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NPB: A league of his own

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NPB: A league of his own

by Rob Smaal (May 9, 2009)

American actor Tom Hanks, who once played the cantankerous manager of an all-girls baseball team in the film "A League of Their Own," was at Tokyo Dome on Friday night to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yomiuri Giants-Chunichi Dragons game.

Hanks bounced the pitch past his catcher, director and former television star Ron Howard.

"I bounced it in the dirt," Hanks said immediately after the pitch. "I went from the rush of being in the sacred spot to the humiliation of looking very mortal."

Prior to the pitch, Hanks, Howard and producer Brian Grazer met with Giants manager Tatsunori Hara and exchanged greetings and ballcaps.

Hara told Hanks he was a big fan of his film "The Green Mile" and Hanks responded by saying that Hara still looked to be in playing shape. Hanks also told Hara "my arm feels pretty good--I'm ready to start, coach."

The Academy Award-winning actor then warmed up in the Giants' bullpen under the watch of Yomiuri pitchers Dicky Gonzalez and Marc Kroon.

"Bouncing it in the dirt --oh well," Hanks said. "I've been reading about the Tokyo Dome and the Tokyo Giants since I was a little kid. The Giants are the team of Sadaharu Oh, for crying out loud! There is a lot of baseball history out here."

Hanks is in Tokyo to promote his new movie "Angels & Demons," which is directed by Howard and will open in Japan this month.

Hanks, who mentioned that he coached some Little League, is a big baseball fan. When asked which MLB clubs he supports, Hanks mentioned the Cleveland Indians and Oakland A's, before adding, "but I'm mostly a National League guy--Mets, Dodgers, Cubs Giants."

He also praised the Japanese game.

"I think Japanese baseball is a great game," said Hanks, best known for his roles in "Forrest Gump," "Philadelphia" and "Saving Private Ryan."

"I think a lot of teams here could compete (in MLB). The WBC was the hottest ticket in town."

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