On a recent vacation in Tokyo, my wife and I had the opportunity catch a Yakult Swallows game. The vibe in the stadium on a weekday night felt like a cross between watching live college football and European soccer, mixing the volume of the former with the chants of the latter. While American baseball columnists endlessly debate the unspoken rules of the sport, drawing lines on just how much fun players and fans can have, the game in Japan felt unpredictable and unabashedly ecstatic.
I was thrilled to discover that same joyful attitude applies to the ceremonial first pitch. At a recent Nippon-Ham Fighters game, two movie monsters — The Ring's Sadako and The Grudge's Kayako — faced off. There's so much to love about footage of the pitch: the reactions of the professional ball players, the mascot helping Sadako off the mound, The Grudge's Toshio acting as a sort of pinch runner for his ghoulish mother.
But what I appreciate most is the skill. Sadako's pitch clocks at 96km/h — that's a solid 60mph pitch in American baseball speak. And Kayako makes great contact, too.
This first pitch is a promotion for Sadako vs Kayako, a horror mashup of two of Japan's most famous horror franchises. The film's marketing been strong, to say the least.