Monday, November 30, 2009

Game Report: Under-26 NPB Kids vs. College Kids @ Tokyo Dome

(This is being published a month after I started writing it. Oops.)

As it turns out, I didn't go to any fan fests this weekend. I slept in on Saturday after an exhausting week and didn't make it to the Sea Rex event, but Westbay went and hopefully he'll write it up sometime soon. I was at the Legends bar on Saturday night to see Bobby and friends, and then Sunday went to see the U-26 vs. College baseball game at the Tokyo Dome. Monday was a national holiday, but I think riding my bicycle home in the rain on Sunday night turned whatever I had into a full-fledged cold, so instead of going down to Jingu or the Seibu Dump, I stayed at home, rested, and studied Japanese in preparation for failing the JLPT Level 2 next weekend. Hooray.

The U26 game started at 2pm, but the Dome opened at 11am, with almost the entire stadium being unreserved seating. I arrived around 12:15, and the place was already packed. I ended up finding a seat on the second floor, behind 3rd base, about 6 rows back.

You want to hear something ridiculous, though? Game programs were already sold out by the time I got there! How the heck does THAT happen?! Were the people running this event a bunch of idiots or something? The game tickets sold out a few days beforehand, at a dome that holds around 45,000 people, and they are sold out of programs almost TWO HOURS before the games starts? SOMEONE screwed up here. Besides, in my opinion, they shouldn't have even been selling programs in the first place -- they should have been giving out information sheets to anyone who came in. From listening to the people around me, it was pretty clear very few of them had any clue who any of the college players were besides Yuki Saitoh.

The college kids REALLY looked outmatched at the beginning, though. Saitoh pitched the first inning, and gave up a run, a leadoff single by the Giants' wonderboy Hayato Sakamoto, who was moved up when teammate Tetsuya Matsumoto walked. The Carp's Soichiro Amaya grounded into a double play after that, but Sakamoto moved to third and scored on a (Hanshin overaged) Takahiro Arai single.

The college batters spent the first 5 innings flailing against the NPB pitchers though -- Maeken, Ohmine, Hirano, Kaneto, and Kume-kun combined for 5 innings, one hit, no walks, and 7 strikeouts. Ohmine even struck out the side when he was out there. It was really looking grim.

But then Kenji Ohtonari came out there to pitch for NPB, and... suddenly the college kids came to life. Doshisha's Seiji Kobayashi led off with a hit -- the second one of the game for the college squad. Toyo's Ryo Hayashizaki bunted him up, and then Shota Ishimine hit a grounder that bounced off pitcher Ohtonari's leg and rolled to short for an infield single. It was unclear if Ohtonari was injured, but he shook off the staff that came out to check on him, and pitched to Hosei's Hiroshi Taki with runners at the corners. Taki lofted a high fly ball to shallow left field, and quite embarrassingly for wonderboy Sakamoto, the ball DROPPED for another single and Kobayashi scored, making the score 1-1. Shohei Habu was hit by a pitch to make it bases loaded with one out, but Ohtonari managed to get pop flies out of Wakamatsu and Echizen after that to get out of the jam.

That was the only time the college kids threatened on offense, really. But somehow the NPB kids didn't manage to push ahead any more runs either. My Ohishi-kun came out and pitched really well in the bottom of the 6th, striking out Amaya and Kamei. He was followed by Yusuke Nomura, who struck out Ohzaki and Ginjiro, but also gave up a hit to Yamato and walked Sho Nakata, and a passed ball allowed Yamato to get all the way to 3rd, bt he didn't score. Kazuki Nishijima, the Tokyo Big 6 ERA title holder for this semester, came out for the 8th... and promptly walked Tetsuya Matsumoto and gave up a hit to Soichiro Amaya, so the college squad changed pitchers to Tomoyuki Sugano, the boy from Tokai University who also happens to be Tatsunori Hara's nephew. What bugs me about Sugano is not that he is Hara's nephew, but that being Hara's nephew means the Giants will probably have some inside way to draft him... and every time I see him pitch, he's fantastic. Which is depressing.

Sugano didn't disappoint here either, coming in with no outs and runners at the corners and retiring the next three batters to keep the 1-1 tie game, as well as pitching the 9th inning and only giving up one hit.

And so it ended in a 1-1 tie. What does that mean? I'm not really sure. Either that I'm totally right about how next year will be a monster draft year for college players, or that the NPB kids weren't doing their best? Either way, I cheered (quietly) for all of my favorite college players and it was good. And it was neat for Taki-kun to get the tying RBI, even if it was on a kind of lame hit.

