Fans cheer during game between Saitama Seibu Lions and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters at ES CON Field Hokkaido on March 14, 2023 in Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters opened their new ballpark, ES Con Field in Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido, Japan, during a week of exhibition games against fellow Nippon Professional Baseball teams.
Construction crews broke ground for Es Con Field on April 13, 2020. The Nippon Ham-Fighters played in the Sapporo Dome from 2004 through last season, winning two Japan Series championships in 2006 and 2016. Before moving to Hokkaido in 2004, the Nippon Ham-Fighters home was in Tokyo, playing in the Tokyo Dome from 1988 through 2003. The organization was formed in 1948.
The first regular season game for the 2023 Nippon Professional Baseball Season in Hokkaido will be on March 30 against the Rakuten Golden Eagles at 6:30 p.m. JST/5:30 a.m. EDT.
The Nippon-Ham Fighters have three championships in their franchise history winning in 1962, 2006 and 2016, and have seven Pacific League pennants. Going into their first year at the new ballpark with manager Tsuyoshi Shinjo, there is a lot of enthusiasm about the team’s new state-of-the-art facility. The first Nippon Ham-Fighters game at Es Con Field took place on March 14, when the Seibu Lions defeated them 3-1 in an exhibition game.
The Nippon-Ham Fighters won their first game at Es Con Field the next day, beating Seibu 2-1.
On March 21 and 22, the Nippon-Ham Fighters swept their two-game exhibition series against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 5-0 and 4-2. Last weekend the Nippon-Ham Fighters closed out spring training with a three-game set against the Yakult Swallows, winning the first game on Friday 3-1, losing on Saturday 2-1 and deadlocking on the last game of the series on Sunday 1-1.
The Nippon-Ham Fighters considered moving from the Sapporo Dome during the start of 2016, after realizing they no longer wanted to share the venue with Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo soccer club, which still plays their home games there.