Hiroshima visit humbling, moving for MLB stars

November 12th, 2018

HIROSHIMA, Japan -- What has been a festive trip through Japan took a solemn but peaceful turn on Monday, when the traveling party of the Major League All-Star team visited one of the most impactful historic landmarks in the world.
The Japan All-Star Series features just one game in Hiroshima, to be played Tuesday at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. But first, the team toured the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Atomic Bomb Dome, a commemorative site that honors the fallen who died as a result of the atomic bomb that dropped on the city on Aug. 6, 1945.
Accompanied by Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui, three members of the Major League team placed wreaths near the cenotaph -- an arched-shaped tomb -- in the park, which honors the victims of the bombing. Manager Don Mattingly carried one wreath, while Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger and Dodgers pitcher -- who pitched in Hiroshima for nine seasons -- carried the second.

The wreaths contained the names of the two entities representing the group during its three-city goodwill trip through Japan -- "Major League Baseball" and "Major League Baseball Players Association."
The group then spoke of Hiroshima being a symbol of peace, and of baseball's unique ability to bring people together with a shared passion and love of the sport.
"I'm humbled to be here at the site where all of the destruction occurred," Haniger said. "It's humbling to see, especially with how people focus today on building anew, and focusing on peace."
Maeda, who will start Tuesday's game against Samurai Japan, reiterated his comments from the previous day in Tokyo, when he emphasized that this brief stop in Hiroshima was a main factor in him participating in the tournament.
"I pitched here for nine years, so this is a very special place for me," he said. "This is one of the reasons I decided to come over here as a member of the MLB team, to play in Hiroshima. I'd like to show my joy and passion about playing baseball to all the fans."
The MLB contingent has spent considerable time taking extensive sightseeing tours as it makes its way through Japan. The excursions have all had a historic theme, but nothing has matched the significance of the Peace Memorial and Atomic Bomb Dome.
Formerly known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall -- once a signature building in the midst of what was a bustling, commercial area of the city -- the ruins of the hall now serve as a major fixture of the memorial to honor the fallen.
Following the wreath ceremony, the group was escorted into the Peace Memorial Museum, which is filled with dozens of sobering displays of belongings left behind by the victims of the bombing, and photos and explanations of the destruction and human suffering.
The tour ended with Mattingly signing the official visitors book, an exercise saved for more distinguished, accomplished guests. Two years ago, President Barack Obama, the only sitting president to visit Hiroshima, signed the log after he toured the memorial.

"We remember the fallen. We value the friendship of our shared game, together we hope for peace," Mattingly wrote.
Moved by the experience, Mattingly acknowledged the emotional nature of the day.
"To be at the spot and see the photos in the museum, it's a pretty heavy feeling, honestly," he said. "The enlightening side, for me, is the attitude of the people for peace -- that Hiroshima stands for peace, and to not let this happen again, to anybody. That was dramatic."
Despite the grave circumstances surrounding Hiroshima's place in world history, the city's mayor expressed his hope that the overall message visitors take away is one of optimism, looking toward the future.
"As we were walking to the cenotaph, I was explaining about the spirit of Hiroshima, and it is a spirit that no one should ever suffer as they have," Mayor Matsui said. "It's the word of the atomic bomb survivors. I hope that through the playing of the game at the stadium, the spirit of Hiroshima will be spread around the world, overcoming the differences in nationalities."
Japan All-Star Series schedule (watch games live on MLB Network, with replays at 8 p.m. ET)
• Nov. 8: MLB All-Stars 9, Yomiuri Giants 6
• Friday: Samurai Japan 7, MLB All-Stars 6
• Saturday: Samurai Japan 12, MLB All-Stars 6
• Sunday: MLB All-Stars 7, Samurai Japan 3
• Tuesday: 6:30 p.m. local/4:30 a.m. ET
• Wednesday: 7 p.m. local/5 a.m. ET
• Thursday: 6 p.m. local/4 a.m. ET