A Japan Women's Baseball League Primer - My First Game in Sendai

 Yesterday, I posted about going to a Golden Eagles game, but there are (at least) two large baseball stadiums in Sendai. The second stadium is more suited to an independent, semi-pro, minor league or college team, but certainly with a large draw. This is the view from outside the right field fence.
 JWBL has a league of four teams with homes based on regions of Japan (more on this later). The teams essentially barnstorm around the country, although they play several games in the Tokyo area. Actually, they play two-day tournaments - the first day, two games are played; the losers of those games face each other the next day for the third place finish, then the winner play for the series championship. Each team has a win-loss record for all the games it plays as well as a tournament victory record. Of course, there are several tournaments over the course of the year, and the two best teams at the end of the year face off for the yearly championship. Overall, this yearly series is called the Tiara Cup.
 There are also All-Star games, where two teams combine into one and face off against the best players from the other two teams. The all-star games are the Victoria Series. Plus, at the end of the year is a tournament called the Japan Cup. Overall, the league's format is a little confusing but at this point in its life it's all about providing exciting games.
 I arrived a little later than I had hoped, so I missed a little bit of the first game. They play seven innings here, and the rules are essentially the same as regular baseball.
This actual stadium is at Sendai Shindenhigashi Comprehensive Playground. There's an indoor pool, skate park, track, and more here. It's nothing special, but it was still a nice place to catch a game. It's about 10 minutes from the nearest station.
 The games are fun. It's what you'd expect from a women's baseball league - there are some players who can drive the ball well but there's a lot of small ball. My ticket (about $20) included both games' general admission. There is a small cheer section for each team and some fans follow a certain team, but most attendees are there just to see the game.

Food is pretty limited. At the Sendai event, there was a crepe cart and some other food from a cart, as well as drinks (including beer). You could probably bring your own too, though I'd advise bringing it from downtown Sendai. There isn't much selection on the way, though there is a major cross street on the walk from the station which could still have a 7-Eleven or other convenience store.

As for souvenirs, if you can navigate the Japanese website you'll see everything they have for sale - essentially team goods and an annual program/yearbook. I'd like to get a hat and jersey... There's also a custom baseball card printer on-site - you can get cards made of yourself which you then trade with the players after the game. That's something I have to do next year.
 At the end of each game, they do a hero and manager interview, similar to the NPB. Games are broadcast on YouTube, so there's a reason for the video camera.
 And each team has their own mascot. I managed to capture two of them on this visit. I have to be more observant this year...
 Have you ever seen a baseball team dance? Before the hero interview, after the game, the winning team does a dance. I think it's the same dance for each team, or it's very similar. Some players aren't very good at dancing...
 Anyway, the interviews run just like NPB interviews. Afterwards, the heroes toss a couple game-used baseballs into the stands. By the way, this seems to be the only way to get game balls, because the ushers come around and collect foul balls during the game. I'd really like to get a game ball for my collection, and yes, I'm willing to pay for it!
 I attended the championship game, so I was able to see the trophy ceremony. All four teams line up.
 The blue team is South Dione. The Japan Cup, the end-of-the-year playoff series, was won by Dione. A Dione seems to be an angel; their blue mascot has angel wings on her head. Originally, South Dione was Hyogo Swing Smileys, formed in 2010.
 West Flora is the red team. They are the only team with "girly" colors in their uniform (some pink in the hat). Their mascot is the pink flower above. They were originally the Kyoto Astro Dreams, from 2010.
 The team with black sleeves and Astros colors is the East Astraia. The strange orange mascot is theirs, which based on the team name is probably a sun. Astraia was a new team formed in 2013.
 Finally, North Reia has light blue uniforms, but a green mascot that looks somewhat like a four-leaf clover. The team was created in 2012 as the Osaka Brabee Honeys.

During Victoria Series games, West and South become All West Japan, and North and East become All East Japan.
Flora won this tournament, beating Reia on the first day, 2-0, and Astraia 3-0 in the final. Reia beat Dione 9-5 for third place.

Through 2012, the league was called the Girls Professional Baseball League, but became JWBL in 2013 with the new format.

I'm a little disappointed in myself, because I had planned to go to more games last year, but I only made it to two dates. In 2014, I expect to go to a few more events. I'd like to get my own cards made to trade with the players and hopefully collect some autographs too! They haven't announced their schedule yet, but as long as they play in the Tokyo area while I'm in town, I'll be sure to catch a few games.

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