It was weird because there was an ouendan of sorts for the NPB players, with them playing songs from all the teams involved, but there was no ouendan for the college players, so things were remarkably quiet when those guys were up to bat. A bit weird.

Anyway, here is my scorecard from the game...

College Kids 1 - 1 U-26 NPB
Sunday, November 22, 2009

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
College 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 5 0
U-26 NPB 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 9 0

College AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
(TOK) Ishimine, cf 4 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 f4 .. KS .. .. S6 .. G4 ..
(HOS) Taki, ss 3 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 KS .. .. G1 .. S6 .. .. ..
(THF) Abe, ss 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. F7 ..
(WAS) Habu, lf 2 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 F7 .. .. KS .. HP .. .. ..
(RIK) Tanaka, lf 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. G6
(KIN) Wakamatsu, dh 4 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 .. KS .. KS .. f2 .. .. f9
(RIS) Echizen, rf 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. KS .. .. L7 F3 .. .. G3
(MEI) Araki, 3b 3 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. KC .. .. G1 .. S6 .. ..
(RIK) Okazaki, 3b 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
(KSG) Hagiwara, 1b 3 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. S8 .. G3 .. KS .. ..
(AGU) Koike, c 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .. .. b1 .. .. .. .. .. ..
(DOS) Kobayashi, c 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. S8 .. .. ..
(WAS) Sugiyama, c 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. F8 .. ..
(TOY) Hayashizaki, 2b 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .. .. F8 .. .. b5 .. .. ..
(ASI) Ono, 2b 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. G4 ..

(WAS) Saitoh 1 5 18 2 0 0 1 0 1 1
(TOY) Inui 1 4 18 0 0 2 1 0 0 0
(CHU) Sawamura 1 3 15 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
(ASI) Higashihama 1 3 17 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
(KIN) Nakaushiro 1 4 17 2 0 1 0 0 0 0
(WAS) Ohishi 1 4 18 1 0 2 0 0 0 0
(MEI) Nomura 1 5 18 1 0 2 1 0 0 0
(MEI) Nishijima 0 2 6 1 0 0 1 0 0 0
(TOK) Sugano 2 7 22 1 0 2 0 0 0 0

WAS - Waseda, MEI - Meiji, RIK - Rikkio, HOS - Hosei, ASI - Asia, TOY - Toyo,
AGU - Aoyama Gakuin, RIS - Rissho, CHU - Chuo, TOK - Tokai, KIN - Kinki,
DOS - Doshisha, THF - Tohoku Fukushi, KSG - Kansai Gakuin

U-26 NPB AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
(YOM) Sakamoto, ss 5 1 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 S7 .. KS .. KS .. G1 .. G5
(YOM) Matsumoto, cf 2 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 BB .. G6 .. .. F8 .. BB ..
(HIR) Amaya, lf 4 0 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 d4 .. S4 .. .. KS .. S8 ..
(HAN) Arai, 3b 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 S9 .. .. BB .. .. .. .. ..
(HIR) Kokubo, pr-3b 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. S8 .. F8 ..
(YOM) Kamei, rf-1b 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 G3 .. .. F7 .. KS .. f5 ..
(TYS) Tanaka, 2b 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 .. BB .. KS .. .. .. .. ..
(HAN) Yamato, 2b 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. S8 .. ..
(CLM) Nemoto, ph-2b 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. KS ..
(ORX) Okada, 1b 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. KS .. .. G6 .. .. .. ..
(SEI) Ohzaki, lf 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. KS .. G5
(NHF) Nakata, dh 3 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 .. G6 .. .. S8 .. BB .. KS
(SEI) Ginjiro, c 3 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 .. KS .. .. S9 .. KS .. ..
(RAK) Shima, c 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. S9
(CHU) Iwasaki, pr 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

(HIR) Maeda 1 3 9 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
(CLM) Ohmine 1 3 13 0 0 3 0 0 0 0
(SEI) Hirano 1 4 10 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
(YOM) Kaneto 1 3 17 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
(SFT) Kume 1 3 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
(SFT) Ohtonari 1 7 20 3 0 0 1 0 1 1
(CLM) Karakawa 1 3 8 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
(TYS) Yoshinori 1 3 11 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
(YOK) Yamaguchi 1 3 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

And some photos.

