Friday, July 03, 2009

Hiroki Ueno's Ichi-gun Debut

We interrupt this normally totally Fighters-centric blog for a very important announcement about a Lotte pitcher. My 2009 Lotte Ni-Gun Boyfriend, Hiroki Ueno, got called up to ichi-gun yesterday, and when I read about it this morning I startled half of my office by squealing "WHAT?!" aloud. He didn't enter last night's almost-6-hour marathon, but instead came into TONIGHT'S game and pitched the last 2.2 innings for the Marines. And he was good. Every bit as good as I expect him to be for hopefully a long, long time.

(Photo from the Marines site of Ueno-kun on the mound)

He pitched 2.2 innings and faced 9 batters and struck out 6 of them. (box score in Japanese)

I'd been following Ueno's outings all year on the Marines ni-gun team -- how he kept striking people out and not walking them and not really giving up hits (he's 3-1, 2.50 in 13 games, 31 K in 30 innings with 4 walks and 30 hits). He usually seemed to follow Yasutaka Hattori, coming in about 4-5 innings into the game. And yet, I still never managed to see him actually play (not since he graduated college, anyway), because I haven't caught a Lotte ni-gun game in a while and can only do so on weekends and have been swamped with other things.

Oddly, I've been planning for a while to go to Kamagaya THIS coming weekend to see the Marines vs. Fighters ni-gun series, partially because I haven't been to Kamagaya in a while, but a major part was wanting to see Ueno pitch, or at least hoping to get to stalk him after the game for a photo together or an autograph or something. Seriously. Even though I hadn't really babbled about him on here, I've told a bunch of my Fighters friends about him, mostly as "the really awesome pitcher who was Shota Ohno's battery-mate at Toyo University". (I posted a bunch of photos of him with my 2008 Draft Post, since I happened to be at the Toyo-Asia game on the afternoon of draft day. I'd been taking photos of Ueno all day, and then got a text message from a friend like "Our first round pick was Shota Ohno!" and I'm like "Oh! He's right there!")

Well, I hope Ueno does really well at ichi-gun, though that means I'll have to choose a new Lotte ni-gun boyfriend a lot sooner than expected. I suppose all of my other favorite Lotte ni-gun guys are still around to see this weekend, but... oh, Ueno-kun, why couldn't you have gotten called up NEXT week? Now I'll never get to tell you how awesome I think you are :(

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