Tim Covers Obscure Sports Leagues No One Asked Him To: The 91st Intercity Baseball Tournament

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Players lined up on the field at the Tokyo Dome before the November 14th game of the 2014 MLB Japan All-Star Series. Tim is so good at finding obscure sports that the digital editors are having trouble finding photos. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Say you are a first-year computer science student still awake at 2 a.m. working on CSE 1729 homework because you can’t quite get a handle on the intricacies of Scheme. The last of the live streamers that you watch for background noise are logging off for the night because even out on the West Coast it is really late. You can’t speak a lick of Japanese so you can’t buy into this new virtual YouTuber craze that has been hitting Twitch, and the college hockey game you plan to catch doesn’t start for another two hours, so what do you watch to fill the gap? Look no further than the 91st Intercity Baseball Tournament, North Kanto 1st Team Finals, live streamed over YouTube to 29,000 eager viewers by the Japanese Amateur Baseball Association. You can’t understand the commentators or the umpires, but baseball is baseball, right? 

I may or may not have found myself in such a position a few nights ago as I was trying to wrap up a particularly difficult problem set. I was waiting for a similarly obscure college hockey game that was to be streamed from a barn in Hokkaido to start, and YouTube gifted me this livestream not knowing the new obsession this would create.  

For some context, the game that I watched was a part of the Northern Kanto Tournament, which is one of the final qualifying stages for teams to be sent to the annual Intercity Baseball Tournament. The Intercity Baseball Tournament, also known as the Summer All-star, is an annual tournament in Japan bringing together the top amateur teams from cities across the country to compete for the coveted Black Lion Flag. Summer All-star is set to be held this year between Nov. 22 and Dec. 3 at the Tokyo Dome.  

The Intercity Baseball Tournament Toshiba 2007. Players line up on the field. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Northern Kanto Tournament game that I caught was what turned out to be the fifth and final day of the tournament, which decided what team would be representing the region. The game was between Hitachi from the city of Hitachi and Nippon Steel Kashima representing the city of Kashima. The game was held at the Gunma-Ota City Athletic Park Baseball Stadium in front of some 200 live fans. People had come out in droves to support each of the teams and developed a loud, exciting atmosphere for a baseball game. There was a particularly loud fan that showed up in support of Hitachi that shouted about every five minutes at the opposing team, really letting them know he was there.  

After nine innings of play, Hitachi was able to defeat Nippon Steel Kashima 4-0 and earn their spot in the Intercity Baseball Tournament. The team scored twice during the second inning to put the team on the board and rounded out the game’s score with a run each in the fourth and seventh innings. Hitachi ended the game with nine hits, five coming from infielder Masanori Tanaka, to Kashima City’s four. Kashima City also had one error on the board. This is the first time in four years that the team has won the top spot in their region for a chance to play in the tournament. Hitachi’s designated hitter Koichiro Yoshia was named the Kanto Tournament’s most valuable player, and Hitachi’s Tanaka earned the tournament’s top batting average of .500 with 10 at bats.  

Kashima City is not out of the running yet for being able to represent Northern Kanto during Summer All-star. Interestingly enough, this tournament actually sends two teams to the nation’s largest amateur tournament. Kashima City is set to play Subaru from Gunma-Ota City in the final game of the Northern Kanto Tournament. The winner of this meeting will join Hitachi at the Tokyo Dome in November.  

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