Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Draft 2015 Liveblogging!

EDIT: Liveblogging part has been moved to below the draft result table; pre-draft comments still at top.  As of 5:50pm Oct 23 PST, the entire draft result table is finished, including ikusei!

I was in Japan 2 weeks ago, so I did manage to buy a few of the draft magazines, so that should help with player backgrounds, although since they publish them before the deadline for guys submitting their draft-hopeful 志望届 intent letters, about half of the guys in the magazines aren't actually going into the draft.  Shrug.  I'll hopefully catch a stream online of the TV part, but otherwise I'll just be watching the picks come in on various news sources such as Nikkan Sports, Sponichi, Sanspo, etc as usual.

Not sure who I'm really emotionally invested in this year aside from the Sanko boys (please for the love of god do not let Takayama go to the Giants), maybe Ohshiro-kun (Koji that is, I've given up on Motoshi ever getting drafted now, sadly), and a bunch of the industrial league guys.  Well, and like everyone I wonder what'll happen to Rui Okoe, and another lesser-known half kid in the list named Julius Higuma.  (BTW, for the three of you who might wonder what ever happened to Teikyo's Naville Ariga, he apparently works at a Maruhan store in Sendai...)

Predraft update 8pm: Shun Takayama broke his wrist on Sunday, apparently, though it was only discovered and in the news today.  Specifically, he broke the hamate bone in his wrist; after reading about it on Wikipedia it doesn't sound that bad, apparently this just happens to golfers/baseball players and is often a hairline fracture that doesn't show up (infact they say he had an X-Ray after the game and it showed up normal but then an MRI later in the week showed the fracture).  However, Yakult at least has said they will still choose him in the first round.  That suits me just fine :)

Takayama is easily one of the best college batter/fielders in the draft this year, he broke the career hits record in Tokyo Big 6 by accumulating 131 hits over 4 years -- this is no small feat, the record was set at 127 hits by Shigeru Takada back in 1967 and stood for 48 years until now.  He was a member of the Nichidai Sanko team that won Koshien in 2011 and that I was a crazy enough fan of to dedicate an entire tag on here just to their team.  Even after his freshman year at Meiji I was already predicting him as the most likely guy from their team to go pro, so go figure.  I don't think this wrist injury will affect his career much.


Name                   Pos  HS/Univ/Company         T/B   DOB          Ht/Wt  
--------------------   ---  ---------------         ---   ----------   -------
Eagles
x Taiga Hirasawa
1 Rui Okoe              OF  Kanto Daiichi HS        R/R   07/21/1997   183/85
2 Ryota Yoshimochi      IF  Osaka Shogyo Univ       R/R   11/04/1993   174/64
3 Eigoro Mogi           IF  Waseda Univ             R/L   02/14/1994   171/75
4 Kengo Horiuchi        C   Shizuoka HS             R/L   04/15/1997   176/80
5 Ryota Ishibashi       P   Honda                   R/L   06/06/1991   175/77
6 Yuichi Adachi         C   Panasonic               R/R   09/22/1989   178/83
7 Itsuki Murabayashi    P   Otsuka HS               R/R   10/06/1997   180/70

i1 Takumi Deguchi       IF  Tsuda Gakuen HS         R/R   03/03/1998   175/91
i2 Hiroki Yamada        IF  Komono HS               R/L   10/04/1997   176/81

Buffaloes
1 Masataka Yoshida      OF  Aoyama Gakuin Univ      R/L   07/15/1993   172/80
2 Taisuke Kondoh        P   Panasonic               R/R   05/29/1991   178/74
3 Koji Ohshiro          IF  Rikkio Univ             R/R   06/14/1993   175/71
4 Daiki Aoyama          P   Toyota                  R/L   11/28/1994   183/84
5 Ryo Yoshida           P   Tokaidai Sagami HS      R/R   06/20/1997   181/72
6 Sena Satoh            P   Sendai Ikuei HS         R/R   06/02/1997   180/84
7 Kohei Suzuki          IF  Mitsubishi Juko Nagoya  R/R   06/20/1991   175/78
8 Ryuta Kadoya          P   J-Project               R/R   10/18/1990   175/71
9 Ken Akama             P   Saginomiya Seisakusho   R/R   11/14/1990   180/80
10 Yutaro Sugimoto      OF  JR Nishinihon           R/R   04/05/1991   190/92

i1 Takayuki Tsukada     P   Hakuoh Univ             L/L   09/26/1993   184/82
i2 Kosuke Akamatsu      C   Kagawa Olive Guyners    R/R   06/05/1992   188/113

Lions
1 Shinsaburo Tawata     P   Fuji Univ               R/R   04/13/1993   181/74
2 Seiji Kawagoe         P   Hokkai Gakuen Univ      L/L   06/30/1993   176/77
3 Shogo Noda            P   Seino Unyu              L/L   06/27/1993   167/70
4 Aito Ohtaki           OF  Hanasaki Tokuharu HS    R/R   04/06/1997   178/82
5 Tadasuke Minamikawa   P   JR Shikoku              R/R   01/13/1992   180/66
6 Keisuke Honda         P   Tohoku Gakuin Univ      R/R   04/24/1993   179/76
7 Wu Nienting           IF  Daichi Kogyo Univ       R/L   06/07/1993   178/75
8 Tsubasa Kokuba        P   Daichi Kogyo Univ       R/R   12/05/1993   181/81
9 Koki Fujita           P   Hirosaki Kogyo HS       L/L   12/11/1997   175/66
10 Naoaki Matsumoto     P   Kagawa Olive Guyners    R/R   11/14/1990   178/78

Marines
1 Taiga Hirasawa        IF  Sendai Ikuei HS         R/L   12/24/1997   176/76
2 Ryota Sekiya          P   JR Higashinihon         R/R   05/10/1991   180/82
3 Kakeru Narita         P   Akita Shogyo HS         L/L   02/03/1998   169/68
4 Taiki Tohjoh          P   JR Higashinihon         R/R   08/15/1991   176/80
5 Shu Hara              P   Senshudai Matsudo HS    R/R   12/06/1997   185/84
6 Akifumi Shigaraki     P   Miyazaki Umeda Gakuen   R/R   12/26/1991   180/83
7 Keisuke Takano        P   JR Nishinihon           R/R   12/28/1991   178/78

i1 Takamasa Ohki        IF  Kagawa Olive Guyners    R/L   11/22/1991   174/73
i2 Tomoya Kakinuma      C   Nihon Kokusai Univ      R/R   05/12/1993   180/82

Fighters
x Junpei Takahashi
x Shinnosuke Ogasawara
1 Kenta Uehara          P   Meiji Univ              L/L   03/29/1994   190/85
2 Takayuki Katoh        P   Kazusa Magic            L/L   06/03/1992   182/82
3 Kazutomo Iguchi       P   Nodai Okhotsk Univ      R/R   01/07/1994   177/80
4 Shota Hiranuma        P   Tsuruga Kehi HS         R/L   08/16/1997   178/75
5 Toyoki Tanaka         P   Nihon Bunri Univ        R/R   12/01/1993   180/88
6 Toshitake Yokoo       IF  Keio Univ               R/R   05/27/1993   175/86
7 Yuki Yoshida          P   Tokai Univ              R/R   02/16/1994   187/79
8 Yuya Himeno           P   Osaka Kaisei HS         R/R   04/02/1997   184/79

