On Wednesday afternoon, I didn't have any classes to teach until 5pm, so I went up to Lotte Urawa stadium to see a minor-league game between Fighters and Marines farm teams. I work near Akabane station, and the Lotte stadium is about a 10-15 minute walk from Musashi-Urawa station, 2 stops away on a Saikyo line express train, so it was fairly doable. Funny, though, despite walking from the station instead of riding my bike for 7 kilometers to get there, I arrived in the usual state of being already sweaty and tired.
I wore my old Tokyo Fighters Tsuboi #7 t-shirt and went to find a seat in the front row on the visiting side -- this time on purpose, besides just that it was closer to first base. I was going along asking people if spaces on the bench were open, and suddenly someone taps me on the shoulder. It's Hiromi, the lady who does 3rd BEARs, a Fighters photo site, essentially. She goes to around 4-5 Fighters games a week -- usually ni-gun -- and takes pictures. I met her in Kamagaya in mid-May (whoops! I never wrote about that game!). She doesn't speak English, but instead puts up with my weird Japanese.
So I sat with her for the game, which was awesome. She has a Nikon D80 and the awesome 18-200 VR lens, and I have a D200 and a cheapo slow 70-300 lens, so she's like "I want your camera," and I'm like "I want your lens!"
There was actually a bunch of media people there, including a photographer with like 3 cameras, the likes of whom I would usually see camping out in camera wells. Lotte Urawa does not have a camera well, so he had to make do sitting on the sideline. We guessed that he was there to cover Nakata Sho... except that Sho-kun hurt his hand a while ago, so he hasn't been playing. Infact, he was basically the acting bat boy for the team that day.
Anyway, the Fighters team won 10-7. Here's my scorecard. I think I made a few slight mistakes due to spending too much time talking to everyone around me, but it's overall 99% accurate (the mistakes are things like writing down a 6-3 instead of a 4-3, for the most part).
Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - Lotte Urawa Stadium
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Fighters (ni-gun) 1 0 0 0 1 4 3 0 1 10 13 0
Marines (ni-gun) 2 1 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 7 10 1
Fighters AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Murata, rf-cf 5 1 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 KS G4 .. .. G4 T8 .. G4 ..
Imanami, ss 5 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 G6 .. G3 .. S9 S7 .. F7 ..
Yoh, 3b 5 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 S8 .. F9 .. D9 G4 .. F9 ..
Botts, dh 5 1 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 S8 .. G3 .. L4 .. D8 .. KS
Satoh, cf 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 E3 .. .. F3 .. BB G4 .. ..
Y.Kaneko, ph-rf 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. F3
Ichikawa, 1b 4 3 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 BB .. .. G4 .. D7 D8 .. S9
Ozaki, 2b 4 2 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 G1 .. .. G1 .. BB H7 .. S7
Watanabe, c 5 0 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 .. F8 .. .. KC KC F7 .. S7
Ohhira, lf 2 1 0 1 2 0 1 0 0 .. KS .. .. HP s7 KS .. ..
Ugumori, lf 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. G4
Marines AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
M.Watanabe, ss 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 F7 .. F8 .. G6 .. G1 .. F9
Hashimoto, dh 5 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 S7 .. F7 .. F8 .. .. KS d6
Hori, 2b 4 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 H7 .. F9 .. F3 .. .. S9 ..
Tanaka, pr-2b 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Takehara, lf 4 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 F9 .. .. S9 .. f2 .. S7 ..
Hosoya, 3b 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 G6 .. .. F9 .. F8 .. KS ..
Sadaoka, 1b 4 2 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 .. H7 .. S7 .. G6 .. S7 ..
Kohbe, cf 1 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 .. BB .. KS .. .. BB BB ..
Kanazawa, c 4 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 .. L4 .. D8 .. .. F9 F8 ..
Satoh, rf 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. F7 .. F7 .. .. G6 .. S7
Fighters IP BF H HR K BBH RA ER WP
Yoshikawa (win) 5 21 6 2 1 1 5 5 0
Miyamoto 2 7 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Yamamoto 1 7 3 0 2 1 2 2 2
Kikuchi (save) 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Marines IP BF H HR K BBH RA ER WP
Mishima 4 16 2 0 2 1 1 0 1
Kurotaki (loss) 2 14 5 0 2 3 5 5 1
Furuya 0.1 3 2 0 0 0 2 2 0
N.Kobayashi 1.2 6 1 1 1 0 1 1 0
Hattori 0.2 5 3 0 1 0 1 1 0
Kanda 0.1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Here are the starting pitchers:
Lotte starter Terufumi Mishima.
Fighters starter Mitsuo Yoshikawa.
