Let me tell you about my favorite fan in Yokohama.
I’ve never formally met him. So I don’t even know his name. I just call him Poster Guy.
Either that or Mr. Poster.
And this guy, I almost don’t even really know what to say. He’s just … he’s totally awesome.
To really understand his awesomeness, you first need a little bit of context. And that context is this: My wife, Stephanie, is a model. And sometimes she models swimsuits.
OK, so, this guy … Mr. Poster.
He apparently got out his art supplies one day and made this huge double-sided, laminated poster that he brings to our games. On one side — I don’t know if it’s the front or the back … I guess it depends on your perspective — there is a big picture of me in my BayStars uniform. Which, you know, that’s pretty cool all by itself: Someone going to the trouble to make a big sign with your picture on it, and then carrying it to the game and holding it up for you to see.
But the best thing about it is … the other side of the sign.
When he flips it over, it has this big picture of my wife in a swimsuit.
I guess he pulled the photo off one of her Instagram stories, enlarged it, and slapped it on a huge poster with me on the other side.
And this guy, he absolutely loves that sign. He waves it like crazy every time he sees me.
This has been going on for a few years now. In fact, the first year Stephanie and I were over here, she went to one of our games and Mr. Poster actually sought her out in the crowd and had his picture taken with her … and the sign!
I’m telling you: This guy is the best! I laugh so hard every single time I see him in the stands.
I guess some guys might get upset or whatever about someone putting their wife on a big poster. But, me? Come on!
I love my wife. And she looks great! What do I have to be pissed off about, right?
When I see him shaking that sign, I always give him a huge wave and a shout. He always makes me smile.
But it’s not just Poster Guy who’s awesome, of course.
Baseball fans all across Japan are incredible!
They’re like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced before in all my years in baseball.
And look, I know you hear people like me say things like that all the time. And sometimes it may seem like it’s just words — like they may not really mean it. But let me assure you: I’m not just saying this. It’s not some sports cliché for me. It’s real. Heartfelt.
The loyalty and positivity the fans over here show — the levels they go to in supporting their favorite teams and players — is truly unique. And that’s coming from a guy who’s experienced playing in Yankees-Red Sox rivalry games back in the United States, someone who knows all about die-hard fans.
That level of support, that loyalty, that love … it means the world to me. Because coming to a new country, leaving home, not having family around?
I’m not going to lie: It hasn’t always been easy.
Before deciding to come to Japan, most of what I knew about professional baseball over here I learned by talking to teammates back in the U.S. During my time with the New York Yankees, I spoke often with Masahiro Tanaka. He’d tell me about the intensity of practices in Japan, how there was a focus on precision and doing things like moving runners over or bunting to manufacture runs. Then, in San Francisco, with the Giants, my hitting coach in 2019, Alonzo Powell, is someone who had success over here for years with the Chunichi Dragons. So he shared some thoughts, too.
But all that stuff was about what things were like on the field. The baseball part. And, if you’re someone who has played this game your entire life, like me, that’s the easy part. The part that is much tougher is just … everything else.
Since I didn’t quite know what to expect off the field, I just figured I’d roll with whatever came my way once I got here. And for a while that worked out just fine.
Initially, that first year, before Covid happened, Stephanie was able to spend a lot of time in Yokohama with me. That made the transition much easier. But once the pandemic occurred, she wasn’t able to visit for many, many months. And that, combined with everything being on lockdown and not being able to do much … it took a toll on me.
Even though I ended up having the best year of my career statistically, I had gotten to a real low point off the field.
We weren’t allowed to do much away from the stadium, so I wasn’t really able to hang out with teammates or make new friends. It was basically: wake up, go to the field, play ball, go back to the apartment, grab some food, eat by myself, then get some rest and do it all over again the next day. Sometimes I’d hop on PlayStation and play some video games with friends back home, or do a FaceTime call or two. But even that was tough because most of my friends in the States would be asleep by the time I got back from the stadium. So I’d just end up sitting in my apartment alone.
And that way of life got tired fast!
In all honesty, I got stuck in a really dark place. Mentally, I was struggling — no Stephanie, my family couldn’t visit, the language barrier, no friends to hang out with. I got really down. It was probably the most difficult, challenging time of my life.
It got to a point where I felt like maybe I didn’t even know how to communicate and talk with people in person anymore. I was worried that I was becoming a shell of myself.
What kept me going, and ultimately got me to a better place, was a combination of several things. (Stephanie’s incredible care packages filled with snacks were huge!) But one of the biggest ones was definitely our fans. Once things started to improve with the pandemic, and people were allowed back into the stadium, it really helped me to be able to feel the joy and happiness that I got from playing the game I love in front of some of the best fans anywhere.
You guys, the BayStars fans … you really helped to lift my spirits and keep me going.
That loyalty and energy, I could feel that each and every game. Hearing that applause, the encouragement, and recognizing how locked in you guys are from pitch one to the final pitch of the game? That was so much fun to be a part of. That passion was inspiring to me.
It’s also one of the reasons why anytime I see fans, basically anywhere around town, I’m going to acknowledge them and thank them and show them some love in return. During the past few years, because of the pandemic, the opportunity to interact with fans has obviously been limited. And people with the team, they’ve got to make sure rules are being followed. So they were constantly trying to keep people away from us as much as possible.
That’s their job. And it all makes sense. I get it.
But sometimes I couldn’t help it. We’d be going to the train station and people would be lined up hoping to get a moment of our time, or a photo, or an autograph.
I can’t just ignore those fans. You know what I mean?
So sometimes, when the people in charge weren’t looking, I’d try to sign a kid’s baseball, snap a selfie — anything like that.
Hopefully saying that doesn’t get me in trouble. I mean well. Don’t tell on me, OK? Because I need to be around. I can’t get kicked off the team.
I have some work to do these next few years for the BayStars.
Now it’s time for me to give back to this place, and repay all that kindness, the best way I know how- Tyler Austin
Now in my fourth season in Yokohama, it feels so good to have set down some roots with this team and the city of Yokohama.
I absolutely love it here. I definitely have my go-to spots — Yakiniku for BBQ, Ippudo, my favorite burger place near the stadium. And, of course, the biggest thing that makes this city so wonderful is the people here.
Everyone in Yokohama is just so friendly and kind. I remember when we first arrived, Stephanie was out taking in the sights with another player’s wife and the two of them got lost and totally confused in the train station. A woman passing by noticed they were having trouble and was kind enough to stop and help. She was supposed to be going the opposite direction, but after speaking with them, she got on the train with them, took them to the station that they were supposed to be at, got off, showed them the right train, and then went back on her way.
Are you kidding me?
That level of hospitality, that kindness … it’s something my wife and I will never forget. And it’s one of the main reasons why we love it here so much.
Now it’s time for me to give back to this place, and repay all that kindness, the best way I know how: By working my tail off and getting my uniform dirty and diving all over the place in order to help us win ball games.
You guys know me. I play this game like my hair’s on fire. That’s the only way I know how to do it. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. And I love nothing more than being out there doing my thing.
I'm so excited right now, and we're all having so much fun playing together. We have a really good group of guys on this team. There are so many young players on the BayStars who are just developing and starting to show their talent. If everything comes together, I truly believe we have the makings of a championship caliber team for the next few years.
And it’s going to be such a fun ride.
For all of us. Together.
It’ll be a blast.
Mr. Poster is gonna be going nuts!