Players stood along the baseline at QVC Marine Field in Chiba, Japan, heads bowed. Fans observed a moment of silence. In the stands, spectators held signs reading, "Stay Strong Japan." Away from the ballpark, those who no longer have homes, watched the game on television from shelters.
It was time to play baseball again in Japan – opening day. It was also a time for honor and remembrance in a country convulsed by a deadly earthquake and tsunami and worsening radiation leak.
A crowd of 22,525 attended the Pacific League opener. In the latest aftershock, a 6.3-magnitude quake struck early Tuesday, and another could be felt in the stadium during the game.
“I want to carry this feeling of appreciation for the whole year by playing baseball” said Rakuten Eagles infielder Kazuo Matsui, an infielder who has played in the U.S. major leagues with the New York Mets, Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros. “During training camp, I went to a shelter and I saw people there with energy in their faces. I went there expecting to cheer them up, but instead they cheered me up. That’s why I want to play hard.”
Matsui’s Eagles beat the defending champion Chiba Lotte Marines, 6-4. The Eagles’ home of Sendai has been one of the hardest hit by last month’s catastrophe. The team is unable to use its stadium until April 29.
Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal landed on the 15-day disabled after he broke his left thumb against San Francisco on Monday night. He is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks. The Nationals put third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the 15-day DL with a strained abdominal muscle and recalled catcher Jesus Flores from Triple-A Syracuse. Houston Astros manager Brad Mills was suspended one game and reliever Aneury Rodriguez for three after their weekend ejections against the Florida Marlins. Both were also fined.