Hawks
1 Junpei Takahashi      P   Ken Gifu Shogyo HS      R/R   05/08/1997   183/76
2 Reiji Kozawa          P   Nichidai Mishima HS     R/L   03/09/1998   180/74
3 Kenta Tanigawara      C   Toyohashi Chuo HS       R/L   04/16/1997   173/79
4 Kenta Chatani         P   Teikyo #3 HS            R/R   01/16/1998   185/85
5 Kenta Kurose          C   Hatsushiba Hashimoto HS R/R   08/12/1997   180/94
6 Hikaru Kawase         OF  Oita Shogyo HS          R/L   09/15/1997   175/63

i1 Yuuto Nozawa         P   Tsukuba Shuei HS        R/L   11/06/1997
i2 Ryuya Kodama         P   Kanagawa Univ           L/L   10/09/1993
i3 Yuichi Higoshi       C   Nodai Okhotsk Univ      R/L   09/28/1993
i4 Shin Nakamura        P   Luther Gakuin HS        R/R   08/08/1997
i5 Takeshi Watanabe     P   Iizuka HS               L/L   09/09/1997

Baystars
1 Shota Imanaga         P   Komazawa Univ           L/L   09/01/1993   178/80
2 Kento Kumahara        P   Sendai Univ             R/L   10/19/1993   178/76
3 Tatsuhiro Shibata     IF  Kokugakuin Univ         R/L   12/16/1993   167/68
4 Yasutaka Tobashira    C   NTT Nishinihon          R/L   04/11/1990   178/83
5 Kakeru Ayabe          P   Kasumigaura HS          R/R   04/25/1997   189/86
6 Koki Aoyagi           OF  Osaka Toin HS           R/R   05/19/1997   183/83
7 Takuto Nogawa         P   Saginomiya Seisakusho   L/L   09/06/1991   172/75

i1 Keisho Amiya         C   Chiba Eiwa HS           R/R   10/03/1997   183/82
i2 Musashi Yamamoto     IF  Kyushu Kokusaidai HS    R/R   02/17/1998   188/90
i3 Jo Tamura            P   Kansai Gakuin Univ      R/R   11/20/1992   185/86


Dragons
x 1 Junpei Takahashi
1 Shinnosuke Ogasawara  P   Tokaidai Sagami HS      L/L   10/08/1997   180/83 
2 Yu Satoh              P   Tohoku Fukushi Univ     R/L   06/29/1993   187/85
3 Takuya Kinoshita      C   Toyota                  R/R   12/18/1991   183/92
4 Hiroto Fuku           P   JR Kyushu               L/L   06/16/1992   178/85
5 Toshiki Abe           IF  Honda                   R/R   12/03/1989   185/80
6 Ryota Ishioka         IF  JR Higashinihon         L/L   05/25/1992   187/90

i1 Seiya Nakagawa       P   Aichi Univ              L/L   12/03/1993   178/81
i2 Shu Yoshida          P   Tokushima Indigo Socks  R/R   07/08/1996   185/83
i3 Takuya Mitsuma       P   Musashi Heat Bears      R/R   07/22/1992   183/92
i4 Mikihiro Nishihama   P   Seijo Univ              R/R   08/04/1993   174/78
i5 Kaito Goya           P   Hachinohe Kosei HS      L/L   09/30/1997   180/75
i6 Masaru Watanabe      OF  Tokai Univ              R/L   10/14/1993   172/80

Carp
1 Akitake Okada         P   Osaka Shogyo Univ       R/L   10/18/1993   184/80
2 Hiroki Yokoyama       P   NTT Higashinihon        R/L   03/12/1992   187/85
3 Mikiya Takahashi      P   Hanamaki Higashi HS     L/L   06/21/1997   176/74
4 Ryota Funakoshi       C   Oji                     R/R   11/26/1993   177/79
5 Ryoma Nishikawa       IF  Oji                     R/L   12/10/1994   176/67
6 Oscar Nakaoshi        P   Honda                   L/L   03/28/1991   178/78
7 Riku Aoki             IF  Yamagata Chuo HS        R/R   11/11/1997   180/84

Tigers
1 Shun Takayama         OF  Meiji Univ              R/L   04/18/1993   181/84
2 Seishiro Sakamoto     C   Meiji Univ              R/R   11/10/1993   175/77
3 Taichi Takeyasu       P   Kumamoto Golden Larks   R/S   09/27/1994   183/70
4 Atsushi Mochizuki     P   Yokohama Sogakukan HS   R/R   08/02/1997   187/82
5 Kohyo Aoyagi          P   Teikyo Univ             R/R   12/11/1993   181/79
6 Yutaro Itayama        OF  Asia Univ               R/L   03/27/1994   180/76

Giants
1 Toshiki Sakurai       P   Ritsumeikan Univ        R/R   10/21/1993   181/73
2 Shinnosuke Shigenobu  OF  Waseda Univ             R/L   04/17/1993   173/67
3 Hirotaka Yonahara     P   Futenma HS              R/R   03/09/1998   190/88
4 Shingo Usami          C   Josai Kokusai Univ      R/L   06/04/1993   181/86
5 Yasuhiro Yamamoto     IF  Keio Univ               R/R   10/10/1993   175/75
6 Daisuke Tatsumi       P   Iwakura HS              L/L   04/26/1997   183/79
7 Kota Nakagawa         P   Tokai Univ              L/L   02/24/1994   182/81
8 Takuya Matsuzaki      IF  Nihon Seishi Ishinomaki R/R   01/20/1992   175/90

i1 Daiki Masuda         IF  Tokushima Indigo Socks  R/R   07/29/1993   172/65
i2 Daisei Kobayashi     C   Musashi Heat Bears      R/L   01/15/1994   180/82
i3 Yusuke Matsuzawa     OF  Kagawa Olive Guyners    L/L   07/01/1992   181/83
i4 Kosei Tajima         IF  Musashi Heat Bears      R/L   07/13/1996   175/78
i5 Hideyoshi Ohtake     P   Musashi Heat Bears      R/R   07/26/1988   180/87
i6 Atsuro Yamashita     P   Chinzei HS              L/L   02/24/1998   178/82
i7 Yohei Yajima         P   Musashi Heat Bears      R/R   06/16/1990   179/82
i8 Jun Hasegawa         P   Ishikawa Million Stars  R/R   06/15/1991   186/74

Swallows
x 1 Shun Takayama
1 Juri Hara             P   Toyo Univ               R/R   07/19/1993   178/70
2 Taishi Hirooka        IF  Chiben Gakuen HS        R/R   04/09/1997   181/76
3 Keiji Takahashi       P   Ryukyudai Heian HS      L/L   05/14/1997   178/71
4 Julius Higuma         P   Kochi Chuo HS           L/L   11/21/1997   184/74
5 Kotaro Yamasaki       OF  Nihon Univ              L/L   08/11/1993   173/67
6 Taiki Watanabe        IF  Senshudai Matsudo HS    R/R   06/07/1997   181/79

1am: and the feed is live! (Thanks Dani for the link!)
1:02am: watching all the old dudes in their suits filing in (whoa Nashida! Ramichan! Tanishige!)
1:05am: big cheer for new manager Kanemoto (Tigers) coming in, probably biggest yet.
1:06am: another huge cheer for Kimiyasu Kudoh (Hawks)

1:08am: Long explanation of the rules. If you don't know: first round is crazy free-for-all with ties broken by a lottery, then they go in waiver order and reverse waiver order for the next rounds (hence the actual order I have below). They're giving counts for all the student players eligible in the draft (it's about 160; there were 78 high school and 81 university letters submitted).

And a speech from the commissioner and a commercial break and THEN we will get the first round underway!

1:15am: The Eagles name Hirasawa and we're off!

