NPB/ Foreign fans right at home in Jingu bleachers
October 28, 2011
By ROB SMAAL / Staff Writer

Yankee Stadium has its Bleacher Creatures and the Cleveland Browns are rabidly supported by the Dawg Pound. Closer to home, the Hanshin Tigers and Urawa Reds are two Japanese sports teams known for the enthusiastic backing of their fans.
Jingu Stadium, home park of the Central League's Yakult Swallows, is generally a much more low-key place to take in a ballgame. But they do have their "oendan," too, and if you look closely you will usually spot a handful of foreigners singing along and cheering on their team out in the right-field bleachers.
"Dave (Watkins) and I were soon welcomed into the fold after a few games as we were vocally supportive of the team and consistently antagonizing whichever overweight, flavor-of-the-month, non-Japanese slugger the opposing team was trying to hide in right field," recalls American Chris Pellegrini, one of the Swallows' foreign faithful who has been a regular in the outfield stands at Jingu for nine years now. "They've been saving us seats since 2003, and, as you can imagine, there's rarely a dull moment."
Pellegrini, a 33-year-old Vermont native, says his first experience at Jingu was less than memorable. Shortly after arriving in Japan in 2002, he took in a Swallows home game, shelling out for an infield seat. The atmosphere was lacking, as he recalls.
It wasn't until the following season that he went back to Jingu when Watkins, who worked in the same office, bought a couple of tickets in the bleachers.
"It was a totally different experience up there in the unreserved section," says Pellegrini, an academic writing instructor at a local university. "The fans were friendly and there was a community feel to how the more dedicated fans looked out for each other."
Since their initial forays to Jingu, Pellegrini and Watkins have not only been supporting the Swallows at the ballpark, but in cyberspace as well. The pair, along with fellow-fan Garrett DeOrio, have created a website dedicated to the club,, and also do regular podcasts on the team.
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