Hall-of-fame baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan traveled all the way to Japan to share two things he is passionate about: American baseball and meat. Ryan was there to participate in American Meat Month, a set of activities conducted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to increase demand among consumers and trade for U.S. beef and pork.
Ryan, who resides in Texas and now a U.S. beef producer, threw the first pitch in front of more than 15,000 fans at the baseball game on Wednesday (July 18) between the Orix Buffaloes and the Chiba Lotte Marines, coached by former fellow New York Mets player Bobby Valentine.
USMEF President and CEO Phil Seng took to the field to present a special game ball to Ryan and announced, “play ball!” Ryan sent a hard pitch to Valentine and nearly hit him in him the head. Valentine dusted himself off of the ground laughing and gave Ryan a big hug.
With strong media coverage, most TV stations showed Ryan's pitch as one of the highlights of the game. Many national papers and TV stations have reported on “American Meat Day” at the stadium and spoke of Ryan as the “American Meat Goodwill Ambassador.”
Before the excitement on the field, Ryan and Valentine also took part in the pre-game festivities. The former players talked about U.S. red meat's great taste and high quality. They conducted a fun quiz of meat-related questions. Fans who answered correctly won an autographed ball. Fans also challenged Ryan in a pitching contest. Those who pitched the highest number of baseball strikes received prizes from USMEF. The grand prize winner got an autographed baseball from Ryan.
USMEF sold 400 bento box meals featuring U.S. beef and pork prior to the game. Bento box meals are conveniently served in a compartment tray and typically feature meat, rice and vegetables. Baseball fans lined up to purchase the meals at the American Meat booth, which sold out of meals by 5:00 p.m. – more than 90 minutes before the game started. Proceeds from the U.S. meat sales will be donated to charities helping handicapped children. This effort demonstrates the United States' commitment to caring for the communities of consumers.
Other USMEF activities during American Meat Month in Japan include a media conference with U.S. pork and beef producers, trade seminars for U.S. meat buyers identifying new products, retail store promotions to encourage consumers to buy U.S. red meat and advertising support in newspapers, magazines and commuter trains to build on the “Delicious Everyday” theme for U.S. pork and the “We Care” theme for U.S. beef.
The U.S. Meat Export Federation is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry and is funded by USDA, exporting companies, and the beef, pork, lamb, corn, sorghum and soybean checkoff programs.