First-round "picks":
Rakuten Eagles: Taiga Hirasawa, IF, Sendai Ikuei HS
Yokohama DeNA Baystars: Shota Imanaga, LHP, Komazawa Univ
Orix Buffaloes: Masataka Yoshida, OF, Aoyama Gakuin Univ
Chunichi Dragons: Junpei Takahashi, RHP, Ken Gifu Sho HS
Seibu Lions: Shinsaburo Tawata, RHP, Fuji Univ
Hiroshima Carp: Akitake Okada, RHP, Osaka Shogyo Univ
Chiba Lotte Marines: Taiga Hirasawa
Hanshin Tigers: Shun Takayama, OF, Meiji Univ
Nippon Ham Fighters: Junpei Takahashi
Yomiuri Giants: Toshiki Sakurai, P, Ritsumeikan Univ
Softbank Hawks: Junpei Takahashi
Yakult Swallows: Shun Takayama


Okay, looks like it'll be three lotteries: Eagles/Marines for Hirasawa, Tigers/Swallows for Takayama, Dragons/Fighters/Hawks for Takahashi...

Hirasawa goes to... Lotte
Takahashi goes to... Hawks (wow Kudoh looks overjoyed)
Takayama goes to... YAKULT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yay I can keep seeing him hit things at Jingu :)

Okay, going to work on the results grid now while they work out the next part of the first round.

BTW, can I mention that I'm super happy the Giants took someone I completely don't care about?

So the Eagles, Dragons, Tigers, and Fighters need to name new players since they lost lotteries...

1:32 WAIT what the hell is going on? Kanemoto wants to confirm that Hanshin actually won the Takayama lottery?!?!?!? oh no WAY. Hanshin you already have Hayata Itoh you don't need another one WTF.

I guess that means the SWALLOWS now need to name a new player and I need to be grumpy.

I feel like Kanemoto is getting an early start on learning how to challenge things as a manager. Jason points out that he's already winning at it :P

NEXT DAY EDIT for clarification: It seems, according to Kozo and to Sanspo, that what actually went down was this:
  • Kanemoto and Manaka took their ballots
  • Manaka opened his and having never seen one before, and seeing a stamp on it at all instead of a blank page, did a "guts pose" because he thought he had won
  • In reality, Kanemoto's slip had the "交渉権獲得" on it, but he didn't even look at it after seeing Manaka go crazy
  • When the NPB staffer came by to their tables to take their ballot slips back and confirm, they informed Kanemoto that HE infact had the slip saying he won the lottery
  • Then Kanemoto got up and did an interview about how happy he was to get Takayama while the rest of us were like "WTF"
Poor Manaka.  I guess he has some more important things on his mind like beating down the Hawks in the Japan Series tomorrow.

First Round, Take 2:
Eagles: Rui Okoe, OF, Kanto Daiichi HS
Dragons: Shinnosuke Ogasawara, LHP, Tokaidai Sagami HS
Fighters: Shinnosuke Ogasawara
Swallows: Juri Hara, RHP, Toyo University

And of course the DRAGONS get Ogasawara which means I don't get to reuse my old Fighters Ogasawara jersey as I was vaguely hoping for a few seconds there.

1:50am: Well, now the Fighters get to choose a first-round pick and then we go in waiver order. Bleh.

First Round, Take 3:
Fighters: Kenta Uehara, P, Meiji University

I had a feeling that would happen. Why couldn't we have gotten Sachiya that way instead if we wanted a big lefty from Meiji? Unlucky year.

Okay, they're taking a break for a bit and the TV will probably cut out.

First round thoughts:

No guys were taken from the industrial leagues (or indie but that would be really weird).

It was awfully university-heavy: 8 out of 12.

While typing in info I just realized that Kenta Uehara is an even more statistical anomaly in some ways because he's so huge but he's also the youngest you can possibly be in your class (Japan starts school in April, so everyone in a year is the same age, the oldest in the class were born in April and the youngest born in March -- you often end up with a lot more athletes being born in April-May-June just because they tended to always be the biggest kids in their class).

2:10am and the draft is continuing with Rakuten taking Ryota Yoshimochi and Yokohama taking Kento Kumabara in the 2nd round (after a long interview with Rami explaining exactly why he's happy to get Imanaga). And first shakaijin guy is Taisuke Kondoh from Panasonic, going to Orix.

BTW, for the most part from now on I'm just going to go look up guys and fill in the table except for commentary when guys I care about get drafted.

I had joked that Yokohama had to take Funamoto or Azegami in the second round to continue their streak of taking my Hosei boys and running them into the ground but we'll have to see what actually happens there :)

2:18 nevermind here is the part where I go off about Ryota Sekiya going to Lotte and Seishiro Sakamoto going to Hanshin, I guess. Sekiya was a year ahead of Sachiya at Nichidai Sanko AND at Meiji and he's also a good pitcher. And then Seishiro Sakamoto -- Meiji captain this year, great guy, great catcher. He's from Kansai -- infact he was a year or two behind Tetsuto Yamada at Riseisha HS -- so I guess it's ok for him to go to Hanshin -- but I'm really worried he'll get stuck behind Umeno :(

2:19 OMG THE FIGHTERS TAKE TAKAYUKI KATOH IN THE SECOND ROUND!!!

Super excited about this one. He's a big tall pile of arms and legs but I've seen him pitch and he's good. Watched him throw a shutout against ENEOS last year -- I was there to cheer ENEOS but came out of it impressed by Katoh and even got a photo with him -- infact I've been slacking off on posting names because I went to dig up that photo :) (see photo tweet here)

2:33 excited that Takuya Kinoshita finally got drafted -- I remember him filling out a form for it back in 2013 but he didn't get picked then

2:37 Koji Ohshiro! To Orix! Now I guess that means my friend K is going to go watch a LOT of Orix games to see Sachiya AND Koji :)

2:50 in passing I wanted to note that Yakult took Julius Higuma that I'd mentioned earlier (yay!) and Kotaro Yamasaki from Nichidai (yay!)

3:27 I was just slogging away translating names into the table when suddenly i heard the FIGHTERS TAKE TOSHITAKE YOKOO FROM KEIO/SANKO/WHATEVER OMG! One of my Sanko boys is going to be a Fighter! holy CRAP!

5:43am: Hi! I've translated the main rounds but haven't gotten to the ikusei draft yet. It's basically summarized by saying "The Giants drafted a bunch of BCL guys and a few other semi-interesting names popped up". I'll do it sometime tomorrow.

Man, this was a pretty insane draft after all. Still feeling pretty awful about Takayama and on the Fighters missing both their lotteries but whatever. I think it'll all work out in the end. Now my goal for Arizona next year is clearly to get a photo between Arihara and Uehara since they're both so huge.

Next day 5:50pm: I'm done entering all the ikusei!

BTW, I still stand by my assertion that there are always going to be more athletes born near the start of the school year, and this draft class doesn't contradict that at all:

Time of Year      Players Born
------------      ------------
April - Jun         38 (33%)
Jul - Sep           25 (22%)
Oct - Dec           35 (30%)
Jan - Mar           18 (16%)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day 30: Deanna Dreams of Fighters

Hi all!  I'm finishing this up finally, and doing so from Japan!  I guess that's appropriate given that I started it a few weeks after getting back from my trip here in April.  I would feel bad about taking 120 days to finish instead of 30, except that the crazy Nohmi fan who actually started this whole thing never bothered finishing it herself.  So, there you are.

Day 30 of the 30 Day NPB Challenge says "Your Dream Team".

I think normal people would answer this by putting together the players they like that they think would just totally beat up any opposition they faced.

Me, I have decided to list a team of Fighters players that I've liked over the years and that I think would be fun to watch as a team (or just to hang out in the dugout with).  Assuming, of course, that I'm taking some of these guys at their prime (I clearly don't actually want a 48-year-old Yukio Tanaka playing, for example).