The other big deal for me to see at this game was the Fighters' newest foreign player, Jason Botts. I had seen Botts play a little bit in the US, when the Rangers played the Mariners, but not much. Hiromi told me he is very popular with the Fighters minor-league fans so far -- but then again that is because he played one game and launched a game-winning 2-run sayonara homer on Tuesday. However, he did pretty well in this game on Wednesday too. Apparently he is very tall and very blonde, and that makes him very kakkoii (cool).
(Kakkoii was kind of a theme word for the day. I told Hiromi that Takumi Kohbe is my Marines ni-gun boyfriend and pointed him out and she's like "oh wow! he's really tall!" Then she saw the first baseman Takuma Sadaoka, and was like "who's that?" "That's Sadaoka." "He is VERY cool! Don't you think?" So she sort of adopted him as her Marines ni-gun boyfriend for the day. Sadaoka was batting 6th and Kohbe was batting 7th, so even though we were cheering for the Fighters, we both had our cameras out while those guys were up to bat. It was pretty funny sharing Marines ni-gun boyfriends!
For the record, though, her Fighters ni-gun boyfriend is Kazuya Murata and mine is Ryota Imanari. Just saying.)
The Fighters got up 1-0 in the first inning on some singles and an error by either pitcher Mishima or first baseman Sadaoka, it's unclear. Sadaoka threw to Mishima, Mishima didn't keep the ball, I dunno if it was a bad throw or a bad catch.
The Marines went up 2-1 in their half of the first inning. Tasuku Hashimoto, who is rehabbing in ni-gun, singled, and then dai-veteran Koichi Hori took the first pitch he saw and BOOM! it went over the left-field wall into the netting.
So here is some love for Hori. He's a good guy. I bet he will end up as a Marines coach in a few years.
The Marines went up 3-1 in the bottom of the second inning. Cool-man Sadaoka led off the inning by hitting ANOTHER home run!
Then my boyfriend Kohbe-kun walked... and when catcher Kanazawa hit a low liner out to second base, Fighters second-baseman Masaya Ozaki made the catch and fired the ball to first, doubling up Kohbe, who didn't get back in time.
Sadaoka hits a home run.
Kohbe dives back to first base, but is not in time.
First baseman Suguru Ichikawa watches a ball go foul.
Nothing much happened in the third inning. Hiromi said I should cheer for Botts in English. I was too shy to, for some reason.
Takehara and Sadaoka both scored in the bottom of the 4th inning to make it 5-1, on a 2-RBI double by Kanazawa. This pair of old guys came down and sat down on my right side in the first or second inning. One of them was really friendly and wearing an oldskool orange Tokyo Fighters hat.
"Why the heck does Yoshikawa suck this year?" he said, at this point.
"I don't think he sucks exactly... he's still only what, 19? 20 years old? he has time to grow and learn..."
And then we got into this long discussion about various players. Like about Tomoya Yagi (also considered sucky by this guy) and how the Fighters don't have a lot of good hitters. Turns out this guy has been a Fighters fan for something like 40 years, so he's got a ton of rant in him, which is what happens when you spend that long as a fan of a total doormat team, I guess.
Here's Sho Nakata as the acting bat boy.
Takehara takes a mighty swing.
Here's Sadaoka being all kakkoii.
I was trying really hard to get a picture of him actually blowing a bubble, though, and this is the best I could do.
Lotte pitcher Masato Kurotaki came out to pitch the top of the 5th. He's from Hokkaido. We were all talking about that as he hit Seiichi Ohhira with a pitch, in the middle of his back. Ohhira would advance on a wild pitch to Murata, go to 3rd on a groundout, and then score when Takahiro Imanami singled to right, making it 5-2.
Yoshikawa got out of his half of the 5th okay, and then it was time for the 5th inning break. The old guy gave me and Hiromi a bunch of mochi candies from Kyoto for some reason. They were pretty good.
Seiichi Ohhira. Note the crazy umpire behind him. This guy always yells "su-TOOOOOO-rike!" for strikes. It's pretty funny.
That Kurotaki guy.
The game resumed for the top of the 6th and the Fighters EXPLODED! In a good way, that is.
Yoshihiro Satoh walked, then Ichikawa doubled to left, and Ozaki also walked, and the bases were loaded! Ryuichi Watanabe struck out, but then Ohhira hit a long fly ball to left and it was no trouble for Satoh to tag up and score. 5-3. And then... and then Kazuya Murata hit this loooooooong fly ball to centerfield and Kohbe totally took the wrong path to it, maybe the sun was in his eyes, I'm not sure, but he jumped up to try to make the catch and utterly missed the ball, which bounced against the back wall. Eventually he recovered it and threw it in, but by that point Murata had made it all the way to third for a triple, and everyone else scored. 5-5.
