A Journey to Ohtani’s Hometown Mizusawa: The Japanese Diary of Ben Verlander

from Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst

Editor’s note: Ben Verlander is spending time in Japan exploring Shohei Ohtaniroots, experiencing the country’s culture and meeting fans. This is the fifth in a recurring series which began Friday, August 19.

Hello again from Tokyo! Today I write from inside the legendary Tokyo Dome, sitting on a bench in the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame. Be sure to check back tomorrow to learn more about it!

Yesterday we woke up rested in our Tatami hotel room (see yesterday’s recap for more on that) and headed straight to Ohtani’s former school, Hanamaki Hagashi High School, where I sat down with his former teammate, Daiki Obara.

Ben Verlander met Daiki Obara, one of Shohei Ohtani’s high school teammates. (Photo by Nick Rago/FOX SPORTS)

Daiki was a pitcher at Hanamaki Higashi and is now a member of the local sports media. You might know him as the reporter Ohtani playfully smacked at last year’s MLB All-Star Game. I asked Daiki a wide variety of questions, but my favorite was when I pressed him to give me something Ohtani is bad at, since—let’s be honest—he’s good at almost everything baseball-related.

After pointing out that Ohtani regularly beat the high school swim team even though he wasn’t on the swim team, Daiki finally relented and gave me something.

“He doesn’t like tomatoes,” he said with a laugh.

After saying goodbye to Daiki (and giving him some Flippin’ Bats gear as a gift), I headed to my last stop in Iwate, Mizusawa City Hall. Mizusawa, if you don’t know, is the town where Ohtani hails from.

Verlander spoke with the mayor of Mizusawa, Ohtani’s hometown. (Photo by Nick Rago/FOX SPORTS)

I’m watching”Flippin’ Bats with Ben Verlander” On youtube, or subscribe to podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts.

When I arrived, I was greeted by the mayor as well as a group of older men wearing the same ridiculous Ohtani shirt I’m wearing.

The mayor then showed me a perfect replica of Ohtani’s arm for visitors to shake, as well as a banner with the MLB legend Mizusawa’s stats.

This replica of Ohtani’s hand is available for visitors to shake at Mizusawa. (Photo by Nick Rago/FOX SPORTS)

After that it was time to head back to the station and take the bullet train back to Tokyo.

A funny moment happened while we were waiting on the platform. We had ridden the bullet train to Iwate before, but I don’t think I realized how fast that thing was until one sped through the station at 200 mph. One of my crew members let out a scream as we collectively tried to hold him down.

We eventually made it back into town and headed to a little place for dinner in Shibuya. Over the next two hours, we experienced an 11-course meal that I will never forget.

Culinary adventures continued with an 11-course dinner in Shibuya. (Photo by Nick Rago/FOX SPORTS)

My favorite round was what I would call the Japanese version of soup, served in an upside down, hollowed out crab shell. I wish I had the cooking skills to learn how to make this at home.

The highlight of the meal for Verlander was this soup-style dish. (Photo by Nick Rago/FOX SPORTS)

Finally, we ended the night with a walk around Shibuya and stopped to take pictures at the world famous Shibuya Crossing. It’s like Tokyo’s version of Times Square. We stayed long enough to soak it all in – probably a little too long considering one of my producers started testing cars on the street.

What a way to end another perfect day in this country I’m falling in love with.

Verlander likens Shibuya Crossing to Times Square in New York. (Photo by Nick Rago/FOX SPORTS)

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

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