Thanks to Mother Nature, the Fighters got to balance out one of those extra-innings games with a rain-shortened one, as the skies started pouring water on Chiba right as the game started, and the rain never let up. It's a wonder that they could even play 5 innings in that condition, to be honest.
There was a ceremony to honor Tadahito Iguchi's 150th career home run (which was on April 7th at the Tokyo Dome), and because today was Children's Day, there was a child announcer, and a child ceremonial first pitch, and a whole bunch of children dancing from the Marines Dance Academy on the field before the game.
And there was rain. Lots of it. I was sitting out in the Fighters cheering section in the leftfield bleachers for this game because there was no way I was lugging my big camera to Chiba in such weather. Fortunately, a bunch of my friends saved me a seat in the 3rd row from the back, where it was mostly dry. The outfield in Chiba is such that the back half is covered and the front half is not covered, which results in things like this drenched ouendan leader, surrounded by raincoats and umbrellas:
Hiroyuki Kobayashi started for Chiba and Tomoya Yagi started for the Fighters. Oddly, I think the last time I was at Chiba for a called rainy game, it was also a KobaHiro start. Maybe he's just a Rain Man of sorts.
It was really obvious the rain was giving the players trouble out there from the beginning. Kensuke Tanaka had a legitimate single to lead off the game, and then Hichori Morimoto grounded into what would have been a double play on any other day of the year, but with second base already turning into quicksand at that point, there was no relay back to first on the 3-6 play. And in the bottom of the first, Koyano made what would have usually been a routine play on an Iguchi grounder to third, but in the rain, he got the ball, slipped and fell, then threw the ball to first base from his knees, and amazingly, it beat Iguchi there by a split second.
Terrmel Sledge led off the second inning with a home run to left field. We were all watching it come out, and were sure it was either foul or was going to be blown foul by the wind and rain, but it landed JUST fair and JUST in the first few rows of seats in the left-field corner. 1-0. Yoshio Itoi singled a bit later, somehow stole second base without falling into the mud pit, advanced on a grounder, and then Makoto Kaneko hit a single to right to bring him home. 2-0.
Control was a problem on both sides, and both pitchers issued a few walks, plus there was a passed ball on the Marines side when one just slipped away from Satozaki. Yagi managed to get himself into and out of a jam in every inning; in the 3rd he had the bases loaded on two walks, but then struck out Satozaki to end it; in the 4th he had runners on 2nd and 3rd from two hits but then struck out Lambin and Benny to end it, and in the 5th he had bases loaded yet again but then Takehara hit a fly ball out to left that Hichori fortunately actually CAUGHT by the wall. Whew.
There had been a short pause before the fourth inning started, but after the fifth inning ended, there was a looooong pause, as people worked on making the field less wet...
And eventually they announced that they were going into a rain delay for 30 minutes.
The Fighters ouendan decided that this was a good time to do all kinds of crazy stuff. After a while of just clapping and yelling a lot of "絶対勝つぞファイターズ！" for a while, they taught us the new ouenka that they'd been tossing around to use for Darvish during the upcoming interleague games. This may change before then, but for now, this is how it goes...
７＋４ は お前の背番号 １４－３ は 日本のエース
Meaning roughly "7+4 is your uniform number, 14-3 is Japan's ace".
I'll admit it, I don't get it. I asked a few people and they didn't get it either, but thought it was funny.
It was pretty wet by that point so I'd put away my scorebook and stopped taking notes, but among other things that I remember being yelled...
- "中止をするなら早くしろ！" meaning "If you're going to cancel the game, HURRY UP AND DO IT ALREADY!"
- "誰でもいいから、出て来いよ！", which basically means "We don't care who, someone come out!" We were yelling names at the dugout to see if we could get any Fighters players to come out. Including Nashida, and a lot of Jason Botts.
- BB was running around saying hi to people in the stands and we yelled at him to put away his umbrella.
- One of the ouendan went off on a rant about how he grew up in Fukuoka, and went to the same high school as Kensuke Tanaka, but is he a Hawks fan? No! He's a Fighters fan and darn proud of it! And apparently the Yahoo Dome took away some of the visitor's cheering area, or made it reserved, I dunno, so he got us to all yell a cheer of something to the effect of "GIVE BACK THE VISITOR'S UNRESERVED SEATING, YAHOO DOME!!"
And then one of the older ouendan leaders came down and said "Okay, it's time for the Old Ouenka Game! Let's do the time travel back to 1998! Who was wearing #0 in 1998?" and everyone yells "Furuki!!" and so we did Furuki's cheer song, and after that they did a 1-9 from 1998. I knew... like... 4 of the cheers. Yukio, Kaneko, and Tatsuya Ide, plus that Jerry Brooks's cheer then is Jimenez's cheer now. The rest of the lineup included things like Atsushi Kataoka, Hiromitsu Ochiai, Katsuhiro Nishiura... yeah. So, that was fun, and they decided to fastforward to 2004. "Who wore #1 in 2004?" "Shinjo!!!" so we did a Shinjo cheer, and then... just as we were about to do a lineup that I actually KNEW all the songs for...
...an umpire came out to home plate, put up his fist, and announced that the game was officially called after 5 innings, with the Fighters winning 2-0.
So instead, we all did a bunch of victory songs and cheers.
After that, BB and the Marines mascot Cool did a bunch of head-sliding on the infield tarp-covered bases. (Here's a video.) BB did okay but only did his major slide into home plate. Cool did the entire Morozumi routine, sliding into every base, pretending to steal second, etc, but it would have been cooler if we'd actually had coach Morozumi or someone else out there as well.
Oh, and I forget what point during the game it was, but BB actually came to the outfield stands and was taking photos with fans and just generally hanging around and harrassing the ouendan and all. I was all like "look! BB! yay!" when he came out, and the lady sitting next to me said, "let's go get our photo with him!" So we ran down and cornered him too.
I'm not really sure why she was so psyched for it, because she's from Hokkaido and probably sees BB a lot more than I do. But now she has proof she got to meet that freaky foreign Fighters fan that's always on TV...