1B Yukio Tanaka
2B Masaya Ozaki
3B Michihiro Ogasawara
SS Makoto Kaneko
OF Hichori Morimoto
OF Tomochika Tsuboi
OF Atsunori Inaba
C Ryota Imanari
DH Fernando Seguignol

SP Hiroshi Kisanuki
RP Shintaro Ejiri
CL Yohei Kagiya

Definitely a few guys like Kazuhito Tadano, Micheal Nakamura, Yoshinori Tateyama, Brian Sweeney, Kazuya Murata, Yohei Kaneko, Masaru Saitoh, Yodai Enoshita, etc over the years that I also wish I could fit into this somehow.  I guess I could technically fill out an entire bench but I feel like there needs to be a limit somewhere.

You could also just say that my dream team is the 2006 Fighters and leave it at that and you wouldn't be too far off, either.

So I guess that's it.  You'll probably next hear from me here around draft time, in 4 weeks or so.  In the meantime, I'll still be posting random things from baseball games on Twitter while I'm in Japan, certainly!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Day 29: A Post about Hiroshi Kisanuki

It's just a coincidence that Kisanuki wears #29 for the Fighters and I happened to choose Day 29 of the 30-Day NPB Challenge for him.  Also I'm sorry this took me forever to write.  I feel really bad because he's having a bad season and I want him to do well and I'm worried, but at the same time I want to talk about how cool he is.

Day 29 says: "A player you wish he was your friend that you'd be proud to show around".

Clearly it would be Fighters pitcher Hiroshi Kisanuki because he's a great guy and because we have random hobbies in common!

A Great Guy

Kisanuki came to the Fighters in a trade that kind of pissed off pretty much everybody.  We sent the overly-talented-and-popular outfielder Yoshio Itoi, plus the former-ROY pitcher Tomoya Yagi over to the Orix Buffaloes, and in return we got former Seibu captain Shogo Akada, former Hosei captain Keiji Ohbiki, and uh... former Giants ROY pitcher Hiroshi Kisanuki.  All I knew about him up to that point, to be honest, was that Tatsunori Hara disliked him for some reason, but I never really knew what.  (In 2008 I was shadowing Jim Allen reporting on the Giants, and we saw Kisanuki running up and down the stairs of the Tokyo Dome, and he was like "I'm betting it's a punishment.  That guy is always in Hara's doghouse no matter how well he does.")

Of course, Japanese fans are often of the "Well, they're on our team now, we should support them!" mindset, so even as people were yelling hello at Itoi from the Fighters outfield when we played the Buffaloes, they still made a point of welcoming the new guys to the team.  Ohbiki actually had a fairly big following from pretty early on (and he ended up being Fighters captain in his second year after the trade, which was odd).  Shogo Akada, at least in the Kanto area, had a lot of admirers from his Seibu days.  Kisanuki, however, didn't seem to have much of a posse at first.

Two weeks into the 2013 season I was watching the Fighters play the Buffaloes in Kobe.  It was a notable game for me because it was Kagiya's first pro win!  But actually, something else happened that day that was equally important.  As batting practice was coming to an end, my friends were like "oh!  come down to the fence with us and let's see if Kisanuki will give us some baseball cards."

I thought they were kidding, but sure enough, right before heading to the dugout, Kisanuki reached into his bag, pulled out a stack of baseball cards (in sleeves, no less), and started walking along the outfield fence and handing them to everyone in the crowd!  They were signed and numbered.  He even said a cheerful English "Hello!" at me when he gave me a card.


Kisanuki handing out cards by the fence in Kobe.

The card he gave me that day.

Apparently he just does this whenever he can.  I got #234 in April, and then later on in August I got #2170, which means that he seriously obtained and signed and numbered at least 2200 baseball cards to give to fans over the course of a season.  And this guy has been a pro pitcher for over a decade.  Who DOES that?  Kisanuki does, apparently.  In an article in early 2013 he said he was going to try to give out 5000 of them that year, and that the team only provided him with the first 1000 cards.

But anyway, Kisanuki was also involved in what is one of my favorite but most embarrassing fan stories ever.  Basically, in mid-August 2013, my friend Takuma and I had gone up to see two midweek Eagles-Fighters games in Yamagata and Sendai.

I had read that Kisanuki is a huge train nerd (more on that later) and I made him a somewhat silly cheering sign - a parody of the Yamanote Line station signs, except instead of phonetically spelling his name underneath the kanji I wrote 我らのエース which means "our ace".  He was the starting pitcher at the Yamagata game but had a pretty awful start (giving up 5 runs in like, 2 innings) though the Fighters ended up winning 9-5.

The next day at Sendai I thought there was a chance I might see him, so I waited by the outfield fence during batting practice, and when he eventually did came over to give people baseball cards, I  held up my sign and waved hello at him and he was like "oh hi!  Nice sign, did you make it?" and I was like "Yeah, I made it for yesterday's game and I cheered for you but it didn't work, I'm sorry" and he was like "Whatever, it happens, thank you for cheering" and then he tried to talk to me in English but it didn't work very well (while he was still giving out cards to people.  Seriously.)

Anyway, I knew I wouldn't be able to get a photo WITH him, but I had a crazy impulse and asked, "Hey, can I take a picture of you holding my sign?" and he was like "uhh... sure?  I guess?" and motioned to hand it over the fence, so I did, and I took this picture.


Kisanuki holding up the sign I made, because he's just that cool.


The card he gave me that day.

Many of the other people standing around in the outfield weren't necessarily normal Fighters fans (this was a weeknight in Sendai, after all) so they were like "Wow that guy is really nice, you must be happy to cheer for a cool player like that", and I was still kind of shaking like "OMFG did I really just ask one of our starting pitchers to hold a silly sign I made for him??"

Hobbies in Common -- Railway Fans, Unite!

So anyway, something you might not necessarily know about me is that while my number one hobby in Japan is clearly baseball, my number two hobby is trains.  "Train fandom" is a huge hobby in Japan, although to be fair, it is mostly dominated by men, and there aren't many foreigners who really get into it.  The Japanese wikipedia article about the hobby is really pretty accurate -- there are some people who are just into riding all kinds of trains and obscure lines, some people who like taking pictures of trains, some who like model trains, some who like train melodies and station lunchboxes and such.

I am personally an adventurer, riding trains all over the country.  I identify my fellow adventurer train nerds because they're also riding local trains in an obscure part of the country and carrying a big thick 時刻表 timetable book.  Local trains because special tickets like the Seishun 18 let you ride anywhere for cheap, but no express trains allowed, and timetable books because you can't rely on cellphone coverage everywhere.  If a train gets delayed at all, or if you just want to wander around some area you stop in, you better know when the next train out of town is, or you may get stranded. The timetable book is also good for inspiration; some of my better train trips have happened due to just finding something cool-looking in the timetable and deciding to take it.  (I accidentally ended up on the awesome Isaburo and Shinpei tourist trains in Kyushu one time after going to Kareigawa, the oldest train station in Japan.)

Just as Japanese people are generally surprised to find a white girl doing baseball tourism, they're also surprised to find a white girl doing train tourism.  One of my favorite trips had a stop at the Tappi-Kaitei underground station in the Seikan tunnel between Honshu and Hokkaido, where we got a tour of the steam tunnels and then took an incline cable car up to the surface to see the very northern tip of Aomori and look out over the Tsugaru strait.  It was awesome!  And of course, through my luck I ended up booking on a tour where all the other participants were a group of old men from Yamaguchi prefecture who were doing some kind of senior tour trip together.

Irony: at the beginning of the trip one of them looked at me and made some comment like "Is it ok that this tour won't be in English?" and by the end, they were all like "Holy shit you are one serious train nerd" after I spent half the tour asking the tourguide a bazillion questions about the construction of the tunnel and the upcoming Hokkaido shinkansen development.


One of these things is not like the others...

