Today I got to meet up with Tokyo Sam, a guy who posts around various Mariners blogs and forums, and who has the wacky outlook of being a Japanese guy in Tokyo who'd rather follow the MLB, as opposed to me, an American girl in Seattle who'd rather follow the NPB. The cool thing is that we both know a lot of baseball stuff that's interesting to the other party just by osmosis, I think.
Anyway, we went off to Makuhari, the area near the Chiba Marine Stadium, and hung out there for the afternoon, which included me finally getting to play Baseball Heroes, this Konami arcade game where you use actual cards to make and manage your baseball team, and can win more cards. Sam helped me by translating stuff that would take me way too long to read on the fly, and we played a game, me as the Nippon Ham Fighters, and apparently I was playing against a guy in Hiroshima who was calling his team the Lotte Marines, but his team featured players like Kosuke Fukudome and Kenji Johjima, so he obviously had some pretty good cards to work with there! My team had Carlos Mirabal pitching (so it's obvious they were using 2005 data), and he ended up going a complete game and winning, which was pretty funny. The players in the game really look scarily like their real-life counterparts -- they had Shinjo down to every last detail, and it was pretty frightening.
I won my game and got two cards -- Ohmura from the Hawks, who's pretty good, and Kimura from the Carp, who isn't. And now I feel like I need to go play again to try to get more cards, and I bet that's EXACTLY what I'm supposed to feel like. Stupid companies with their money-extorting strategies!
After that, Sam and I went to the stadium, and it was drizzling out. We checked out the Marines Museum, which is pretty silly, but a good place to go if you like taking pictures of yourself with funny baseball things. You have the option of getting yourself in a picture as the manager on top of a doage (when they throw you in the air), or sitting in a replica dugout, or sitting in a replica of Satozaki's WBC locker, or being at bat behind a replica home plate, or pitching in a fake bullpen, or sitting in a bullpen car, or standing out by a fake outfield fence, or you can be a scoreboard operator and tally balls/strikes/outs. There's also some actual historical team stuff upstairs in the museum, though it's all in Japanese, so I basically read about half of it, getting Sam to help me with some of it as well, and we admired how ugly the old Lotte uniforms were.
Well, by the time we got out of there, and through the big team store in that building, there were lines of people waiting to buy tickets and/or get into the stadium, so we decided to go ahead and get tickets, and we got pretty good ones, and then got in line to get into the stadium, and all the while, it was drizzling rain.
But, the game happened. I watched fielding practice, and watched them take off the tarps and fix up the field. Toshiaki Imae (that punk!) was out signing autographs over the Marines dugout, but we were sadly on the other side of the infield, though it's just as well, I dunno what I would get him to sign anyway.
The game started, and the rain continued. I kept score despite being in the rain, and after about three innings, we moved up to the last row of the infield seats, which was covered by a tiny overhang from the upper deck, so that was good. I'm sure if I write a long game summary nobody's really going to bother reading it, so I'm not going to bother. You can go look at the game info here. The Marines won 7-0.
In short, Shingo Ono pitched a complete game shutout in 108 pitches, but because he did so against the Rakuten Golden Eagles in a nonstop drizzling rain, I'm not sure whether it's that great a feat or not. Kanehisa Arime, the left-hander best known for going the whole way in a 17-strikeout, 12-inning tie against Lotte a few weeks ago, started the game for Rakuten, but was chased after two innings since the Marines batted around the order in the second inning and scored four runs off him. To be fair, some of Arime's trouble was with his fielders being unable to deal with the wet baseball and turf, especially when Saburo Ohmura hit the ball to third baseman Hisanori Nishitani -- whose first big-league game was just last week -- and Nishitani not only fumbled the ball once, but twice, and thus Saburo was safe at first and Benny Agbayani also scored a run on the play.
The Eagles also made another spectacular error later on, in the 8th inning, when Val Pascucci hit a fly ball way out to left field, near the line, and the leftfielder, third baseman, and shortstop all ran out there. Standing in a triangle where any one of the three could have and should have caught it, the ball pretty much just fell right in front of the left fielder, and Pascucci found himself on second base instead of back in the dugout.
Though to be fair, early on, a ball was hit foul towards the Marines' dugout by Eagles' DH Yuuji Yoshioka, and both first baseman Kazuya Fukuura and catcher Tomoya Satozaki made a run to catch it -- and they did get there in time, but unfortunately, they also both slipped and fell on the wet turf. I was more concerned about someone getting hurt than them not getting the ball, in all honesty.
Aside from the fielding mishaps on both sides, the Marines hitting was pretty good. Tomoya Satozaki, who may be the only catcher in the NPB currently batting cleanup, went 3-for-4 with a double, 2 RBI, and 2 runs scored. He also seemed to have a penchant for breaking bats, as he broke two and threw another one onto the field when he swung. (I'm betting that it was hard to get a grip on the bats in the rain, honestly.) I was wearing a Satozaki #22 t-shirt, so it was good to see it bring good luck! Everyone in the lineup got a hit except Saburo, and he's excused because of the above error. Even Masato Watanabe, who's sort of like a Japanese Willie Bloomquist, got two hits, scoring a run, and that's saying something.
Also, Katsunori Nomura sucks ass. I realize it's got to be pretty difficult being the son of one of the greatest players in Japanese baseball history, and even worse, following your dad around as he moves from managing one club to another, but still, he's simply not a good catcher or a good player. At least Kazushige Nagashima had the sense to quit baseball and go into acting and other media personality stuff, which I think he's actually respectably good at (heck, I saw him star in the movie "Mr. Rookie" before actually realizing he was Shigeo Nagashima's son!).
So, yeah. Rain sucks. It never DID stop raining the entire time, but the game was played out in full, and Shingo Ono did get the complete-game shutout, which I think is only the third one in his entire career, so good for him. I had fun hanging out with Sam, and he knows a lot about the things I tend to geek out about lately, namely baseball and digital SLR cameras, so that was good. Also, I got to experience the craziness of Tokyo highways, and that was new and different.
I should probably venture back out into the rain now. If it ever stops, I'll be going to a game at Jingu on Thursday or Friday. Unfortunately, freaking Daisuke Goddamn Matsuzaka had to go and shut out the Fighters tonight up in Sapporo, so he won't be pitching in Tokorozawa this weekend, so I doubt I'm going to bother going back to a Lions game unless this stupid rain continues, since my only stadiums left to visit are Yokohama and Jingu, both outdoors.
(Oh, one last note: outside Marines Stadium before the game they were playing a ton of American oldies/classic rock, all rain-themed, like CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain?" and the Carpenters' "Rainy Days and Mondays" and so on. The funny part to me is that they were all in English, so I'm not even sure whether most people there got the theme. I appreciated it, at least.)
EDIT 1/9/2007> Pictures from this day are now up here!