I went down to Safeco tonight for the Mariners-Royals game. I'll fully admit that the timing of my trip to America was based upon my college reunion this upcoming weekend, and the Royals coming to town now. I was really, really, really hoping to get a chance to shake Trey Hillman's hand and thank him for all he did with the Fighters. And, well, I got to do that...
Trey had actually been warned that I'd be stalking him, though, so I'm not sure it still qualifies as stalking.
I showed up at Safeco at 5:30, just in time for opposing team batting practice, and went down to the field, and... and I saw Hillman just sitting there talking to some people! Whoa! So with my heart pounding as loudly as the PA system, I just... went over and sat down. And after a minute or two I introduced myself to Trey, or more like, he figured out who I was. Now the confusion is, I think he had the idea I wanted to interview him so I could write stuff here on the blog, except me being an idiot, I had no such plan, I really just wanted to say hi. You all know I'm not a real reporter, I'm just a dorky girl with a blog who happens to be a gigantic Fighters fan.
I just sat there and listened to him talk to his friends for a while, trying to curb the "Oh my god, that's Hillman-kantoku!" alarms going off in my brain. He had a lot of funny stories to tell -- about being in Japan, about getting the KC job, etc. About how the Fighters winning the Japan Series brought a lot of money to Hokkaido and had a huge impact on the island. About his daughter learning Japanese and dancing with the Fighters Girls. About his son, also involved in sports, who is taking on tennis in addition to track. ("I told him, 'TJ, tennis is a country club sport. We're rednecks!'") About how in Japan, it's nigh impossible to interact with fans due to the fences and the high walls and all, so it's nice how he could just sit out and chat like this.
I've read articles for years about how nice a guy Hillman is, and seen him on TV in Japan countless times, and now having met the guy, all I can say is -- it's for real, every bit of it. While I was out there chatting with him, people would keep coming up, asking for autographs and to get a picture taken with him. I think most of them knew who he was. Many of them were kids. Some of them were Japanese people, even -- "Hillman-kantoku, can we see Nomo pitch today?" "Tabun." (Maybe.) "Tabun???" "Okay, probably not..." He was very kind to everyone, and I ended up taking a whole lot of pictures of people with their cameras and lending kids my Sharpie :)
He asked if I'd been to Sapporo; I said I'm going for my first time in two weeks. His recommendation was to make sure I check out "Hillman's Hangout" in the Susukino area. Apparently he even does some broadcast chats with the Fighters fans there over Skype! How cool is that? (Well, aside from the part where he has to be awake at 5am for it, that is?) He also had some funny stories about getting confused between speaking Spanish and Japanese.
Anyway, I feel like a major retard because I didn't really have any questions prepared. Naturally, of course I thought of a bazillion as the game was going on and I was still kicking myself. If I get there early again tomorrow, maybe I'll bug him, but, sigh.
Yasuhiko Yabuta came over and signed stuff for about 4 people before he ran off. I said in Japanese, "please sign this!!" but he just looked at me funny on his way out running. Doh! A lot of other people caught Joey Gathright and Brian Bannister as they were around after BP, but I don't like to elbow into the crowds much.
Oh, so anyway, there was a game. And it was COLD outside. REALLY COLD. It was BECU night, which means $11 tickets in the upper deck. As a result of that plus the temperature plus the Royals, the left field bleachers were LITERALLY empty. When the game started, one person was sitting there. Even towards the end, we think we saw 6 people out there, 2 of whom were ushers.
I was sitting up in section 340 for the start of the game with Gomez and Brett from Lookout Landing, plus Brett's mom, plus my friend Jason from college. (Jason is a Yankees fan, but he's a Yankees fan from the days when they sucked, so he's Allowed.) Anyway, to keep warm, Brett decided to yell a lot of stuff. Or maybe Brett just always yells a lot of stuff, I don't really know. It mostly started off pretty tame -- "Nice range Guillen, you know who gets that one? Adam Jones!" or "Hey Vidro, what's your secret? Hot dogs? Footlongs?"
(Brett held up his 'Sign Barry Bonds' sign for a while and said things like "You know who makes that a home run? Barry Bonds," after Jose Guillen doubled in the 2nd inning. Jason remarked, "So Barry Bonds is the Chuck Norris of baseball?")
Jarrod Washburn, aka J-Rod the Washburninator, started for the Mariners. Zack Greinke, who I thought had gone insane, started for the Royals.
The first inning went by quickly, with the Mariners GIDPing themselves out of it, but the second was big for the Royals. Billy Butler led off the inning with a 387-foot home run into the Royals bullpen. 1-0. Then Guillen's aforementioned double, a strikeout by Alex Gordon, and... as I was saying how Miguel Olivo should also be striking out any minute, Brett said how "Olivo hasn't hit any home runs so far, so I bet he'll do that now." And sure enough, BLAM, Olivo sent one over the centerfield wallm, 420 feet. Funny how I rarely ever saw him do that when he played on the Mariners... but, 3-0.