I am, indeed, a train nerd.  I wouldn't have gotten to 46 out of the 47 prefectures on local trains otherwise.  In 2013 when I was finally eligible for a JR pass again, I spent 21 days covering 8718 kilometers of track, all the way from Wakkanai to Makurazaki, sleeping in 12 different cities and seeing 18 baseball games.  Good times.  Apologies to any JR employees reading this for exploiting your system.

So anyway, this is supposed to be a post about Hiroshi Kisanuki and why I want to be his BFF.

Well... Kisanuki is self-declared as プロ野球界随一の鉄道ファン, or "pro baseball's number one railways fan".  Fans for ages have talked about how they'd see him riding a train home from the stadium after baseball games, even from his Yomiuri days onwards.  (Most players either have a car or get a ride; I do occasionally see baseball players on trains but it's really rare.)  In offseason training times, articles about him often mention things like his plans to go ride a steam train on his off days.  He was the "One-day station manager" for the train station in his hometown of Satsuma-Sendai (the one in Kagoshima spelled 川内, not the well-known one in Tohoku spelled 仙台) in 2004, and he was supposed to be the one-day station manager as well when the Kyushu shinkansen opened.

(Unfortunately that was March 12 2011, so I can't find any record of him actually having done it, partially because of spring training and partially because it was the day after The Big Tohoku Earthquake.)

After getting traded to the Fighters, he started writing a column for the Hokkaido Nikkan Sports newspaper called 乗り鉄 about the trains in Hokkaido.  The article about it featured this awesome picture of him at Sapporo station:



There was even a time when the Sapporo metro was decorating a special ファイターズ号 subway car with Fighters players and the next player that was supposed to go on it was Keiji Ohbiki, but Ohbiki didn't really care and Kisanuki was like "Come on, who besides me even rides the train anyway?" and the team staff all agreed he was clearly the biggest train nut and deserved to be on the side of the train, and so he was.

Another thing I have in common with Kisanuki is that we both like biking!  Back during Spring Training in 2014, Kisanuki made it into the "random bizarre" section of spring training coverage by deciding he wanted to bike from the Fighters' ni-gun camp out to Cape Hedo.  It's about 40 kilometers round-trip so he rented a mountain bike to try it out.

Kisanuki also has a road named after him in his hometown of Satsuma Sendai.  It's a little bit hard to dig up specifics on it but I was able to narrow it down in Google Streetview to take a look.  Image searches on 木佐貫ロード show that it came into existance while he was with the Giants but the town has updated the sign as he switched teams.  Supposedly it's the road he used to run on for training back in high school.



What this all comes down to, though, is that it's hard to find cool people to take train trips with; you really have to be with someone who is meticulous about schedules, and actually enjoys spending long amounts of time riding on trains, and wants to explore random places... and also is someone you can spend long amounts of time with and not want to kill.  I only really have one good train friend that fits that.  I definitely could use more.  And I bet it would be awesome to do a long train ride or hike with Kisanuki.  He just seems like such an interesting guy, and we could talk about trains, or baseball, or Japanese history, or whatever, and it would be so cool.

I Have No Point Here, I Just Wanted To Post These

There was this crazy Legends Series at the Tokyo Dome on September 3-5, 2013, which included the longest game in Pacific League history on Sept 4th.  But, on Sept 3rd, Kisanuki started for the Fighters, pitched 7 innings, gave up 2 runs, Daikan Yoh put the fighters up 3-2 in the 4th inning, and the two of them were the game heroes!  And so when Yoh and Kisanuki came to the outfield to wave to the cheering section, I was in the front row holding up my train station Kisanuki sign, and he saw me and pointed and waved!  I mean, I was only one of maybe 3 or 4 people holding up a Kisanuki sign in a sea of Yohs anyway, but that was so cool, and I waved back and gave him a thumbs-up.

And then I made my friends all pose for a Kisanuki cheering photo just because.

 
My friends holding up their Yoh and Kisanuki towels


Kisanuki on the big screen during the hero interview


We all end up on the big screen too!!  I had my camera ready just incase :)  You can see me holding my sign over my face and the camera just above it.


Kisanuki and Yoh come to the outfield to thank the fans and to throw signed baseballs at us (no, I didn't get one)


Kisanuki cheering section!

Okay!  Well, that was long.  Day 30 is going to be difficult too and I really did want to get it done by the end of July or August, but hopefully I'll get out that last post sometime in the next week.  I'm going back to Japan on Sept 19th so I better at least have it done before then.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The 30-Day NPB Challenge

(I originally wrote/published this post on May 1st but I wanted it to be top of the blog AND I hope to finish all the entries by the end of July, so it's been redated to then.)

About a month ago, a Tigers fan that I only know as "Nice Pitcher Nohmi!" on Twitter started a #30DayNPBChallenge thing. Now, at the time, I was in Japan enjoying my normal try-to-cram-4-months-of-baseball-and-friends-and-stuff-into-2-weeks thing so didn't really have time to take on anything, but I decided that when I got back to the US I'd try to do this.

I don't guarantee that I'll actually do 30 days in 30 consecutive days, but I'll try to get through this by the end of, say, June or July.

The rules are in this post: http://tigerspride.tumblr.com/post/114858077767

Since I dislike having them in an image only, they are:

1. The first NPB game you watched (Fighters-Buffaloes Sept 2003)
2. Your all-time favorite NPB player (Shunsuke Watanabe)
3. Favorite CL team (Swallows)
4. Favorite PL team (Fighters)
5. The moment you became the fan of a player (Yohei Kagiya)
6. Favorite pitcher (Brian Sweeney)
7. A batter you'd put all your bets in (Sho Nakata)
8. A fielder you enjoy watching (Hirokazu Ibata around 2004-2009)
9. A player you think is the most difficult to play against (Okawari-kun now, Matsunaka 10 years ago)
10. Favorite battery (Daisuke Takeuchi/Masahiro Nagasaki, Keio 2010)
11. A reliever/closer who gives you shivers when he takes the mound (Tetsuya Yamamoto)
12. A pitchers' duel you enjoyed or think you would enjoy (Game 5 of the 2007 Japan Series, Fighters' Darvish vs. Dragons' Yamai/Iwase perfect game - boxscore)
13. Most impressive moment in an NPB game (Benny's kubinage throw of Toru Hosokawa after the Lions hit 3 Marines players with pitches in one inning, Sept 24 2008: video)
14. Most disappointing moment in an NPB game (Hisashi Takeda giving up homers to Kamei and Abe in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the 2009 Japan Series)
15. Funniest scene in an NPB game (Marty Brown throws bases, May 7 2006)
16. Favorite team anthem (ファイターズと共に by TRIPLANE -- love the song but the "Fighters ver." video with so many friends and so many memories is the best)
17. Favorite team logo (Tokyo era Fighters logo)
18. Favorite mascot (Fighters ni-gun mascot Cubby)
19. Favorite uniform (Swallows alternates navy/black/etc 2011)
20. Favorite stadium or dome (Sapporo Dome OF, Jingu IF watching college baseball)
21. Coolest chance theme (Baystars "Rising", Swallows "Natsumatsuri", Fighters Sendai songs and Kansai)
22. Favorite ouenka (Alltime: Yukio Tanaka, current: Kenshi Sugiya with his switch-hitting switch-melody)
23. Manager you trust the most (Trey Hillman and Bobby Valentine)
24. A coach you wish he was yours (Masato Yoshii, come back to the Fighters!)
25. A young player you have expectations on (Daiki Asama)
26. Favorite farm player who you hope makes it to the first team (The four pitchers who I knew at Hosei University who are now on the Baystars and having various issues: Kisho Kagami '10, Tomoya Mikami '11, Kazuki Mishima '12, and Kenta Ishida '14)
27. A player you wish he was in your favorite team (Koji Fukutani)
28. Favorite rivalry between two NPB players None. My favorite rivalry is Keio vs Waseda, or Everyone vs the Giants.
29. A player you wish he was your friend that you'd be proud to show around (Hiroshi Kisanuki, baseball's biggest train nerd and nicest guy)
30. Your dream team (See post; Fighters dream team of sorts)

I may not make separate posts here for ones that need 130 characters or less to answer, such as the first one, which is just going to be: September 2003, Fighters vs. Orix Blue Wave.  I wrote an entry on here about it a few years later.

