Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Yokohama Bay Stars Fan Fest

I went to the Yokohama Bay Stars fan fest on Friday, November 23. It was on Friday afternoon because that was a national holiday in Japan. In addition, the event had a pretty reasonable fee: zero yen. Overall, it was really interesting and I had a pretty great time.

Because other people couldn't make it and I ended up going alone, the good part was that I could run around with my camera the whole time and just go crazy snapping pictures of players all over the place. The bad part was that I didn't feel like waiting in any lines for things, because waiting by yourself for 45 minutes is boring, and running around the field is a lot more interesting.

What was going on: Event Map

1. Main Stage: Various bands were playing short music sets, and inbetween those, various players were on stage doing "talk shows".

2. Speed Gun corner: You could go into the Baystars bullpen and test your pitching speed. I wanted to go into the bullpen just to see it, not to throw, but alas, the line was really long, of course.

3. VP Auction: I never actually found the auction and it's not like there's anything I wanted anyway.

4. Kids Corner: They had an inflatable playground and some other stuff, including for a while a 90-foot dash between 2nd and 3rd base. For a while the Shonan SeaRex mascot Reck was out there scaring playing with the kids as well. I honestly can't remember if I saw Hosshey or Hossiena anywhere, come to think of it.

5. Players' Autograph Zone: You had to wait in a HUGE line for this and I think it was limited to 3000 people anyway, so I said "screw it".

6. Catch-ball Corner: Unquestionably the most popular and most awesome part of Fan Fest. This involved kids playing catch with Baystars players, and I don't just mean random farm team guys, but they had Yoshimura and Miura and Terahara and Nonaka and such out there, and probably others I didn't see as well. Kids (and some adults, but it was largely kids) could play catch for a few minutes with a random player and then pose for a picture with them. The players were incredibly sweet to the kids and the kids were incredibly cute and I felt all warm and happy just watching for 20 minutes.

7. "Two Shot Pose" area -- apparently that actually means "get your picture taken with a player". Again, this was in the sign-kai area and I never actually went into the stands at all, to be honest.

8. Tee Batting Corner: You could bat off a tee the same way the players do before a game. I didn't watch this that much because it wasn't as interesting as catch-ball.

9. Mini train corner: This was pretty bizarre. They had this big model train and they'd have about 10-15 fans riding it at a time and 2 Baystars members (sometimes players, usually staff/coaches/mascots).

10: Tent Corner: This was... about 5-6 tents set up on either side of the main stage. I honestly don't exactly remember what they all had, but some were run by local newspapers or radio stations. One was just selling Baystars calendars (and about 2/3 of the time they had a random player there signing calendars if you bought one), and another was run by the Baystars Store. Another was a baseball card tent run by BBM I think, and there were a few run by either food or sports drink or some such thing companies, like Meiji. From time to time players would be involved in the random tents but most of the time the tents were just selling random crap.

Anyway, I pretty much did exactly as I said: I ran around for 3 hours snapping pictures and watching players talk about stuff and whatnot.

Hayato Terahara suddenly reminds me a lot of Nick Swisher. He has a similar goofy personality and the way he dealt with kids with this adorable grin seemed really Swisher-esque, along with the long hair and facial hair and chubby cheeks.

Takahiro Saeki, who already cracks me up, was practically doing stand-up comedy at one of the tents for about 20 minutes. He was just super-funny and it culminated in him leading a crowd of a few hundred people in a crowd-wide janken for some prize the radio station was giving out. "Did you have scissors? If not, sit down. No, HONESTLY, who had scissors? You had rock, I saw you!"

I almost got Shingo Nonaka to autograph my calendar but missed him by about 5 people in line. So close! So sad. I like Nonaka.

Takuro Ishii called Kimiyasu Kudoh an old man up on stage :)

The only other non-Japanese person I saw in the stadium was John Turney, the Baystars' strength and conditioning coach. He was at the model train thingy helping load people onto the trains. I wanted to yell something like "Hey, why aren't you riding, Turney?" but I was way too far away for him to hear it. Oh well. I got a lot of funny looks from people all day; I doubt random Americans usually wander into their fan fests here, at least not for a team like Yokohama.

I was really sad that I only saw Atsushi Kizuka for about 5 seconds and that was when he was on stage with a few other players. No Kizuka Time for me. I hope he'll be the closer next year. When I was walking around the infield, I went up onto the pitcher's mound and gave it a good hard kick and said, "Kizuka rashii!" One person got it and laughed, the others just stared at me like "What on earth is this crazy gaijin doing?"

Speaking of "that crazy gaijin", while I was watching players playing catch, there were always about half ni-gun players out there, and they were usually wearing jackets over their uniforms, with just the number on a sleeve, no name. So there were always these "dare aitsu?"s coming from all around me. At one point there was a guy practically standing on top of me and he said to his wife in Japanese, "Number 4, who the heck is that?" and I looked up and said "That's Kitagawa," and he was like "Thanks," and then did a double take and laughed and said "Really, thanks!" in that tone of "Wow, did some crazy American chick just tell me who a guy was on my own team's roster? How wacky!"

Also, man, I nearly knocked out a lady with my camera lens while the entire crowd was fighting to try to snap pictures of Daisuke Miura playing catch. It wasn't my fault -- I was out there on my tiptoes trying to get a shot and she started jumping up and down to try to see him, yelling "Miura-sama!!!" like the other people around us. If I hadn't noticed, she literally would have jumped right into my lens, and I'm pretty sure either the lens or the woman wouldn't have come out unscathed. Miura is really, really, really popular in Yokohama, regardless of how much hair gel he uses.

Anyway, check out the photos I took at Baystars Fan Fest!

Here's a few of my favorites. Aren't the Baystars so cute?

Takuro Ishii and Kimiyasu Kudoh

Takahiro Saeki

Atsushi Kizuka

Daisuke Miura

Shingo Nonaka

Hayato Terahara

Yuuki Yoshimura

(By the way: you know, I don't mind if people USE my photos, but could you just ASK me first? It's really beginning to disturb me how often I see my photos in other places, cropped or re-sized or whatnot, no attribution, etc. I love sharing pictures with the world and all, but if you like my stuff enough to copy it and use it as your own, couldn't you at least TELL me that? It would make my day. Honest.)

Yokohama Stadium is easily one of my favorite places in Japan to be with a camera, so this was a pretty fun time for me as well. I'm only wondering why I didn't see Nishi or Koike or Kinjoh or Uchiyama anywhere... probably I just missed them, or maybe they were at the sign-kai and photo things for a while or something. I know Murata and Aikawa are off on the Olympic qualifying team, but as far as I could tell the rest of the team was around for this event, which was really great of them. In Seattle, you'd generally see like 7-8 players at a Fan Fest and all they'd do is a 20-minute Q&A and an autograph session, but here it was seriously something like 50 players and they were all over the place, posing for pictures, signing things, shaking hands, talking to fans, playing catch, etc. I think everyone had a pretty good time at this event -- the weather was lovely and it was just plain neat to hang out on a baseball field for a while.

(And yeah, despite being outdoors, Yokohama's field is not grass, but is artificial turfy stuff. I sat down on it at one point and it seemed pretty soft though.)

Afterwards I stopped by the Baystars store and got a Yoshimura #31 keychain to go with my Morino #31 keychain, and a few other things. I should also mention that the 2008 Baystars calendar is really pretty nice -- it's 1200 yen and is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the team being in Yokohama.

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