Saturday, September 09, 2006

Game Reports: Buffaloes vs. Fighters and Tigers vs. Bay Stars - Osaka Baseball Adventure!

Yeah, so I'm writing this entry without game notes because I didn't take ANY at the Osaka Dome and didn't take many at Koshien (though I kept score at the latter).

My day started off around 11am, as I went to find my way to the Osaka Dome via the subways. I got off the JR Osaka Loop at Taisho and realized I had no clue how to get to the dome from there, so I ended up being a dumbass and took the light green subway line for one stop to get to the Dome. Of course, that stop lets you off in front of the home plate seats, so I had to walk around the entire place to get outfield seats.

Osaka Dome outfield is unreserved seating, so I showed up in the outfield around noon for the 1pm game, and walked up the stairs in my Ogasawara jersey, looking slightly confused, and a lady said, "Hitori desu ka?" ("Are you by yourself?") and I said yeah, and so she said that they had exactly one seat left in their row for the group they were saving, so I should sit there. So I did. I ended up spending most of the game talking to the two people in that row -- an older lady from Osaka with a thick Osaka-ben accent, and a guy from Tokyo sitting in front of me. There was also a couple from Nagoya next to me as well.

I had brought my inflatable dolphin that the people had given me at Seibu last weekend, which I read about in the Japanese "Baseball" magazine later on -- there's an advertisement for Ogasawara island or village or whatever, that Michihiro Ogasawara did, and in the advertisement it says something like "In my village, there are dolphins!" (which sounds like "iruka iru", it's supposed to be funny), so now people have been using the blue inflatable dolphins to cheer for Ogasawara. Neat, huh? Fortunately, other people in Osaka had the dolphins as well, and I also had the magazine article with me so I showed it to the older lady to explain since she was confused too :)

Oh, and there was a game, too. The Fighters were ahead 7-1 after the first two innings. I'm not kidding. They eventually won 10-2 in an absolute massacre of the Buffaloes -- no, really, they got 20 hits, 3 of which were home runs, two of which were by Fernando Seguignol, from both sides of the plate. All in all, I spent most of the game on my feet cheering for the Fighters, since they spent most of the game at-bat. The Buffaloes spent most of their innings going up and sitting back down. It really was a massacre.

Shinjo played in this game, and it's good that I got to see him before he retires. Looking at the box score though, he may have been the only person to get several at-bats that only got one hit though :) Kensuke Tanaka went 4-for-4 with a walk (and I do remember singing his song a LOT), the aforementioned Seguignol was also 4-for-4 with a whopping 6 RBI, and Hichori Morimoto scored 2 runs. Yu Darvish got the win, which wasn't hard with the lead he was given, as he walked 5 and struck out 4 in 7 innings. Notoh and Tateyama finished out the game for the Fighters.

Because the Fighters won the game, everyone was in a great mood, there was a lot of high-fiving, and I ended up talking to people around me a fair amount (and of course, none of them spoke any English, which was both good and bad). It turns out the guy from Tokyo is also a Marines fan, and he had a picture on his cellphone of him hanging out with Bobby Valentine at some Marines fan party, which I'm pretty jealous of. He gave me some stickers of various players, including Ogasawara, and Fujikawa and Kanemoto of the Tigers, since I told him I was going to the Tigers game that evening. He said to keep an eye out for him at the Swallows-Carp game next weekend. That'd be bizarre if I ran into him again.

The older lady sitting next to me went on for a while about what a big Johjima fan she is, once I told her I live in Seattle, and she also likes the Dragons, so I showed her (and the other guy, too) my pictures from Carp-Dragons batting practice, and they were telling me stories about Marty Brown (the Carp manager) and how everyone thinks he's crazy. Heh. She also said to be careful at the Tigers game because Hanshin fans are insane. I thought she was kidding, but no. More on that in a second.

I ended up staying about 20 minutes after the Fighters game because we all had to stay there and listen to the hero interview (Seguignol of course) and then go through all the player cheers again, and sing "Oi Hokkaido", and the Fighters fight song, and some other songs, and so on. It's pretty fun, but by the time it was all over it was around 4:45pm and I needed to be at Koshien by 6pm. Ack!

