I have this feeling that Toru Hosokawa has hit exactly two grand slams in his career, both against the Fighters, and I have been there for both of them. Seriously.
(My first game at Seibu was two years ago, and Satoru Kanemura started for the Fighters and gave up a grand slam to Hosokawa and the Lions won that game 6-2. There are some things you never forget, and grand slams hit by catchers who come out to Hikawa Kiyoshi's "Zundoko Bushi" are definitely up there.)
I got there later than I wanted to -- around 1pm for a 2pm game -- and thus I couldn't find a patch of ground in the serious ouendan but ended up a little further out. But the people around me were fairly nice and it was still a place where everyone was standing up to cheer, so that was good. I wore my green Morimoto #1 shirt, my Hichori towel, and my origami Hichori hat that was the giveaway at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday. To my surprise, I saw a few OTHER people with those, which means they ALSO had to be in Sapporo yesterday! Crazy! (But they were too far away to ask about it.)
Before the game, the ouendan leaders came out to teach us all the new Kanto-area chance theme that they apparently just started using last week. We couldn't read the words from where we were but caught the important parts (to yell "utte utte _____!" at the right times).
The Fighters got off to a really quick 3-0 lead off of starter Matt Kinney -- Hichori and Kensuke both walked, and then Inaba... uhh, well, Inaba hit the ball to second, or first, or I don't know, but basically it would have most likely been a close infield single, or maybe a 3-1 out, except Kinney didn't make it there to cover the bag. Nobody did. So the ball ended up by the dugout and the Fighters guys just kept running until it was 2-0. Tomoyuki Oda added an RBI single to make it 3-0 that inning, and Kinney actually came out of the game after only one inning, too.
Fighters added another 3 runs to their tally in the top of the 5th -- infield single by Kudoh, Inaba walk, and a RBI single from Sledge; 4-0. Add another RBI single from Oda to make it 5-0. Sledge had to hold at third on another single by Chon-so Yoh, but then Shinya Tsuruoka hit a huge pop fly to center and that was good for a sacrifice so Sledge could come home, 6-0.
(For the record, people did the Inaba Jump here too when he came to bat with runners on base.)
Anyway, the game entered the bottom of the 5th with a 6-0 score in favor of the Fighters, AND Brian Sweeney hadn't given up a hit yet. And just as I'm sure someone was saying that very thing on TV, GG Satoh singled to center. And then Takeya "wants-to-look-like-Norihiro" Nakamura walked. And Yoshihito Ishii singled as well. And with the bases loaded and Toru Hosokawa at bat, I had this really horrible sinking feeling of deja vu...
...and sure enough, Hosokawa pounded the ball into the leftfield stands by the foul line. Grand slam, 6-4.
Hiroyuki Nakajima led off the bottom of the 6th with a home run to the same exact place. 6-5.
And then Hisashi Takeda came in to pitch the bottom of the 8th, and I love Hisashi, but he had a baaaaad day. Yasuyuki Kataoka led off with a single that bounced off of Naoto Inada and then into Yuuji Iiyama's glove but not in time for the throw. Kuriyama bunted him over. Nakajima struck out, but then Craig Brazell singled home Kataoka, 6-6. And then GG Satoh came to the plate and well, you can guess what happened... he hit a home run to the deepest part of centerfield, making it 8-6. And well, that's where it ended, Youhei Kaneko grounding into a double play to end the game.
The guy next to me was like "I can NOT believe they lost after getting out to a 6-0 lead like that. WTF."
So rather than focusing on that aspect of the game... did I mention there's some new Fighters chance music? After the 7th inning, when we sang it with Naoto Inada up to bat, I was frustrated that I couldn't pick up the words that were being sung during the song part of it, and wasn't able to read the words at the beginning, so I went back to ask the ouendan, and someone actually told me the words to it, and I wrote them down on my ouenka paper. She was first like "Do you know Shiki-shiki-ban-ban"? And I was like "Err... no..." but then later I realized that's the Japaneseization of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Heh.
