Japan Delays First Pitch, Players Rally Around Disaster Victims


The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have become the face of sports in this disaster. The strong quake cracked walls and hallways at their stadium in Sendai. Tsunami waves flooded the team's offices and suites. Since the disasters hit, the players have spear headed fundraising efforts at train stations and community events to help displaced fans.

Marty Kuehnert, a Californian who moved to Japan 40 years ago and is the general manager for the Golden Eagles, was lobbying for baseball to resume almost as soon as the tsunami wave receded.

"People have plenty more on their minds right now other than baseball," Kuehnert said in the days immediately after the disaster struck. "But people need something to believe in. People are pulling for Sendai."

The Central and Pacific league are now scheduled to throw out the first pitch on April 12. The Rakuten Eagles will plan to play their first six home games of the season in the country's southern Hyogo Prefecture. If repairs to the stadium move fast enough, players could be back in their real home by the summer.

"So many people have rallied to help us," said Rakuten pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. "We must do our best to win for them."

ABC News' Russell Goldman contributed to this report

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