There was a real and a metaphorical cry of "Play Ball" in Sendai, Japan yesterday.
At the heavily damaged Sendai Airport in the heart of the earthquake-hit region, Japan Airlines Flight 4721 marked the new opening of the airport to commercial service at 8:00 this morning. Two hundred miles to the south, the Sendai Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles baseball team played and won the Pacific League's 2011 season opener.
Sendai's airport and baseball stadium were knocked out of service in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. And while limited airline operations begin today it will be another month to six weeks before the Sendai's Miyagi baseball stadium is ready for action.
Looking at the photos from just one month ago, its hard to imagine that targets to repair and re-open places so badly damaged could have even been set, let alone achieved. But at the airport, Japanese and international workers worked non-stop to get the airfield cleared. Once the runway was good to go emergency supplies could be brought in. Fast forward to today -- the beginning of six daily flights between to Tokyo and Osaka on JAL and ANA.
One of the 121 passengers on the arriving JAL B737 was Matsuo Sato, who was stranded in Chiba after the earthquake. Today he returns to his own home. For Matsuo-san, the first glimpse of his community from the air was "terrible." He saw a flattened city covered with debris, according to my friend and correspondent in Japan, Takeo Aizawa. Many arriving passengers have big jobs ahead of them.
A man returning to reclaim his home has hope for a better tomorrow. I've heard the same sentiment applied to baseball. Whether its accurate, I can't say, not being a fan. Read the perspective of NBC Sports blogger Craig Calcaterra here.
Well, one person's frivolous pursuit is another's essential touchstone. No matter what you think about the use of Japan's precious resources -- when an airport opens or when a first pitch is thrown -- a picture emerges of nation that has chosen to come out swinging rather than be paralyzed by despair.