"That was almost an inside-the-park home run!" I said.
Hiromi told me, "Ichikawa had one of those yesterday."
"Really? Awesome..." I replied. I counted the score. "Hey! It's a tie game now!"
"Oh! Let's see if Imanami can get us ahead!"
And he did, singling to center, over a jumping Masato Watanabe. 6-5.
And then Kurotaki spent about five throws trying to pick Imanami off first. Eventually he gave up and just got Chon-so Yoh to ground out to second to end the inning instead.
Ken Miyamoto took the mound for the Fighters and had an uneventful bottom of the 6th. In the meantime, in the stands, we were having a bizarre discussion about the Fighters' perceived lack of "cool young players". It started with the old guy mentioning how similar Imanami and Murata look from a distance due to the socks.
"How do you say those in Japanese anyway? We say 'high socks' in English," I asked.
Hiromi laughed. "We also say 'high socks'."
And then we were thinking of all the Fighters guys who wear them. Murata, Imanami... Kudoh, Tsuboi-chan, Tadano, etc.
Then the old guy was going on about the cool young players like Munenori Kawasaki, or Nishioka, or Nakajima, basically all of these ikemen shortstops that the other teams seem to have. So we were talking about the young "cool" guys on the Fighters. Except I think I have a vaguely different idea of who is "cool". We did agree on Konta and Ugumori though, and Kudoh, and obviously Darvish. Later, I'm wondering whether Kensuke Tanaka still counts as being young enough to be a "cool young guy" or not. And I was saying that Ryota Imanari is a cool young guy, although it seems he's more of a STRANGE young guy in most people's eyes.
It is true though. I love the Fighters unconditionally and forever, but they don't really go for "cool guy" players, the reputation being more that they go for unique players with talent over anything else.
The Fighters added some more runs in their "lucky 7th" inning. Pitcher Furuya came in for Lotte, and Botts led off with a double, advanced on a groundout, and then scored on Ichikawa's double. 7-5. So then Furuya left the mound and Noriyuki Kobayashi came in. Kobayashi is cool because he's from the same place I live, and because he wears uniform number #123.
Fighters pitcher Ken Miyamoto.
Marines pitcher Kobayashi with the cool 1-2-3 uniform.
However, today Kobayashi would come into the game and immediately give up a 2-run home run to Masaya Ozaki. BLAM! 9-5. He did get out of the rest of it unscathed, though.
The only thing that happened in the Marines' "lucky 7" is that Takumi Kohbe walked, and I took pictures of him at first base. Awwwww.
Kazunari Yamamoto -- the other lefty from Waseda that the Fighters took two drafts ago -- came in to pitch the bottom of the 8th. I don't think he was having a very good day, and his hat kept flying off too. After striking out lefty batter Hashimoto, he pretty much got slammed by the next few righty batters. Hori singled (and Tanaka pinch-ran for him, advancing on a wild pitch), then Takehara singled home Tanaka to make it 9-6. Takehara ALSO advanced on a wild pitch, as Hosoya struck out. Then Takuma Sadaoka singled, and Takehara scored. 9-7. Kohbe-tall-awesomeness walked again -- you may notice his line for the day was 3 walks and a strikeout. But then Kanazawa hit a pop fly out and that ended the inning.
Yasutaka Hattori pitched the top of the 9th for Lotte. It was actually remarkably similar to the last Lotte ni-gun pitching group I saw -- Furuya, Kobayashi, Hattori, and a bit later Kanda even came out. Seriously. Anyway, Hattori got off to a quick two outs again, but then... but then Ichikawa singled, Ozaki singled, Watanabe ALSO singled (10-7), and... that's when Kanda came in to get a groundout from Atsushi Ugumori, who had replaced Ohhira in left field in the 7th inning.
Kazumasa Kikuchi finished out the game in fairly quick fashion, which was good, because it was just passing 4pm and I really had to get going to be back at work on time.
A pinch-hitting Yohei Kaneko runs, but the ball is caught.
Yasutaka Hattori always makes a scary face when pitching.
Kazuya Murata stands in front of the scoreboard just before the final double play outs.
The guys high-five on the mound.
The Fighters ni-gun team actually is in DEAD LAST PLACE in the Eastern League, so this was actually apparently a rare win for them.
After stopping by briefly on the Marines side to see who was signing -- Koichi Hori was holding court and there was a LONG line for him -- I walked back to Musashi-Urawa station with Hiromi. It was really great to have someone to chat with for the game, although I was getting worried towards the end that I was sounding like a complete retard in Japanese. She encouraged me to come down to Kamagaya for the Futures game next week, so I might try to do that, or for Kamasta Matsuri on July 21. Fun fun!