A quick post before I skip town.
Sunday morning, the 16th, I woke up and went to Koshien early, getting there at 8am for an 8:30am first game start. Here's the crazy thing: I was actually LATE. Fortunately my friend bought me a ticket when he was there at 6:30am, so I could just go into the stadium when I arrived. I got a seat pretty much right behind the 3rd base dugout, like 3 rows back, on the inner side. It was raining in the morning until around 8am as well, so all of the seats were wet and the stadium wasn't particularly crowded when the first game started. Also, the teams were Aomori Yamada, from Aomori, and Nodai Niko, from Gunma, both pretty far away from Koshien.
It was actually a relatively good game all things considered -- very close, the Nodai Niko squad eventually won 2-1 in 10 innings. I was technically sitting on the Aomori side, but didn't really have a vested interest in either team, to be honest. Nodai had this catcher named Machida who's like 6'3" though, and he was also the team captain, and so I ended up secretly cheering for him instead. I kind of wonder if he could end up as a "tall power prospect" guy in the NPB eventually, a la Takumi Kohbe or Ryuji Miyade.
Aomori had a kid named Maike Magario -- at first I thought it was a typo for "Michael" in katakana, and maybe it is a shortened form, but it turns out he was actually born in Brazil. His last name was in kanji though, so I assume he's some form of 2nd- or 3rd- generation Japanese-Brazilian.
The second game was Teikyo vs. Tsuruga whatever from Fukui, which was the game I'd been waiting for. I realize that I don't usually cheer for powerhouses at higher levels of play, but when it comes to high school, it's a little different, especially since these are the kids who end up being drafted and I fall in love with them 3-4 years later, so I might as well find out who they are now. (Hichori Morimoto went to Teikyo. So did Hiroki Ueno. So did Atori Ohta. That's three team boyfriends right there, and there are bunches of other Teikyo OB that I like as well; I'm rather fond of the Fighters' Kenshi Sugiya already.)
Also, Teikyo is my local team, as local as any Koshien team gets for me -- the school is within bike-riding distance of my house, and I even taught a few Teikyo students at my last English-teaching job.
Teikyo has a heck of a team this year, too. The ace is a kid named Hirahara, who pitches and also bats 3rd in the lineup, he hit 2 homeruns in the qualfiers. But they've supposedly got at least 4 kids who can hit 145 km/h on the radar gun anyway. Kaneko and team captain Satoh also provide pretty good power and fielding in the outfield, and then there's a boy named Naville Ariga who is half-Ghanan and half-Japanese. People kept saying "Is that an exchange student?" and then being like "Wait, he has a Japanese name... but he's clearly not Japanese... HUH?"
Teikyo clobbered Tsuruga 5-1. I felt kind of bad for Tsuruga, they were pretty much steamrollered. Teikyo even ran itself out of some innings by gratuitously trying to steal bases when they didn't really need to, and got caught every time once they were already up 5-0. Or maybe the Tsuruga catcher Kubo finally got his act together, I don't know.
My favorite Tsuruga player was actually the pitcher, Yamada -- funny left-handed kid whose hat fell off after almost every pitch he threw. Talk about 一球入魂. He threw the entire game and never gave up.
I would have stayed for more, but it became ridiculously hot and sunny by the end of that second game. I put sunscreen on, but managed to get sunburnt legs and shoulders anyway. I bought a bottle of ice (that is, a frozen water bottle) near the beginning of the second game, and it was entirely melted by the end, that's how hot it was. Given the intense headache I had, I'm thinking I was having some kind of heatstroke, so I left about 10 minutes into the third game.
Here are some photos from the day...
The Nodai Niko team lines up after fielding practice.
Aomori Yamada starter Inoue.
Nodai starter Katoh.
Aomori Yamada's Maike Magario.
Aomori Yamada team captain Machida, who is a bazillion feet tall.
Final score of the first game.
Teikyo starter and 3-spot batter Hirahara.
Tsuruga starter Yamada, with his hat flying off.
Yamada at bat, with the colorful ouendan in the background.
Teikyo catcher Haraguchi. Also great player.
Tsuruga mound conference.
Naville Ariga (in the middle).
Teikyo battery talking in front of the dugout.
He's SAFE AT SECOND! Except I forget who "he" was in this shot. I think it's actually Tsuruga captain and second baseman Lee.
Teikyo pitcher Itoh #18, who came in just to pitch to one batter at the end of the game. He hit 148km/h with almost every pitch though and eventually got a groundout.
Final score of the second game.
The two teams shake hands.
Two shots from before I left:
Shonan starter Sorachi.
Kyushu starter Yoshioka.
And that's about it, for now. Will post about Monday's games... later. I'm hitting the road yet again to go down to Kyushu shortly.
Actually, one bonus photo:
They had this table where you could get your photo taken with a big placard from the school of your choice, so I requested Teikyo. I'm thinking this year's team really could go all the way.