Crowds outside the dome. There was high security because the prime minister was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

Goods tents. You guys suck for being sold out of the program so early.

A display with the Team Japan uniforms.

An hour or two before the game, they took photos of the NPB and college players together.

Announcing Handkerchief Boy as the college starting pitcher.

Full lineups with Kume-kun being announced (who I first saw pitch when he was still at Meiji, but who now plays for the Softbank Hawks.) Kenta Maeda started for the NPB team though.

Lining up to a full Tokyo Dome.

Prime minister Yukio Hatoyama comes out to throw the ceremonial first pitch.

Hatoyama in his box later on in the game, still wearing his Japan jersey.

Nakata Sho had to wear #5 for this because Sakamoto had #6.

Chuo's Hirokazu Sawamura, who can theoretically throw 156km/h. He's pretty awesome, though he might find himself cursed by his name.

Hiroshi Taki! Best 9 as a freshman!

My college baseball boyfriend Tatsuya Ohishi.

Tomoyuki Sugano. Sigh.

Final bow -- just like in a normal college or high school game.

And the final score up on the board.

Sorry I never got around to posting this, but December was a rough month for many reasons. This was my last baseball game of 2009, though.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tokyo Big 6 College League Best Nine And Other Stuff

Yeah, this is way overdue, but I bought the Shube College Ball fall 2009 review issue this weekend and was reading through it, and they had a section where they listed what the graduating seniors would be doing next year (those that have decided so far), so I thought I'd type that in along with this other stuff.

First, Best Nine...
Pos  Name                 College  Yr.  Votes  Times   High School

P Tatsuya Ohishi Waseda 3 9 1 Fukuoka Univ Ohhori
C Masahiro Nagasaki Keio 3 8 1 Koshi
1B Kazuya Onodera Keio 4 21 2 Maebashi
2B Fumiya Araki Meiji 3 13 2 Nichidai #3
SS Hiroki Matsunaga Waseda 3 17 1 Koryo
3B Shota Waizumi Hosei 4 17 2 Yokohama
OF Shohei Habu Waseda 2 21 1 Koryo
OF Yosuke Yamamoto Keio 4 20 1 Okazaki
OF Daisuke Ikarashi Rikkio 4 7 1 Niigata Meikun

Full votes was 21, and Shohei Habu and Kazuya Onodera, as the top two batters, were the only ones to glean that. To be fair, for the most part the Best 9 list is just taking the best hitters at each position, except for catcher, where Atsushi Tanaka actually did a fairly respectable job for a Todai catcher, batting .310/.444/.414 Anyone wanna take a guess who the last regular Todai batter was to reach the .300 mark and when? (By regular I mean, enough PAs to qualify for the batting leaders, so Yuichi Suzuki's .300 in Spring 2007 doesn't count) Answer: a kid named Kei Ogita, back in Spring 2006. His .308 doesn't look so impressive compared to the rest of the league, anyway. Keiji Ohbiki hit .500 that semester!

The fact that Nagasaki got barely 1/3 of the votes tells me that I am not the only person thinking maybe Tanaka or someone else might have deserved it more. Shota Sugiyama did a hell of a job for a freshman, for example, and Ryota Yasuda was solid for Meiji.

I should also mention that I am, of course, overjoyed that Tatsuya Ohishi finally got a Best Nine -- he will be forever living in Saitoh's shadow, being a classmate at Waseda, but at least people realize that he saved a ton of games for Waseda this year and was, aside from his start at Soukeisen, was really, really good this semester.

By the way, if you can read Japanese, I advise looking at the historical Best 9 list sometime. I got totally lost in it. Something really crazy: take a guess who had the most Best Nine titles in their Big 6 college career? I will give you a hint: it is NOT Shigeo Nagashima.

Big 6 Fall 2009 Titles:
Batting average champ: Kazuya Onodera, Keio (21-for-46, .457/.509/.652, 12 RBI)
ERA champ: Kazuki Nishijima, Meiji (1.13 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.43 K/9, 1.68 BB/9, 32 IP)

2010 Captains:
Meiji: Yuki Yamauchi
Keio: Tatsushi Yumoto
Waseda: Yuki Saitoh
Hosei: Seiya Ohyagi
Rikkio: Soichiro Tanaka
Tokyo: Yoshihiro Maeda

(I was actually totally just going to go ahead and predict Tanaka, actually, but figured there was always a chance they'd maybe pick Nihira or someone else. All of these captain choices make sense except Saitoh.)