"Hey, if Washburn basically walks, strikes out, or gives up a home run to every batter he faces, does that make him a Three True Outcomes pitcher?" I asked.
The M's GIDPed themselves out of the second inning too, and then in the third, Brad Wilkerson led off with a walk. Kenji Johjima singled, and then both Betancourt and Ichiro hit grounders to first which were thrown to second to head off the leading runner. However, during that, Wilkie managed to get all the way around and score, so good for him. 3-1. Lopez grounded out to second to end the inning.
I want to point out that according to my scorecard, Mark Grudzielanek at second base was responsible for, or partially responsible for, 13 out of the 27 outs. He's good.
We spent the top of the 4th moving down from section 340 to section 108, and it went by so quickly we pretty much missed the entire thing.
No such luck on the top of the 5th, though. After two quick outs, there were two quick singles, and then Washburn hit Grudzilla with a pitch to load the bases. Mark Teahen grounded out after that, though.
Music trivia song was Jungle Boogie by Kool and the Gang. I guessed 1978 instead of 1974. Vidro was born in 1974 and the World's Fair was in Spokane. Go figure.
Somewhere in the 5th and 6th innings, Brett started getting bored, so he was heckling Jose Guillen. Except, given that his mom was at the game with us, he wasn't going to say anything offensive. The Mariners put up the "quick facts" on the big screen with each batter, so he started yelling things like "HEY JOSE, RICHIE'S FAVORITE 70'S BAND IS CCR. WHAT'S YOURS?" "JOSE, BRAD'S FAVORITE VIDEOGAME IS MADDEN. DID YOU KNOW THAT? THAT'S A DAMN GOOD CHOICE, BRAD!"
Next inning, "HEY JOSE, KENJI'S FAVORITE SNACK IS TOAST. DO YOU LIKE TOAST?" "HEY JOSE, SEAN GREEN IS WARMING UP IN THE BULLPEN, I BET YOU DON'T WANT TO FACE HIM!!" "HEY, JOSE LOPEZ HAS THE SAME NAME AS YOU. ISN'T THAT NEAT? HOW MANY JOSES DO YOU KNOW HERE IN THE STADIUM TONIGHT? I KNOW THREE."
"WE DON'T HAVE ANY QUICK FACTS ABOUT YOU JOSE, CAN YOU TELL ME SOME? DO YOU LIKE PAPER OR PLASTIC?" At this point, a girl in the row ahead of us who was laughing called back at Brett, "Coke or Pepsi?" and Gomez was like "Dude, you have a request," and so Brett yelled "CMON JOSE, TELL ME SOMETHING, I'M WRITING A PAPER ABOUT YOU. HOW ABOUT COKE OR PEPSI?"
I was positive we were going to get thrown out of the stadium, but apparently (fortunately?) the ushers in 108 know Brett and think he's pretty funny.
While Zack Greinke was quietly and effectively (and coldly) blowing through the Mariners lineup over and over again, Jarrod Washburn came out of the game after 6 innings, and Sean Green came in and immediately loaded the bases -- Olivo singled, Buck walked, and Pena came up bunting but ended up singling. Ryan "Hyphen" Rowland-Smith came in after that. David DeJesus hit a pop fly way out to center, but even Ichiro couldn't fire in the ball quickly enough to keep Olivo from scoring. 4-1. RRS dealt with the next two batters quickly, though.
Roy "the other Corco" Corcoran pitched the top of the 8th, and gave up another run. With one out and one on, Alex Gordon hit the ball to short, and it looked like a sure double play, but the ball got away from Lopez at second. Our guess is that Guillen slid into him (come to think of it, last year I saw Guillen do that in a Royals game too, only that time he took out Grudzilla) to break up the DP. Olivo then hit the ball up the middle too -- and Jose Lopez stopped the ball but it somehow fell out of his glove again. He rolled it to second, but apparently was not quick enough to get Gordon, who then scored on a subsequent John Buck single. 5-1.
In the bottom of the 8th, we were hoping to see an appearance by the Yuni-Bomber, except instead, we saw an appearance by Leaping Teahens, as Mark Teahen made a jumping catch right out by the back wall in left field.
And that's really all there is to this story. The 9th inning went by quickly and painlessly, which was good, because it was COLD. The Royals won 5-1, and 16,751 watched it. I totally believe that number -- the stadium was deserted. It's a shame I couldn't be around for a warmer game sometime, but I really did want to see the Royals. They're kicking ass!
Tomorrow John Bale gets the start against Miguel Batista. Last time I saw Bale pitch he was wearing a Hiroshima Carp uniform, so this should be pretty neat!