I have about ten minutes to write this, so forgive me if it is a little incoherent.
Today I went to see the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles play the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks at Miyagi Fullcast Stadium in Sendai.
I looked at the pitching matchups last night and saw that today was Rakuten's Ichiba against Softbank's Saitoh, and since I think Saitoh is the best pitcher in Japan right now, I just HAD to go up. So we got shinkansen tickets and headed up to Sendai. This is sort of like deciding on a whim to go from Seattle to Portland, only you have a train that goes 100mph or more, so it only takes an hour and a half to make the trip. Fun.
We got off at Miyaginohara, which is actually the Rakuten Golden Eagles "Baseball Station" and it even had the Eagles fight song playing as we exited the place. Went to the stadium, got tickets. It was sunny as all hell, and people looked at me weird for putting on sunscreen. Then they looked at me weird because I was wearing a Johjima jersey. Also, I swear there are NO gaijin in Sendai -- I was seriously the only white person I saw at all on my entire trip there (the friend I went with is Chinese). It was pretty cool, though. Sendai seems like a nice city.
The game itself... well, I feel really bad that I was rooting for the Hawks -- I really don't want them to win in general -- but I really, really, really like Kazumi Saitoh. He's magnificent. Went 8 innings, no walks, struck out 5, gave up no runs, therefore lowering his ERA to something like 1.71 in 178 innings. Insane. Mahara closed and would have kept the shutout if Jose Fernandez hadn't launched a home run in the middle of Mahara striking out the side in the 9th.
The scoring started with the awesome Nobuhiko Matsunaka hitting a home run in the 5th inning, and it happened to be when I conveniently had stood up and walked in towards the infield to take pictures -- there's a gigantic net up all over the infield, so its really annoying to take pictures. Unfortunately, that was around when my friend got a call from his office in Tokyo, and they wanted him back there to work on stuff -- right then. "But I'm in Sendai!" "Come back!" Bleh. So he left, and I stayed for the rest of the game.
In the sixth inning, Honda led off with a single to center, and then Matoba -- the backup catcher who didn't pan out as Johjima's replacement -- bunted, and Ichiba threw it to second but didn't beat Honda there. Ohmura bunted them both over, and then Munenori Kawasaki hit a ball into the left-field corner which Rick Short had some trouble recovering, so Kawasaki got a triple and the Hawks were up 3-0. Tanoue sacrificed Kawasaki home after that, and while Matsunaka hit a double, that was it for the scoring. The Hawks won 4-1, with that Fernandez home run I mentioned.
I finally realized how many Hawks fans were there when they let loose yellow balloons before the top of the 7th inning. While the red and white balloons in the middle of the 7th inning greatly outnumbered them, it was still cool.
In the 9th, Takasu fouled a ball off that landed literally 8 feet from me -- I was 3 seats in from the aisle and a guy across the aisle caught it. Not only did he catch it barehanded but he didn't seem to care -- an officer or attendant or something came over to check to make sure he was okay, and he actually OFFERED THE BALL BACK TO THE ATTENDANT! Wowie. That was bizarre.
The Eagles really suck. I feel bad for them. Its also funny how they have three gaijin in their lineup, so that means you get people yelling "E-RI-KU!!" for Eric Valent, or "RI-KU SHO-TO!" for Rick Short, or "Home run home run Jose!" for Fernandez. Still, the funniest Rakuten cheer is for Tsuchiya Teppei -- before his song, they just yell "TEPPEI!!!!!!" about ten times, then start singing. It's pretty funny.
On the shinkansen back to Tokyo they actually had the Mariners-Rays score and mentioned Johjima's home run. Cool, huh?
I'm going to the Lions-Fighters game tomorrow evening. I can't wait. I picked up Ogasawara's biography at Book 1st in Shibuya tonight, along with Shinjo's book "Shinjo no Shinjo" (the first is his name, the second means "principles"), subtitled "baka kakkoii", which means "cool dumbass", essentially.
I gotta go or I'll be locked out of the place I'm staying, so... more tomorrow!
EDIT 11/26/06: Photo set for this day is now up here!