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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Giant earthquake rattles players, fans at ballpark


Staff writer

YOKOHAMA — There was nothing amiss at Yokohama Stadium.

News photo
Scary scene: People gather on the field at Yokohama Stadium after Friday afternoon's 8.8 magnitude earthquake. The Yokohama BayStars-Tokyo Yakult Swallows game was postponed. KYODO PHOTO

The sun was shining, the sky was blue and a sparse crowd of 3,756 was watching the Yokohama BayStars and Tokyo Yakult Swallows play an open-sen game as all the hopes and aspirations that come with spring training hung thick in the air.

Then, with Yakult ahead 3-1 in the seventh inning, the ground started shaking.

Only slightly at first, barely registering more than a passing notice, then, a bit more violently, as both teams began to spill out onto the field and anxious cries arose from the stands as an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Japan.

"That's the biggest one I've ever been in," Swallows second baseman Hiroyasu Tanaka said. "It was a little scary."

A few players from both teams were rattled, but safe, as were fans in the stands.

"That was a big one," Swallows manager Junji Ogawa said. "I experienced something like this last year during camp in Okinawa, but not this big. All of the players are safe. I'm just worried about the people in the stands and in other places."

It was a scary scene as the lower stands behind both dugouts began to sway back and forth as fans near the edges were grabbing onto the railing for support.

"They've got to get those fans out of there," BayStars slugger Brett Harper said as he watched the stands, light towers and the tops of the buildings that peek out from behind the wall along the first-base side sway from left to right.

The team eventually did just that, with BayStars staff escorting fans onto the field to stand out of harm's way.

"This stadium shakes like that when this sort of thing happens," Ogawa said. "I think that made people more afraid."

Afterward players gathered in front of a TV to watch updates.

"Wow, that is amazing," said Swallows veteran Shinya Miyamoto. "I hope a lot of people aren't hurt,"he added before wondering about the tsunami prospects for Tokyo.

Brandon Mann, a pitcher in his first year with the BayStars, couldn't believe the scene.

"Never experienced anything like that," Mann said. "Everything was shaking. It was like watching a movie."

It may may not have been the first big quake for first-year Yakult outfielder Wladimir Balentien, but it was the biggest.

"First one I felt in Japan was two days ago," he said. "But the biggest one (before Friday) I felt was when I was in the Dominican Republic and the earthquake hit Haiti."

Swallows pitcher Tony Barnette is also no stranger to the earth shaking below him.

"We had a couple of big ones when I was in school," said Barnette a native of Alaska, who went to high school in Auburn, Wash. "But nothing like this."

Barnette was in the shower when the quake hit and put on the first thing he could find — which turned out to be Josh Whitesell's shorts — before running out of the clubhouse.

"I was just taking a shower and about to go see the massage trainer and the world started shaking," he said.

Not everyone was so well-versed in earthquakes.

"Definitely," Harper said when asked if was the biggest he's ever experienced. "I'm from Arizona."

Viciedo hurts thumb

SURPRISE , Ariz. (AP) Dayan Viciedo of the Chicago White Sox has a broken right thumb after being hit by a pitch.

Viciedo is expected to be out for two to four weeks,

"It's a sad day," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He'd done everything we asked him to do. Hopefully he can be cured before we break camp."

Viciedo was hit Thursday by a changeup from Texas pitcher Dave Bush in the eighth inning. He spun, dropped onto his stomach, rolled onto his back and eventually sat up.

The Cuban-born Viciedo is 10-for-23 this spring. He's primarily played the infield and is trying to earn a spot this year as an outfielder.

"He earned that," Guillen said. "That's why we can't take anything away from the kid."



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