NEW YORK (AP) — Snuggled in his baby pouch, 3-month-old Toma Tsubota probably won’t remember being at Yankee Stadium for his first baseball game.
His dad will.
“When he grows up, he will be proud that he was here for this,” father Yota said Friday night.
And what was this?
The first major league matchup between Japanese pitching stars Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers and Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees.
The game was set to be nationally televised in their homeland, starting at 8 a.m in Tokyo.
“Breakfast at Wimbledon,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi mused. “Breakfast at Yankee Stadium.”
It started raining shortly before the scheduled first pitch, and the start was delayed with more precipitation in the forecast. The stands already were dotted with No. 19 Tanaka jerseys, along with at least one “Yuuuuuuuu” sign and poster for Darvish.
Darvish and Tanaka faced each other four times as pros in Japan, most recently on July 20, 2011, more than 7,000 miles from the big ballyard in the Bronx. That was a year before Darvish went to Texas and his Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters won 3-1, with both right-handers tossing complete games.
“I remember he threw it away on a pickoff at first,” Darvish said through a translator.
Overall, Darvish was 2-1 with a 1.36 ERA in those duels. Tanaka went 1-3 with a 2.90 ERA in the games for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
“I think it’s something hopefully that Japanese baseball fans are looking forward to,” Tanaka said through a translator a day earlier.
The 30-year-old Darvish, a three-time All-Star for the Rangers, was 6-5 with a 3.35 ERA going into the day. He had a career mark of 52-35.
The 28-year-old Tanaka, a rookie All-Star in 2014, was 5-7 with a 6.34 ERA this season and 0-6 in his last seven starts. Despite the slide, he was 44-23 lifetime in the major leagues.
This was to be the 15th time that Japanese-born starters opposed each other in the majors. The first one was across the street at the old Yankee Stadium on May 7, 1999, when Hideki Irabu went against Seattle’s Mac Suzuki.
Last year, Tanaka twice faced Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideo Nomo and Tomo Ohka are among the other pitchers involved in all-Japanese matchups over the years.
Tsubota was born in Japan and now lives in the New York area. Along with his infant son, he came with his wife and their 3-year-old daughter. Both parents wore Tanaka shirts.
Before the game, the Tsubotas were in line at the Guest Relations entrance, waiting with other families to store their strollers. Right next door, fans stood at the sushi and noodle bowl concession stand.
“A lot of people back in Japan will be watching this game,” Tsubota said. “It’s exciting to be here.”