Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Seibu Weekend Part 1: Unlikely Heroes

So, as I mentioned in my Seibu Dump Makeover post, I spent the weekend at the Seibu Dome cheering for the Fighters.

I showed up super-early before both games. On Saturday I finally got a chance to say hi to Fighters pitcher Brian Sweeney, and if I haven't already said how great a guy he is, let me say it again. He even remembered that I went home to Philly for a few months to visit my family over the winter, though I told him the bad news that my father died. I mentioned that I saw him pitch in Yokohama when he beat former teammate Ryan Glynn and he said that it was tough pitching against Ryan in the Baystars game in Sapporo because the pitchers were batting and he really didn't want to give up a hit. I told that to a few of the Japanese fans who asked me what we were talking about, and they said "just as expected, Sweeney has great fighting spirit!"

I didn't get to explore the stadium on Saturday because I only had an outfield ticket, and you can't go into the infield on that. Infact, you can't get to ANYTHING useful, and I exited the stadium in order to buy lunch -- and 45 minutes before game time, the main Lions bento stand had already sold out of all of my top three choices.

The game itself was a lot of fun. I sat in the front row with a variety of people from both Hokkaido and Kanto. The Tsuboi fans I'd met at the playoffs last year were there in force (and I later found out they came down from Asahikawa) and there was another group of Ojisan's friends who had a ton of lovely signs and were visiting from Sapporo.

Both teams put out lefty starting pitchers; Kazuyuki Hoashi took the mound for Seibu and Shaggy Shugo Fujii took the mound for the Fighters. The Fighters put the first runs on the board to be up 2-0 after the top of the 3rd, but Seibu quickly tied up the game; Nakajima almost hit a home run in the bottom of the 3rd that hit the wall in front of us and fell down (Inaba ALSO hit the wall in front of us and fell down, Hichori fielding the ball) for an RBI double instead, and then Hiram Bocachica hit a homerun in the bottom of the 4th, making it 2-2.

To add injury to injury, Inaba was also hit by a pitch in the top of the 5th. I have no idea how he survives all of this stuff without getting seriously hurt. We did THREE Inaba Jumps while waiting for him to recover.

Yasuyuki Kataoka hit a home run in the bottom of the 5th to put the Lions up 3-2, and then Luis Jimenez had an RBI double in the top of the 6th to tie it at 3-3. Newbie Keisuke Tanimoto took over on the mound for the Fighters in the bottom of the 6th after Fujii walked Okawari-kun Nakamura. The Lions were able to score Nakamura through a series of groundouts and fielder's choices, to make it 4-3.

Hoashi came out after 7 innings and Eiji Shotsu took over on the mound for Seibu, and promptly walked Koyano and gave up a double to Shinji Takahashi. Another pitching change to Tomoki Hoshino didn't help Seibu either as Hoshino threw a wild pitch to score Koyano, tying the game at 4-4. Hoshino walked Jimenez and was pulled for yet another Seibu reliever, Koji Ohnuma. The Fighters put in Tomochika Tsuboi as a pinch-hitter and the crowd went wild! Tsuboi hit a fly out to left field, but it was enough to score Shinji Takahashi from third as a sacrifice, so that brought the Fighters up 5-4.

Tateyama pitched a perfect 8th and Hisashi Takeda handled the 9th, and as the Fighters added an insurance run in the top of the 9th (when Hiroyuki Nakajima ate the ball at short on a Shinji grounder), they won the game 6-4.

Amazingly, the game heroes were winning pitcher Tanimoto and go-ahead-run-sac-flying Tsuboi -- an unlikely set of heroes if you ever did see.

Also, Ojisan mentioned to me after the game that when he did his radio show for the Hokkaido Broadcasting Company that morning, someone actually asked him "Who's that gaijin we always see in your group at the Tokyo Dome?" and he told them, "She's my English teacher!" Which is totally not true, but either way, a little scary that someone actually asked that.

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