(and I suppose several of these are just going to be links to old entries on here, in all honesty)

Sometime this summer I'm hoping to write up a guide to watching baseball in Japan since people ask me all the time and I'd like to have something good to link them to.  It may have to wait until after Google I/O, though :)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Day 15: My Manager Throws Bases, revisited

Day 15 of the NPB 30-Day Challenge says "Funniest scene in an NPB game".

I'm going to have to go with the infamous "Marty Brown Throws Bases" incident here.

I figured this one will take way more than 100 characters to adequately explain.  It's hard to believe it was almost 10 years ago now (on my birthday no less) May 7, 2006.  It was a month or two into Marty Brown's first season managing in Japan.

The Dragons were playing at the old Hiroshima Municipal Stadium (a stadium I would visit later that year and also see the Dragons).  Domingo Guzman was pitching for the Dragons, and Mike Romano for the Carp.  In the top of the third inning, with the score tied 0-0 and one out, Guzman (bizarrely) was on first base having gotten an infield hit.  Masahiro Araki grounded to shortstop Eishin Soyogi, who threw to Akihiro Higashide at second for the easy out on Guzman.  Higashide then threw the ball to Kenta Kurihara at first.  It was a really close play and the umpire called Araki safe.

Romano wasn't too happy about the call and said that it was a "fucked call" or something to that effect.  First base umpire Manabe didn't hear exactly what Romano said but just the syllable "fuck" was enough for him to eject Romano from the game.  Romano, naturally, was kind of pissed off about this and started yelling at the ump.

Marty Brown came out then to talk to the ump himself, or more like, to first announce Koji Hiroike for the pitching change, and THEN to tell the ump where to shove that call.  There wasn't a brawl or anything like that, but the entire team came out while Brown was yelling at the ump.

Eventually, after getting nowhere with the umpires, Brown ran over to first base, pried the base itself out of the ground, and threw it halfway into right field, to thunderous applause from the crowd, indifference from Araki and Kurihara, synchronized "EJECTED" hand-waves from the umpires, and the amusement of just about anyone else watching.  He bowed, Japanese-style, as he was exiting the field.  Nobody in Japan had ever seen anything quite so crazy before.

Araki and Kurihara went to retrieve the base.  The fans kept cheering.  The umpires announced that Romano and Brown were both ejected for poor behavior, that Jeff Livesey (bench coach) would be the manager for the rest of the game, and that Hiroike was pitching.

Video:



Years later when talking about his interpreter at the time -- Joe Furukawa, who had played for the Carp for a few years, interpreted for Brown, and then eventually got a job scouting with the Texas Rangers and spent a year interpreting for Yu Darvish -- he recounted it slightly differently:
"The first time I was ejected from a game, I didn't know the rules and Joe didn't either," Brown said. "You have a certain time to argue and then the umpires would walk away and you would go back to the dugout. We didn't know that and I couldn't get the umpire to talk to me. The only way I could figure out how to get thrown out was to throw the base to right field. And all four umpires threw me out."
For the record, by the way, the Carp went on to win the game, 5-2.

Brown and Romano were both slapped with fines from the league later that week.

But the funny thing is, the Hiroshima Carp team itself was surprisingly supportive of Brown.  They even made T-shirts commemorating the event, that said "DANGER" on the front, and "MY MANAGER THROWS BASES" on the back, for the players/staff to wear, and "I THROW BASES" for Brown himself.

There are still a few articles out there about it with photos, like this one from Asahi, or this one about auctioning off the shirts to benefit a musical:


Or you can just do a web image search yourself on ベース投げTシャツ and find quite a few.
I think that's what was the funniest thing about it -- not that the entire episode itself wasn't so funny -- but the reaction of the fans, AND the legacy it created for the rest of that year.  Brown also had a few other amusing incidents of getting ejected which also resulted in silly t-shirts being created.  This, for example, is a shirt I saw a guy wearing when I was in Hiroshima later that year:


In the end, Brown was ejected a record 12 times over his 5 years spent managing in Japan (four with Hiroshima, one with Rakuten).  But honestly, his ejections shouldn't speak for what he accomplished there.  Much like Bobby Valentine, though in a more subtle way, Brown helped develop young players and to introduce a new style of baseball in Hiroshima.  The time he was there saw the city build a new MLB-quality ballpark, and a year or two after he left the team made it into the playoffs, no small feat when you're a perennial low-budget team competing with the Giants and Tigers.  For a while after Brown left I even heard some of my Japanese friends who like the Carp say that Kenjiro Nomura was an idiot and everyone would rather have Brown there, at least he kept things interesting.

BTW, I did consider some other pretty funny things I've witnessed along the way, and my runner-up for this category was the time Tsuyoshi Shinjo thought he should pitch an entire ceremonial first at-bat to Hichori Morimoto (video here - note how his uniform number is actually his face?) but that wasn't really during a game so I figured it didn't count.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Day 9: If it weren't for those meddling home run hitters...

Day 9 of the NPB 30-Day challenge actually says "A player you think is the most difficult to play against".

I thought about different ways to interpret this.  The obvious one that a lot of people would go for would probably be a really strong pitcher, that when you see they are the scheduled starter against your team, makes you think "Do I really want to go to the game today?".  Me being a primarily Pacific League person, there have been a lot of those over the years.  Ma-kun in 2013 (or any year really).  Darvish (though not an opponent to me).  Chihiro Kaneko.  Hisashi Iwakuma, of course.  Kazumi Saitoh before he got injured.  The entirety of the Hawks and/or Lions rotations some years.

But what fun would that be?

I want to talk about two personal vendettas that specific home run hitters have had against me in the past.

Takeya "Okawari-kun" Nakamura

You've probably heard of the Seibu Lions third baseman Takeya Nakamura.  If nothing else, I've written my fair share about him on this blog.  He's almost hit 50 home runs 3 times in his career - in 2008 when he hit 46 and in 2009 and 2011 when he hit 48.  He would be leading the PL this year if Sho Nakata wasn't one homer ahead of him (at the time of me writing this), and he's on pace to be pretty close to 50 again this year.

Anyway, those years that Okawari was pounding the crap out of the PL in general, it always felt to me like he was pounding the Fighters more than anyone else -- and pounding them particularly in games I was watching.  So I went and looked up the numbers:

Year     HR total    HR vs Fighters   Games I saw    HR in front of me
----     --------    --------------   -----------    -----------------
2008        46         7 (15%)            11           7 (2 off Fs)
2009        48        11 (23%)            11           5 (4 off Fs)
2011        48        10 (21%)             3           3 (all off Fs)

So maybe I was a little over-paranoid in 2008, but in 2009 and 2011 he definitely hit homeruns against the Fighters a little more than average -- each year he only played 17% of his games against the Fighters but hit 21% and 23% of his homers against them.  Of course, there are plenty of reasons why this happened, like home games and interleague pitchers and whatnot, but I'm just justifying my own impression of how things went down.

