Giants versus Tigers at the Tokyo Dome: Ben Verlander’s Japanese Diary

By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

Editor’s Note: Ben Verlander is spending time in Japan exploring Shohei Ohtani’s roots, learning about the country’s culture and meeting fans. This is the third in a recurring series which began on Friday August 19.

Hello from a high speed train traveling at 150 mph. World’s fastest land speed article ever written, and you can’t prove it wrong!

On this bullet train, I travel to Iwate, where Shohei Ohtani played baseball in Little League and high school.

On my second day in Japan, we visited Tokyo Dome City and went to a game at Tokyo Dome. When I arrived, I took my usual photo in front of the stadium and was immediately greeted by “Flippin’ Bats” fans who wanted a photo. It will never get old. I’ve traveled halfway around the world, and the love and appreciation for my podcast is special.

After the first day here, I made a point of counting the number of “Flippin’ Bats” fans I met. I had 74 people approach me and I ended up taking hundreds of photos at Tokyo Dome! There was even a fan meeting after the game that I had nothing to do with!

Look “Flippin’ Bats with Ben Verlander” on Youtube, or subscribe on podcast platforms including Apple podcast.

After the photos, I went to the team store to buy a Tokyo Giants jersey, as my mission is to get a home team jersey from every stadium I visit.

It was quite difficult to find a jersey in my size. Mainly because I didn’t know what my size was in Japan.

Fun fact: in this part of the world, I’m a size XO.

Finally, I found the right person for me. It was the jersey of Giants infielder Akihiro Wakabayashi.

From there, it was time to head to the stadium.

The Tokyo Dome is not 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 worth visiting.

First, there is a huge roller coaster called the Thunder Dolphin next to the stadium. There is also the Tokyo Dome Hotel, with the Japanese baseball hall of fame. The Rolling Stones gave a concert there and Mike Tyson suffered the first loss of his career against Buster Douglas at the Tokyo Dome.

The Tokyo Dome was also the venue for 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 goes to the Tokyo Dome

Ben Verlander talks about his amazing experience visiting the Tokyo Dome in Japan, seeing where Ichiro Suzuki played his last match, and seeing where Shohei Ohtani kicked a ball through the roof of the stadium.

From my visits to two Japanese baseball stadiums, one thing stands out: the Japanese don’t mess with stadium food. I think Tokyo Dome has the best food I’ve ever had at a football game. Some standouts included an ice cream sandwich that doubled as a Tokyo Dome model, the best pancake I’ve ever eaten, and a full-size batting helmet filled with nachos, chicken fingers, popcorn, cheese, guacamole and many other ingredients.

The game itself was excellent. Think of the Red Sox against the Yankees, but in Japan it’s the Tokyo Giants against the Hanshin Tigers. The atmosphere was electric and roughly half the fans at the stadium were for the visiting Tigers.

Another thing that caught my eye was an actual line in the outfield separating the two fanbases. 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 blocked by security from crossing the line to the other section.

The day was capped off with an amazing dinner, thanks to a recommendation from Orioles great Adam Jones. Jones played in Japan for a few years and sent me his favorite restaurants, so naturally I had to go to one.

On the way back to the hotel, I absorbed it all. It’s a special place and it’s a trip I will remember all my life.

Ben Verlander is an MLB analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Batspodcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Va., Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before joining his brother, Justin, in Detroit as the Tigers’ 14th-round pick in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @Ben Verlander.

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