Saturday, July 19, 2008

Photopost: Kamagaya July 11th - Back to the Futures

Last Friday afternoon, I went down to Fighters Town Kamagaya to see the "Futures" exhibition game. The "Futures" games happen occasionally (lots of information about them here in Japanese), and basically, one ni-gun team plays against a team assembled from various guys from the other teams in their league. I think the only rule is that the Futures players have had no ichi-gun experience. Seems like often they are even ikusei ("taxi squad") players.

Here's who was playing. I had to leave in the 8th inning so I don't have a full scorecard, but I can at least list the players:
Futures                               Fighters
------- --------
1. Ueda, 3B (Yakult) 1. Takahashi, DH
2. Fujimura, 2B-SS (Giants) Y. Kaneko, DH
3. Ijuin, C (Giants) 2. Yoh, SS
Miyamoto, C-DH (Marines) 3. Itoi, RF
4. Umeda, 1B (Giants) Murata, RF
Ijuin, PR (Giants) 4. Satoh, CF
Oyamada, DH (Yakult) 5. Komai, C
5. Momiyama, SS-1B (Giants) Ugumori, PR-LF
6. Ohtsuka, CF (Yakult) 6. Ohhira, LF-1B
7. Yamamoto, LF (Giants) 7. Imanami, 2B
8. Sakamoto, RF (Shonan) 8. Ozaki, 3B-C
Sekiguchi, PH-RF (Shonan) 9. Ichikawa, 1B-3B
9. Shirakawa, DH-2B (Marines)

P. Murata (Giants) P. Sunaga
P. Eguchi (Marines) P. Dass
P. Shu (Lions) P. Asanuma
P. Yamada (Yakult) P. Matsuyama
P. Okamoto (Shonan) P. Toyoshima

Yeah, Ijuin was the starting catcher and also came in as a pinch-runner. And people got moved in and out of DHing. There are a lot of special rules for these exhibitions because the teams are limited in who gets sent.

The good part is, because it was an exhibition game, it was free! I like free baseball very very much!

The bad part is, there were no special buses running to/from the stadium. I was waiting at the stop at noon, and so were a few other people, and so I asked, "Are you guys going to the Futures game?" and they said "Yeah. We're splitting a taxi, wanna come with us?" so I did. Turned out that they were all Fighters fans who had come to town from Hokkaido, and were very nice people, and one of them was another lady with not one but TWO Nikon dSLR cameras. I followed her around snapping photos for a while.

She was fairly fearless, even yelling things like "Hey Yohei [Kaneko], will you smile for me again? I got a great shot of you the other day, looking very cool!"

One of the players saw us all with cameras and even put up a V sign, but I was so surprised I didn't take a shot. And Sho Nakata was actually making faces at me during the team's pre-game huddle (but I didn't get a shot of that either, he was doing things like grinning and raising his eyebrows and stuff). He's a funny kid.

During the first inning, I followed camera-lady over to the 1st base side in order to take pictures of Shinji Takahashi, but I spent the rest of the game over on the 3rd base side, in the front row, over the Fighters dugout.

So here are some photos of some Fighters and some Futures.

Chon-so Yoh. This is my absolute favorite shot that I took all day.

Catcher? Infielder? Masaya Ozaki. He hit a 3-run homer in the third inning.

Teppei Komai, who I always mentally want to call Tomakomai.

Sho Nakata and Kazuya Murata sit outside the dugout with manager Yoshio Mizukami. They were both acting alternately as first base coach and as bat boy, throughout the game. Sho as a coach was pretty funny.

Giants longterm minorleaguer Mitsunobu Yamamoto.

Speedy young not-as-cool-as-Hayato-Sakamoto Giants kid Daisuke Fujimura.

Shinji Takahashi fouls off a pitch. Click for larger. I was just psyched to get to see him up close like this.

And like the gentleman he is, Shinji even collects Ijuin's mask for him.

Kazuya Murata as first base coach.

Chon-so Yoh steals second and as Ijuin goes to throw him out, the ball goes off into the outfield instead, past shortstop Momiyama. Whoops.

Fighters starter Hideki Sunaga. Sunaga went to Urawa Gakuin HS. Saitama pride!

Futures starter Tooru Murata. He was the Giants' #1 pick in the college/industry draft last year.

Suguru Ichikawa.

Pitcher Tatsuo Kinoshita takes over batboy duty for a while and really gets into it.

Token Sho Nakata picture, even though he still isn't playing.

Romash Tasuku Dass, the half-Indian half-Japanese Fighters pitcher. Some joke about him being "Darvish II".

Dass again.

Outfielder Seiichi Ohhira, who has a beautiful flamingo stance.

Atsushi Ugumori.

Akiyoshi Toyoshima, an 18-year-old lefty from Ishikawa prefecture. He's SO young. Seriously.

So yeah, the game was free. That was nice. There was still full concessions and everything else at the park -- lots of good food actually, and halfway through the game they also had the mascot Cubby serving 100-yen shaved ice cups, which you could add flavor syrup to to make your own water ice. Me, I mostly just kept running back to the stands to get more drinks. It was REALLY hot and sunny outside. I was hanging out with the people I took the taxi over with, and they were all really worried I was going to get sunburnt because I didn't have a hat on. As it is, what got burnt was a bit of my arm, but the rest of me was okay.

Cubby ambushed me again when I first sat down in the stands. He patted me on the top of my head. Perhaps I should try to become Kamagaya's pet gaijin?

I ended up having to leave halfway through the 8th inning. The Fighters were up 10-3 at the time. Basically, I left at 3:45ish to get a train at 4:19 to be back in Akabane at 5:15pm so I could be ready for stuff at 6pm. And as it turns out, two of the people I had taxied there with, a couple from Tomakomai, ALSO had to leave in order to go to Haneda Airport and catch a flight back to Hokkaido.

Only problem is... remember, no buses. And no taxis that we could find. But, they called a taxi and we split it back to the station. Thank god, because otherwise I would have walked the 2 kilometers back to the station, and that would have been pretty awful in the heat. They were explaining all this stuff about Hokkaido, and were so totally surprised that I actually KNOW where cities like Tomakomai, Obihiro, Kushiro etc are. I told them "Well, ever since the Fighters moved to Hokkaido I have been studying Hokkaido stuff..." They were from Tomakomai, so I was like "Tomakomai! Ma-kun!" I wonder if that's the equivalent of people being like "Oh. Seattle! Ichiro?" to me.

On the way out, actually, I bought another Cubby pinbadge. Only thing is, the gatchapon machine was supposed to cost 200 yen. I put in 200 yen, and a capsule came out, and so did one of my 100-yen pieces. And I was confused, and trying to explain exactly what happened got way too complicated, so I just left my other 100-yen coin and went off to the taxi-finding escapade.

Kamagaya is really a nice, low-stress, relaxing place to catch a game. I just wish it wasn't so far from here, or I'd seriously go down there more often.

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