Also, if you think about it, in those years, he was hitting homers at a rate of about 1 HR per 3 games (you'd expect him to hit a homer about 33% of the time; yeah, I know he hit more than one in a few games).  However, I saw him in 25 games and 15 homeruns of his, so he hit a homerun about 60% of the time in games I was watching.  And it clearly wasn't just against the Fighters; this was also against the Marines, Buffaloes, Dragons, and even the Giants in the 2008 Japan Series.

The upshot is, at some point I was so annoyed at losing to Seibu that I had joked to a friend who worked for the team that he ought to hire me as an "Okawari Omamori" of sorts and hang me in the Seibu Dome dugout for good luck since Nakamura was hitting homeruns in pretty much every game I watched there.

As for my second personal vendetta...

Nobuhiko Matsunaka

Those of you who just started following NPB recently are probably like "I don't get it.  That old guy?  Why hasn't he retired yet?"  But those of you who remember Matsunaka as the freaking Triple Crown winner back in 2004 who led the Japan team at the 2006 WBC in all batting categories, you'll know what I'm talking about when I say how in my earlier days as a Fighters fan I was pretty damn sure Matsunaka personally wanted me to see as many of his home runs as humanly possible.  Heck, the very first time I saw him in person in a game (in Sendai in 2006) he hit a home run.

Anyway, looking at numbers, it's clear that the only time this was really true was 2009.  Not only did he hit 8 out of his 23 homers against the Fighters (for 35%) but I did personally see 5 of them in person in 7 games.  Infact, there was a point that season where I wrote on here how "I've seen Matsunaka in 5 games this season and I've seen him hit 5 homers.  Coincidence?"

So yeah.  My nemesis is Matsunaka 10 years ago and Okawari-kun now.  I wonder who the next one will be.   Given that it's likely to be a Hawks or Lions slugger born around 1994 I'm going with Tomoya Mori :)

Monday, June 01, 2015

Day 5: A post about Yohei Kagiya

Day 5 of the NPB 30-day challenge actually says "The moment you became a fan of a player".

I have to admit I wasn't entirely sure exactly what this one means, and I certainly have plenty of random stories that could fit this.

I mean, is it the moment you took a bad impression to a good one?  I actually had a bad impression of Daisuke Miura like 10-15 years ago, until I saw him at a Fan Fest and saw what a great guy he was with fans, especially kids, then read about all of the humanitarian work he did, and then after the earthquake he was tweeting about being at stations with collection boxes, and so on.  The kicker was when he turned down a FA offer from Hanshin because "I think the fans need me more in Yokohama".  And now Bancho is kicking butt at the age of 41 and I still think it's awesome and I still want him to succeed and I still think he wears too much hair gel.

Is it just the moment you took notice of a guy?  Moments like when Naoto Inada ran into the stands to get a foul ball during the 2006 playoffs, "running as if I was a hungry bull and it was a piece of food"?  Or Hichori wearing some crazy outfit to an All-Star game? Ryota Imanari making me crack up at Fighters Kamagaya Fanfest 2008?  Hiroshi Kisanuki giving out baseball cards to fans in the outfield stands and then turning out to be a fellow train nerd?

Anyway, I stopped blogging for the most part way before I became known as a Yohei Kagiya fan among all the Fighters regulars, so I thought I'd bend this "becoming a fan of a player" theme and make this a Kagiya post!  Yay!

High School


The first time I saw Kagiya play was Koshien 2008.  I wasn't there in person, but I was watching on TV before heading to my eikaiwa job every day at 1pm.  Kagiya was the ace pitcher for Hokkai high school, from Hokkaido, and they were playing Toho HS, from Aichi, a geographical matchup much like the Fighters-Dragons Japan Series.  I was just going to watch the first few batters before heading off to my train, and then Yusuke Yamada took the very first pitch off of Kagiya and hit it into the stands in right-center field.  I typed into the japanesebaseball.com chatroom at the time,

: HOLY CRAP FIRST PITCH HOMERUN BY YAMADA OH MY GOD
: OH WAIT YOU ARE ALL 30 SECONDS BEHIND THE NHK FEED AREN'T YOU HOPE I DIDN'T RUIN THE GAME OOPS

I missed my train and was a few minutes late to work.  It was memorable.  Yamada came to Rikkio for college, I met him a few times, he was a nice kid, and sadly he never really got taller than his 166cm he was in high school and went to work for a properties rental company after graduation.  So clearly, while Kagiya may have been the worse for their first interaction, he's done better overall in the grand scheme of things.

College


The next time I saw Kagiya play was his sophomore year at Chuo, in 2010.  I came to Jingu to see Takahiro Fujioka pitch for Toyo, and stuck around for the Chuo-Aoyama game.  Kagiya came in to pitch in the 5th inning, and my brain was trying to remember why he looked so familiar, and then I remembered who he was.  (Especially when he gave up a home run to Aoyama captain Ko Shimazuru.) Even back then he still had a little yell he would do when he struck batters out.

I was actually somewhat of a Chuo fan in general at that point thanks to Kageyama, Nishime, Seiya Inoue, and even Sawamura and Yuhi Yamasaki.  And then the next year I went to several of their games to watch Yosuke Shimabukuro pitch.

But then Shimabukuro got injured, and at the same time Kagiya was emerging as their ace.  I went to several of his games in 2012 and charted him out and noted that he threw more first-pitch strikes than pretty much anyone else in the Tohto league.  He still had the same calm but passionate demeanor, and he was still attacking batters, striking them out, throwing a great fastball, and still losing a ton of games because Chuo's team sucked.

I tried really hard to meet Kagiya his senior year but it never worked out, sadly.  The Tohto league works a little bit different than Tokyo Big 6, especially being on weekdays (embarrassingly, when I got a photo with Shimabukuro, I had to ask another player on the Chuo team to take it, because I didn't know any of the other fans hanging out there).




Kagiya during his sophomore year at Chuo.



Kagiya during his senior year.


Holding Out For a Hero



After Ryota Imanari got traded to the Tigers, I spent the second half of 2012 looking for a new favorite Fighters player.  Having your favorite player(s) is part of your identity as a baseball fan in Japan; people know me as a Fighters fan in general but in the grand scheme of all your Fighters fan friends, you need to be identified by which player's camp you're in.  (It is not uncommon for someone to be described like "You know her, she's the Konta fan with the purple-letter jersey?") This is especially important for merchandise; during my 5 years wearing an Imanari jersey around I can't count how many people would give me Imanari pinbadges and other similar things.  Even at Swallows games at Jingu, wearing my Kawabata jersey, a woman once came up to me like "I heard you were visiting!  Welcome home!  Here's some Shingo cards I saved for you."  Similarly, I would save cards or pins for my friends who liked specific players as well.

So Kagiya got drafted by the Fighters and I decided, even before the 2013 season started: Kagiya was going to be my new guy.  Not only was I already a fan of his from college, but being as he's from Hokkaido he was unlikely to get traded any time soon, and also, since he's awesome, he was likely to have an impact on the team.

Fighters Year 1 (2013)



I got a new uniform with kanji letters made in time for the first Tokyo Dome series of 2013 and ran into another person who also had a custom Kagiya kanji uniform.  Whoa!  Then I went to Kobe for a weekend and saw Kagiya's first pro win and well, that was the beginning of this crazy run.

Later that year when I was back in Japan I got extremely lucky and caught Kagiya outside the dorms at Kamagaya briefly and was stuttering like an idiot as I asked him to sign my uniform and if we could get a photo together.  He had a bit of a "why is this girl freaking out" look on his face but I told him how I used to watch him at Chuo and was a huge fan of his, and then he was more like "wait, really?" and then smiled and thanked me for cheering for him and all that.  I felt super-awkward but super-happy about it.

