In the last few weeks baseball celebrated its opening day here in the United States.

Today, April 12, however, marks an opening day that few know about but one that has implications larger than anything faced on other opening days.

April 12, 2011 is opening day in the Nippon Professional Baseball league (NPB), the Japanese equivalent of Major League Baseball.

Why is this event important you ask?

Japan is still recovering from the devastating earthquake in March that has left approximately 30,000 people dead and an estimated 400,000 homeless.

Baseball has proven that it can bring people together in the worst of tragedies.

In 1995, Kobe, Japan was hit by an earthquake. That same year, the Kobe Orix Blue Wave–led by current Seattle Mariner Ichiro Suzuki–captured the Nippon Series and the hearts of the people in Kobe.

In America, like Japan, baseball has long been the thing that unites people in times of stress. In times of great struggle, baseball has been the glue that kept America and Japan together.

One only has to look at America in the month-and-a-half after the 9/11 attacks. In that time, baseball brought back a sense of normalcy.

Whether it is played in Japan or America, baseball is the game that unites in times of need.

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