2014 Rakuten Eagles Spring Camp Begins
This year’s national baseball champions in Japan were the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles. As Champions you might expect a bit of extra attention from the media and a lot of interest in their spring training. Normally based out of Miyagi prefecture, every year the Rakuten Eagles come to Kume Island in February to train for the upcoming season. On February 1, the Eagles kicked off their camp with a ceremony at the Kume Island Stadium, with tons of fans from around Japan and a camera crew from practically every station in Japan. Luckily, I was right there with them.
After the arrival of the team members, the morning’s ceremony started off with welcoming speeches from the Kume Island town mayor and a Nakazato elementary school student. Nakazato was chosen as the champions out of the six elementary schools on the island. The Kume Island ladies dressed in Tsumugi and two high school students then presented representatives from the team with congratulatory flowers.
Backed by the entire team, head coach Hoshino Senichi made his speech and then presented the town mayor and major local supporters with commemorative plaques for the team’s championship win. Finally, team members and the mayor symbolically planted a new tree which was then removed for permanent placement.
With the ceremony complete, the team gathered for a group photo and then got to work.
The Rakuten Eagles utilize many of the sports facilities on Kume Island during their stay. In addition to the Stadium there is a bullpen, indoor sports area (the Firefly dome), and outdoor baseball fields as well. After warmups, runs, and stretches, the teams broke up into units to practice their own specialties. The weather was sunny and warm, so luckily the team members also had access to plenty of water. One even had some of the deep-sea mineral water made right on Kume Island. Spring training is a unique opportunity for fans to see the team practice and play up close.
The spring camp will continue until March 2 with Unit 1 finishing on February 13. The players have Friday February 7 off, but will otherwise train daily. Come see the champions!