When I got back to Sapporo, a friend in Hokkaido gave me a Kagiya towel and some other cheering stuff (including the Sapporo-area newspapers from Kagiya's first win -- the only place in the country that had him on the front page, of course!), so I had something to hold up in the stands during the Lucky 7 but also before games to yell hi at him in the outfield.  So by the end of 2013 I had solidly gotten most of the fans and Fighters players, Kagiya included, to recognize my new identity as "crazy Kagiya fangirl".


Our completely random and somewhat surprising but totally awesome Kagiya cheering section.

Kagiya and Kisanuki warming up before the game in Kobe, where Kagiya got his first pro win. Also the day I became a Kisanuki fan, but that's another story, maybe.

Finally met him! This is an awful picture of me but to be fair it was August and I had just gotten back that morning from a train trip to Hokkaido.

Hanging out at the Osaka Dome with my newly acquired Kagiya towel a week later.

Kagiya entering the game in the 11th inning of the longest game in Pacific League history.

Unfortunately, Kagiya gave up a 3-run homer to Akira Nakamura in the top of the 12th... the game ended shortly after midnight.


Fighters Year 2 (2014)



In the fall of 2014 I happened to make it to the final Kamagaya game on 9/23, which was both a national holiday and Kagiya's 24th birthday.  Some friends snuck me in line with them near the front, so I got to do the "team high-five greeting" with everyone -- where basically, for the first ten minutes of fans flooding into the stadium, the entire team is out there high-fiving and saying hello to everyone.  It's actually pretty comical if you've never seen this sort of thing before -- 40 baseball players and coaches in the concourse as a thousand fans filter past them into the stadium, so all the players have their hands held out and are high-fiving everyone and it's a big chorus of "konnichiwa," "ohayou gozaimasu," "ouen arigatou," etc as fans are flooded past the players, some of whom seem to actually be enjoying the entire thing (Hakumura), some of whom look like they're just amused and smirking at it all (Yukio Tanaka), some of whom definitely are grumpy just like "It's so lame that I have to be out here greeting you all just because I'm having a bad season (Yuki Saitoh), and some of whom are just like "holy crap this line goes on forever!" (the rookies)  For me, it's kinda funny because I've met about 70% of the team at one point or another, so some players react to me like "WTF A WHITE GIRL!" and the rest are like "Oh hey it's you, good morning, long time no see".

Anyway, I'm making my way down the line, laughing, greeting, etc, and then I got to Kagiya, and he had the "whoa, it's you!"reaction so instead of just high-fiving him like the other players I stopped for a second, took his hand in both of mine, and said in English, "Kagiya-kun!  Happy birthday!"

And he broke into a huge smile like "Oh!  Thank you!!" and shook my hands.

Toshiyuki Yanuki, who was standing behind him, said something in Japanese like "Damn dude, it's your birthday?  I didn't even know that."

Kagiya even pitched an inning, so it was cool to see him out there.  The only thing is, the game went over 4 hours, and then there was a season-closing ceremony afterwards, and the last bus that leaves Kamagaya is around 5:12pm, so I pretty much had to bolt right after the game and couldn't catch up with any of the players.











And so on... (2015)



So this spring when I was back in Japan, I went to eight Fighters games; 7 ichi-gun, 1 ni-gun, and the Fighters won all but one of them.  The last two games were home games at the Tokyo Dome.  When the Fighters win a home game, the game heroes come out to the outfield cheering stands and throw signed baseballs into the crowd.  At the Tokyo Dome, almost the entire team runs out onto the field and throws signed baseballs into the crowd.

The first game, I was in the front row.  The first row almost never gets those signed balls because the players throw them into the stands pretty far.  But the second game I was with a different group of friends in the stands, in the 6th row or so, and when the players came out I held my Kagiya towel up and yelled really loudly and he threw a ball almost right to me!  That is, my friend two seats to the right caught the ball, and then someone else was like "I actually think he was throwing that to Deanna..."

Remember how I said that having "your player" is a really important thing?  My friend was kinda like "OMG, of course he was, you should totally have this ball" and he gave it to me.  I was like "Really?  You sure?" and he said "Yeah, it'll make you happy when you are back in the USA."

I had to go look up what the kanji on the back of the ball meant.  It's a a yojijukugo, a "four kanji idiom" of sorts, and says "a hundred cuts without bending", really meaning a kind of endurance.  I found out that it's the baseball club slogan from Kagiya's high school team at Hokkai, basically.  (In this year's Fighters Guide Book they had a photo of him and Hayao Segawa sitting in the Hokkai clubhouse, with that slogan written on the wall.)



Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Day 2: Your all-time favorite NPB player

This is a pretty much near-impossible subject for me as I've had way too many players that I've been totally in love with over the years.

I thought about it and figured that if I really had to only pick one player, I would probably choose Shunsuke Watanabe -- the longterm submarine pitcher for the Chiba Lotte Marines.  He has always been so much fun to watch when pitching because he's so different from everyone else, and his prolonged success while being so different.  Even among other submarine pitchers he's the lowest -- I have several pictures I've taken where his hand is almost scraping the ground while he's releasing the ball.  Terms like "fastball" or "curve ball" or whatnot don't really mean anything when they're coming out of his hand.

But in addition to being a super-interesting and different pitcher, Shunsuke is also super-interesting as a person.  I used to often talk about how bizarre his hero interviews were on here occasionally.  And when I'd read his blog back in the day he always had a lot of insightful things or just random thoughts on his hobbies, as opposed to a lot of other baseball players' blogs.  He's also apparently very good at skipping stones.

Anyway, despite that I had media access to the Chiba Lotte Marines stadium for 2 years back in the day thanks to Bobby Valentine, I never ever ever got up the courage to talk to Shunsuke.  Though pretty much every English-speaking staff member or player on the team knew he was my favorite player (to the point that Bobby, Larry, and Paul Pupo would mention how "your boyfriend's pitching again today!"), I just wasn't sure what I'd say, plus my Japanese wasn't good enough yet at that point to do a real interview with a Japanese player.  So what was I going to say, besides OMG YOU ARE AWESOME?

After the 2013 season, Shunsuke became a free agent, and signed a minor-league contract with the Red Sox, but that didn't work out, so he signed with the Lancaster Barnstormers independent team in the Atlantic League for the 2014 season.  Yusuke Kajimoto and Tomochika Tsuboi were also on that team, so when I got invited to a friend's wedding back in Philly in September, I took that opportunity to drive out to Lancaster and catch a game.  I unfortunately missed Shunsuke pitching by one day (he threw a complete game win against the Sugarland Skeeters the night before), but I DID get to meet him before the game.  (And Kajimoto, though Tsuboi had already retired by then.)  I basically told most of the pitchers hanging out that I was looking for Shunsuke and they eventually pointed him my way.

The funny thing is we mostly chatted in English!  I explained to him in Japanese that I'd been a huge fan of his like forever, I even had my old Watanabe #31 t-shirt with me from the old days.  I got him to sign a shikishi and we got a photo together and talked for about 5 minutes before he had to go because the game was starting.  He told me how he was enjoying being in the US, living with a local family, learning English from his teammates (though they were teaching him a lot of bad words), and so on.  Also we talked about Satozaki, who had announced his retirement only an hour or two before that.  Very crazy.  I was super-happy I got to meet him!



Shunsuke did recently announce on his blog that he expects this year will be his last playing baseball, as he wasn't able to get a contract with an MLB organization at all.  So I kind of hope I can get out to see him again, but it seems pretty unlikely.  Who knows, though.

(and yes, there were many many runners-up for this.  The funny thing is that I felt bad picking any one Fighters player over another -- between Ogasawara, Hichori, Imanari, Ejiri, Sweeney, Kaneko, Kagiya, Kisanuki, there have just been way too many of these guys over the years, so it was easier to just pick someone from another team.)