this venue is it has a new synthetic turf surface which was really needed.  The amount of events this facility sees is truly impressive. Always great to see and work with our friends at Yomuri and the grounds staff in the Tokyo dome.

Looking forward to the tour and  working with our Japanese friends.

Tokyo Dome Prepares for 2013 MLB Opening Series


Plans are well underway on the field and ballpark improvements at the Tokyo dome for the 2013 MLB Opening Series.  Teams arrive tomorrow,  practice saturday then back to back double headers before the opening games on weds and thursday between the A’s and Mariners .    Reconstruction of bullpens, homeplates, mounds, base pits, turf repairs, etc… took place over a 38hour time frame due to the event constraints around the opening series…The guys worked in shifts from the crew but there were a few Yomuri warriors  along with the  grounds supervisors that worked  straight through along with Chad-son an Murray-son.    The dome is a slightly pressurized facility that helps support the roof membrane that covers the stadium. Built in 1988 on the old Velodrome site,  you can still walk in the outfield and see the track railings.   Every time you leave the park your ears pop from the pressure in the building.

This is our 5th time working in the “egg”.   The staff has always been great and they recently made a few changes.  The head groundskeeper Hoshimoto an his trusty assistant Suzuki retired last year  after working 50+ years with yomuri giants and the Tokyo dome .  They look like they are both 40!   A true inspiration to sportsturf managers around the world.  50 years with one company!   Hoshimoto  was telling me about the earthquakes and how the dome was swaying last night.    What’s cool is they promoted Tamba and Kohike from within showing consistency and loyalty to the young guys on the crew.   The Dome is showing its age but at the sametime versatility to be able to host major events throughout the year similar to the rogers centre in toronto.

Going to be a fun event…i really like not having that big  tarp to mess with!

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