And here is the big list of where the hell everyone is going next year (of those who will actually be playing baseball -- I didn't type in the companies for everyone else):

Graduating Seniors Continuing Baseball

P Ogata Tomokazu *Keiyo Gas
P Narita Hayato JR Hokkaido
C Yasuda Ryota Mitsubishi Nagoya
IF Chida Takayuki Yamaha
OF Kobayashi Takuma JR Hokkaido
OF Komichi Junpei Tokyo Gas
OF Tada Hayato Nihon Seimei

P Komuro Junpei Mitsubishi Nagoya
P Nakabayashi Nobuaki JFE Higashinihon
IF Onodera Kazuya Meiji Yasuda Seimei
IF Urushibata Tetsuya Toshiba

P Ueno Yushi Toshiba
P Futagami Kazuhito Hanshin Tigers
P Fujita Suguru Panasonic
P Takeuchi Hisashi Hiroshima Carp
P Nishi Kohei Toho Gas
P Nakagami Takayoshi *Gamagori Shinkin Bank
C Ishikawa Shuhei JR Higashinihon
IF Matsumoto Masatoshi Nihon Express
IF Waizumi Shota Toshiba
OF Kamegai Shingo Toyota
OF Kajiya Yudai Kazusa Magic
OF Kita Atsushi *Fukuoka Bank

P Kusuda Yusuke Toho Gas
P Takahashi Hideki Kazusa Magic
P Matsushita Kenta Seibu Lions
IF Ohmae Yusuke JR Higashinihon
OF Kojima Hiroki Toyota

P Tomura Kenji Rakuten Golden Eagles
OF Ikarashi Daisuke Mitsubishi Yokohama


Italics are pro teams, and the * before a team denotes a softball team instead of hard ball, although it isn't softball like we think of it in the US -- rubber ball might be a better way to put it.

It will be interesting to follow these guys in the next year or two and see what happens to them in the industrial leagues! I'll certainly be keeping an eye on my favorite guys... this'll give me more of a reason to watch Toyota, and also JR Higashinihon (Tsuzuji from Toyo and Yumoto 56 from Senshu are also going there). Toshiba too! Exciting!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fighters Trade: Open Letters

On Wednesday, the Fighters traded Naoto Inada, Suguru Matsuyama, and Yataro Sakamoto to the Baystars for Takeharu Katoh, Takahiro Matsuka, and Yuta Sekiguchi.

This trade seems REALLY weird to me and as usual I think the Baystars got the better deal, just like two years ago with the Yakult 3-on-3 trade (where they got a hot young infielder and two young relievers, all players in their mid-20's, and we got a lefty starter, a middle reliever, and a utility guy, all in their early 30's, all of whom are now gone from the team). At least this time we gave up two older guys and a younger guy for one older guy and two younger guys, but I'm still not sure what exactly we need another outfielder for? I guess trades are always hard on the fans in some ways -- we get attached to guys and it's difficult to see them leave. I still haven't gotten over Yohei Kaneko getting released, after all. At least there isn't quite as much ridiculous movement as there is in the MLB...

Dear Naoto Inada:

It is really hard to believe you aren't going to be wearing a Fighters uniform next year. From the moment you took a running somersault into the camera well (in what I will forever call "The Epic Battle of Naoto vs. The Cameraman) during the 2007 Japan Series, you became somewhat of a cult hero among Fighters fans. However, it's true there really isn't anywhere for you to break into the lineup as a regular right now, especially with Ei-chan and Shinji at the corners... still, you were a great player to have around, a fantastic moodmaker type, and we Fighters fans will be a bit sadder to not have your smile around next year.

Personally, I'm still going to be wearing my yellow Naoto bracelet with my Fighters gear anyway, but I don't know if I'll come to Yokohama to see you or not. Yokosuka, maybe :) Though I suppose if you got uniform number #5, then I could start wearing my old Takuro jersey again!

Lots of love and thanks for the memories,

Deanna the Marinerd

Dear Matsu-kun,

Back at the beginning of the season, when Mariko first started bringing Moe-chan with her to the park, everyone insisted she had to decide on a favorite player. As a teenage girl it seemed obvious she would just pick some good-looking guy, but she hung out after the games and talked to a bunch of you to get a better idea of who you were. When she showed up with a Matsuyama jersey and signboard and all, I said "Ah, you decided! Why Matsuyama?" and she said that of all the players she talked to, she thought you were the nicest guy and she thought you were working very hard and were very serious about your game.

