Apple Pie, Hot Dogs & Baseball

29 Apr

Who can dispute America’s  trinity?

Isaac Newton’s red muse tucked and steaming inside a flaky golden crust. A fusion of every meat scrap from the butcher’s floor laid a bed of bread. And the manna from sports heaven, baseball. All things beautiful and wholesome and, yes, American, are linked to this longsuffering game of tosses, catches and swings.

Or is it?

“In truth, the game evolved over many decades, if not centuries, and its roots are, in reality, a tangled web of bat and ball games brought to this country by immigrants.” Though the name “baseball” is native to the U.S., as this historian notes, the notion of people tossing balls and hitting them with sticks is not novel; It dates back to ancient civilizations and has first cousins in cricket and stool ball. And while I know that some of the league’s best players hail from Latin American countries, never did I imagine its popularity in Japan.

 After splitting a semester between Russia and China, listening to lectures, visiting businesses and absorbing as much of the cultures as possible, I paid Japan a visit.  I had randomly taken a semester of Japanese my freshman year of college. In my dreams of dreams, I pictured myself uttering the greetings on a work trip  or vacation. But my flight from Hong Kong to Dallas had a layover in the heartland of Tokyo. I simply extended it for a week and seized the opportunity to explore.

I’m not going to lie.  I was nervous. Tokyo was first time I was truly alone during the entire trip. I had grown accustomed to the comfort of traveling in mass with my peers and professors. That week  in Tokyo was a step of out my zone into a completely new land,unaccompanied. I prayed that I didn’t have a repeat from Beijing, where fear of Swine Flu had isolated me and a few other peers at the airport for further screening.  A sigh of relief escaped as I exited the plane and grabbed my luggage without trouble. I quickly weaved through the airport to find some yen. Along the way, I noted the flurry of foreign faces. International visitors were a dime a dozen. 

 As I stepped out to the street to find the shuttle to the hotels, a tall, lanky police officer waved me down. My heart began to pound. . .

“Passport, please,” the slim Japanese guard asked.

I fumbled through my bag and handed it to him with sweaty palms.

As he flipped through it, he questioned me.

“So where exactly in the United States are you from?”

“Texas.”

“Texas!”  he laughed and cracked a joke about George Bush country.

I don’t remember my response.

“Where in Texas,” he further probed.

“Dallas.”

The airport was abuzz with travelers, new arrivals and awaiting departures. I looked at them longingly until I noted his silence. When I glanced back, a look of admiration shone on his face. I relaxed, readying myself for a Dallas Cowboys reference or a question about whether or not I rode horses.

“Texas Rangers!” he exclaimed.

Huh. Now, let me frame this. This was two years ago, when the Rangers was pitiable team with no World Series runs that the bulk of Texans had disowned as the city’s ugly sporting stepson for the still-beloved yet troubled Cowboys, the no-clutch Mavericks (pre-Championship) and the beleaguered Stars.

His excitement made me wonder if he knew something about them that I did not. As I stood there in shock, he swiftly handed back my passport and wished me a good trip.

That he knew a nothing team like the Rangers—no offense—which was certainly not the posterchild of MLB, impressed and intrigued me. Apparently, baseball is  Japan’s most popular sport. That tidbit was not mentioned anywhere in my Japanese class. The sport was introduced in the 1860s by an American teacher and is known as Yakyu. Today, Japan has two professional baseball teams wand several players in the American major league. Shameless plug but Japanese phenom, Yu Darvish, signed with the Rangers this season with a horde of Japanese media tracking his every step, swing and smile.

 Though I whipped around town on the Metro, visited the Fish Market for fresh sushi, was greeted with bows at local hotels, restaurants and stores, stumbled across a bookcases of cartoon porn sitting in a bookstore, bought clothes straight of a rack in a Japanese pop-store, saw the omnipresence of Dallas’ own 7-11 across Tokyo’s landscape, was gifted with a gold and red origami swan and ate the meal that builds giant sumi wrestlers, the fact that the sport akin to America’s holy grail  was embraced, loved and respected across Japan’s shores remains my most vivid memory.

 

 

 After a week absorbing Tokyo’s sights  and sounds, with legs wobbly from the 8-hour trip across the Pacific from Tokyo to Dallas, I made my way to the  security booth in Dallas-Fort Worth’s international airport. The gap-toothed homeland security guard glanced at my passport.

“You sure did do a lot traveling,” he noted as he cast shards of contempt my way.  

I stood there awkwardly, unsure of how to respond until finally muttering something about studying abroad for college.  

After the grumpy guard granted my clearance, I stumbled through the gate with my bags. I passed another guard with a large dog in tow. Ironically, he was friendlier.

“Welcome home,” he beamed.

I returned his smile. If this trip taught me nothing else, it’s that home follows you wherever you may go.

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2 Responses to “Apple Pie, Hot Dogs & Baseball”

  1. Slava April 29, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Hey LaShonda, thanks for the post! The origins of baseball are in the medieval ages, people used to play bat-and-ball games in different parts of the world for a long time.
    Recently I went to a baseball game for the first time! I hope you’ll enjoy the pictures that I took:
    https://picasaweb.google.com/109404683327204057703/Baseball?authkey=Gv1sRgCKDRxrCSl6vDaw

    Like

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