So I ran off and took what may have been an inefficient route on the subway, going all the way back to Osaka/Umeda station to get the Hanshin rail to Koshien. I dunno, I was worried about transfering at Nishikujo or whatever it was, so eh. There were several people dressed up entirely in Tigers gear on the train with me -- jersey, Tigers pants, towel around the neck, Hanshin hat, noisemakers around the neck, etc, etc. And that was only a mild taste of the insanity that is Tigers fandom.

I got to Koshien at 5:55pm and then had to go find my seat. Koshien is a REALLY old stadium -- 1924 -- and it just is plain inefficient in a lot of ways. I did find my seat, and... it was horrendously crunched. There was NO leg room. I lucked out that the two seats to my right, the people never showed up, and I could keep my bag there.

I didn't take a lot of pictures at Koshien even though I had a clear view of the field, because it was fairly uncomfortable to move around at all. At one point later in the game I actually did take out my camera to take a shot of Kyuji Fujikawa and I lost my lenscap and had to get the people in front of me to find it. That was pretty embarrassing.

As an aside, in case you're wondering, there is no such thing as the "Tigers cheering area" at Koshien. The entire stadium IS the Tigers cheering section, with the exception of the last few rows of two outfield sections. EVERYONE in the stadium is a Tigers fan pretty much, and it's just one gigantic sea of yellow and black outfits with a few teal retro-jersey-wearing weirdoes mixed in.

The people sitting around me were almost all families with small kids. There was a boy sitting next to me who looked to be around 5 years old. I was keeping score, and he kept looking at my scorecard, then looking at me, then looking at my scorecard, then looking confused, especially once I stopped being annoyed at my surroundings and cheering for the Tigers (I had bought an uchiwa fan outside the park since it was so damn hot out, and was using that in lieu of having an actual Tigers noisemaker). So about halfway through the game I started explaining in Japanese to the little kid about keeping score, and his mom heard me and asked me why I was doing it, so I explained how I write down everything and then I can remember these games forever. I showed her some others in my book, and of course, once I said "Mariners", she went "Mariners?? Ichiro wo mita?" as expected. She complimented me on my kanji writing, since I have been writing all the Japanese player names in kanji on my cards... so I guess my handwriting isn't nearly as bad as I thought it is. Or, maybe she was just being Japanese and polite. Either way, the people around me all seemed impressed by my scorecard... I'm not sure I've seen anyone else with one at the games here in Japan, come to think of it.

Either way, I hope I didn't freak out the little kid. He was a huge Tomoaki Kanemoto fan and went absolutely nuts when Kanemoto hit a 3-run homer in the 5th inning which put the Tigers ahead, where they'd stay for the rest of the game, eventually winning it 5-3. Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi, who I've referred to as the Japanese Jamie Moyer, got the win after going 7 innings on his lefty-junkballing-125km/h stuff. Lin Wei-Tzu also hit a home run when he pinch-hit for Shimoyanagi, which was pretty cool.

I have to say, though, that the Tigers fans are sort of crazy, and I'm not sure I ever want to go to a game at Koshien again. Not only are the seats ridiculous, and the stadium does NOT appear to be non-smoking, but getting home was sort of a nightmare -- imagine what happens when 50,000 people all need to get into the same subway stop at once. I guess that might happen at Yankee Stadium too, but this just seemed worse because of the 95 degree weather, I guess. Either way, eh. I'm thinking that comparing Tigers fans to Red Sox fans was pretty damn accurate, now that I think about it.

Anyway, I've promised that I'd be off this computer in the next ten minutes, so I really ought to make good on that promise. Maybe I'll add more to this later, maybe not. In all, it was a pretty good day and a pretty good 10 hours or so of baseball adventuring, and I did have a good time in general, but I'm definitely happier to be a Fighters fan than any other team in Japan! Their cheering section is just so much fun to be around.

EDIT 12/10/2006> Osaka Dome pictures are now up here!
EDIT 12/17/2006> Koshien pictures are now up here!

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