I only see one place with the lyrics online so far, and that is here. They also have a link to a sound file of people singing this theme. Which I think helps a LOT. But anyway, here you go:
After the fanfare... "Let's go [player name]!"
（曲） かっ飛ばせ○○ （曲） かっ飛ばせ○○ （曲） ウ～～イェイ！（ジャンプ！）
(music) Kattobase [player name] (music) Kattobase [player name] (music) whhhoooooooa - YAY! (jump!)
頑張れ僕らのファイターズ 走れ速く 頑張れ僕らのファイターズ 決めろ早く
Ganbare bokura no FIGHTERS, hashire hayaku
Ganbare bokura no FIGHTERS, kimero hayaku
男性：打って～！ 打って～！○○！ （男性のみで歌う）
Men sing: Utte! Utte! [player name]!
女性：打って～！ 打って～！○○！ （女性のみで歌う）
Women sing: Utte! Utte! [player name]!
Everyone sings: Ima da CHANCE da [player name]!
It's a little tricky to get the hang of at first -- those "ganbare bokura no fighters" lines are really quick. But overall I think it is fun -- the jumping part reminds me of the old Yukio Tanaka cheer -- and a lot more unique than doing the other chance themes, which are fairly generic all things considered (cmon, doesn't EVERY team have a Wasshoi chant?)
By the way, "Seibu Dump" is my official new name for the stadium in Tokorozawa, because it just kind of sucks. It's like you get the worst parts of an indoor stadium (awful lighting and acoustics) combined with the worst parts of an outdoor stadium (humidity and wind), plus the stupid concourses, PLUS the slanted outfield "seating". I mean, the stupid part about the concourse is, the better your seat is, the further you are from the concourse, so you have to climb up a ridiculous amount of stairs to go to the bathroom or go get food. And if you sit in the visitor's outfield section, I swear we had access to exactly THREE food stands, none of which sold anything particularly appealing. Of course, I could see the KFC and the soba stand, but needed a real ticket to get into that area. Grr.
And in case you're wondering, yes, someone spilled beer near me, although amazingly, this time they didn't spill it ON me. It was during the Fighters' Lucky 7 song, and it was the guy to my right, and he was really embarrassed about it, but fortunately he and his friend had brought a ton of newspapers to sit on, so they just used more newspapers to clean it up. I really do get the feeling there's no such thing as a Seibu game where somebody doesn't spill something in the outfield "seating". The beer girl wasn't even that surprised when she came back a few minutes later and he was like "Another beer please. I spilled the last one." "Oh," she said, "That happens all the time."
So to sum up my last few days of watching the Fighters:
4/30 @ Chiba: Fighters win
5/1 @ Hillman's Hangout: Fighters win
5/2 @ Sapporo Dome: Fighters win
5/3 @ Sapporo Dome: Fighters win
5/4 @ Sapporo Dome: Fighters lose
5/5 @ Seibu Dump: Fighters lose
But there has been no Shinji Takahashi in any of those games and I am not entirely sure why not.
They're now in 2nd place. And Kudoh and Kensuke have been ON FIRE. Kensuke even got another triple today. If he keeps this up I'm going to start calling him our Chase Utley or something. (I mean, that seems like the most appropriate thing to call a heartthrob second baseman who bats left-handed and starts tearing up the league in his age 26-27 season...)
And even better, on the way home I stopped by the Tokyo Dome to get a ticket for the 5/26 Giants-Fighters game. (I've already got plans & tickets for the Sunday 5/25 game, but wasn't sure what I'd do for the Monday one.) They had the visitor's ouendan section marked as sold out, but when I told her I just wanted one ticket, she said "Oh, I can sell you one visitor's ouen-seki ticket, we just don't have TWO together." Sheesh. And then I picked up 5 packs of 2008 BBM v1 baseball cards at Yamashita, and in those packs I got TWO signature cards -- Kensuke Tanaka, and Takahiro Arai. Talk about an awesome pull.
Tomorrow's the last day of Golden Week, and I'm actually headed down to Yokohama, where I'll get to see the Baystars play against the other team with a kickass second baseman named Tanaka.