Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 20th

Hip hip hooray! The 20th of May! Lots of things about today!

First, birthdays:
Hawks manager (and living legend) Sadaharu Oh turns 68 today.
Marines catcher Tomoya Satozaki (who is sadly having some arm trouble) turns 32 today.
Chunichi outfielder Atsushi Fujii (who got called up in the wake of Morino's injury) turns 27 today. He is 0-for-15 on the season so far.
Seibu relief pitcher Atsushi Okamoto (who got called up last weekend) turns 27 today.
Fighters AWESOME SECOND BASEMAN Kensuke Tanaka turns 27 today. !
Giants' number one college draft pick from last year Tooru Murata turns 23 today.

Second, interleague!
Today starts the interleague season across Japan. It'll go for the next month or so and end on approximately June 22nd. I say approximately because June is tsuyu, the rainy season, in most of Japan, and I would be surprised if a few of those empty days left for makeup games are not used as such.

Of course, naturally, it is raining right now in Kanto and Tohoku, which means there's a chance the Eagles-Dragons game and the Marines-Giants games might get rained out. (Hawks-Carp, Buffaloes-Tigers, and Fighters-Baystars are all in domes.)

It'd be a real shame to see the RAKUTEN-CHUNICHI SHOWDOWN get rained out:

(From Rakuten's site: Boxing match of Doala, Iwase and Araki vs. Clutch, Takeshi Yamasaki and Ma-kun.)

(Also from Rakuten's site: And now we see their secret plan for how they're going to win... seriously, I would bet on the Big Man to win any such fight :)

Read full interview here. It's pretty funny from what I went through so far. After all, Yamasaki is from Nagoya, played for Aikodai Meiden (same HS as Ichiro), was drafted by Chunichi before Ma-kun was even born, and won his first Best Nine in 1996 as an outfielder with Chunichi who hit a bazillion home runs. And now he's almost 40 and kicking butt again, which is neat.

Naturally, Rakuten-Chunichi is also a fun showdown because the two managers, Nomura and Ochiai, are two of the best hitters in Japanese baseball history, and are also two of the craziest men to ever grace the game over here. かかってこい!

Shukan Baseball put out a rather nice Official Program for interleague. I've been too lazy/cheap to buy it, but it's quite nice, actually, has a lot of interesting breakdowns of numbers and whatnot.

Third: Shinjo
This isn't really today, this is actually Sunday, but I was too busy watching college kids play baseball on Sunday to catch this one as it was happening.

So, before the Hawks-Fighters game on Sunday (you know what's really sad? A few weeks ago I had actually considered going down to Fukuoka this weekend for this very game! Fukuoka is the only city I haven't seen a home game in), as a promotion for bringing the Olympics to Tokyo in 2016. Being Shinjo, he couldn't just go out in normal clothes and throw a ceremonial first pitch. No, he had to go out there WEARING A FULL FUKUOKA HAWKS UNIFORM and actually throw an entire CEREMONIAL FIRST AT-BAT to his protege Hichori Morimoto. And his pitches were clocked at 90mph!

He got Hichori to ground out to short on a 2-2 pitch -- and really, that last pitch was high and outside and if this was a real game I would be pretty annoyed that Hichori isn't laying off those :)

Before you ask, what number did he wear? Why, he wore Number Shinjo:

(From Sankei Sports.)

This is, of course, a little bit like the last time he did a stunt around interleague time in 2006 and ran around Koshien before the game wearing his old Hanshin Tigers uniform with "Shinjo #5" on it, despite that it was Hamanaka's number at the time. The difference is that Hanshin was Shinjo's first team -- aside from growing up in Fukuoka, he doesn't have any affiliation with the Hawks.

But I think everyone enjoyed the performance as it were -- after the at-bat he throws a ball from the mound into the outfield stands, then after running off the mound, he high-fives all the Fighters, high-fives and/or hugs most of the Hawks, throws his Golden Glove -- which he brought to wear for the at-bat -- into the crowd, bows to Oh-kantoku, and leaves. I know a lot of people get angry at Shinjo for his stunts, but I believe now as always that he really just wants to entertain people and make baseball more exciting, and I'm pretty sure this helped to do that.

(Also something somewhat frightening is that with his hair in this style, and being so tall and skinny, at first he actually reminded me a lot of what Kazumi Saitoh looked like back in 2006. Sigh.)

I guess this means his new career as the forgotten 6th member of SMAP isn't working out, though...

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