I only talked to you that one time back in May, and only a little, but from watching you play I have to agree with her assessment: you definitely have a fine baseball spirit within you.

I do wonder what'll happen to Mariko and Moe next year though, given they were devout supporters of you and Yohei, and now both of you are gone :(

I think it's great you can go play in Yokohama since it's your hometown and all, though I don't think you will look good in Searex teal, so get your butt up to ichi-gun ASAP!


from Deanna (the crazy gaijin)

Dear Yataro,

I can't believe it, but you were supposed to be last remaining player from the 3-on-3 trade with Yakult two years ago. Hajime retired and became a coach, and Shaggy Shugo decided Hokkaido wasn't really his style. Meanwhile Yakult has Keizo Kawashima kicking butt in the left infield, and Takehiko Oshimoto being his usual Everyday Oshi self, and even Yoshitaka Hashimoto had a good season over there. Grumble.

So, it pains me to think that you and the others will go to Yokohama and be awesome, but in reality I do wish you the best, especially due to your Urawa Gakuin roots and Saitama pride. Now rather than hanging out with your kohai Sunaga and Imanari over with the Fighters, you can hang out with crazy Kizuka-sempai. I'm actually kind of jealous! :)

See you again someday... maybe...

Deanna (the crazy gaijin)

Dear Takeharu Katoh,

You know, you were the winning pitcher in one of the first Baystars games I ever saw after moving to Japan... but since then I am fairly sure I haven't seen you do anything. Also, the Fighters have recently had bad luck with pitchers named Katoh. But, well, we must have traded for you for a reason, so I hope you can come here and do some good. Being from Yamagata, maybe Hokkaido will be good for you? We can only hope.


Dear Yuta Sekiguchi,

Hey, I actually saw you play this year with the Searex, but didn't have much of an opinion on you. Yet. Looking forward to seeing you at Kamagaya next year.


Dear Takahiro Matsuka,

I am really happy you are joining the Fighters, to be honest -- I've been a closet fan of yours for quite a while, the same way I go to watch Tokyo University's baseball team play and secretly cheer for them to win, even though I know it's so unlikely. I have been calling you "the smartest guy in baseball", being as you are the 4th man in NPB history to have graduated from Todai and also to play at ichi-gun. It is unclear whether this is more because Tokyo University does not attract students with baseball talent, or because anyone who graduates from Todai probably has better long-term career choices than "pro baseball player", and are unlikely to be unsucky enough to get drafted anyway... but either way, you are very special, and I wish I'd worked up the nerve to talk to you before. You can definitely expect to get stalked by a random weird gaijin this year, I promise.

Also, do you speak English? I know Todai has a ridiculous English section on their entrance exams... I'm just curious, it's fine if you don't.

I look forward to harrassing you this year! Baseball nerds unite!


Deanna the Marinerd

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2009 NPB Awards (Golden Gloves, Best Nine, Minor Leagues, Everything!)

I have a post about the U-26 vs. College game in my drafts pile, but have been sick the last few days.

I hadn't posted the awards for the year yet, and the nice thing is that since I was a slacker, now I can put them all in one post together! Hooray.

Best Nines

     Central League                         Pacific League
(1) Dicky Gonzalez (G) P (2) Yu Darvish (F)
(4) Shinnosuke Abe (G) C (1) Hidenori Tanoue (H)
(1) Tony Blanco (D) 1B (1) Shinji Takahashi (F)
(2) Akihiro Higashide (C) 2B (3) Kensuke Tanaka (F)
(7)* Michihiro Ogasawara (G) 3B (2) Takeya Nakamura (L)
(1) Hayato Sakamoto (G) SS (2) Hiroyuki Nakajima (L)
(4) Norichika Aoki (S) OF (1) Teppei Tsuchiya (E)
(2)* Seiichi Uchikawa (B) OF (5)* Atsunori Inaba (F)
(5) Alex Ramirez (G) OF (1) Yoshio Itoi (F)
DH (3)* Takeshi Yamasaki (E)

Ogasawara has 2 Best Nines at 3B in the Central League, 2 at 3B in the Pacific League, and 3 at 1B in the Pacific League.
Uchikawa has a Best Nine at 1B in addition to this one at OF.
Inaba has a Best Nine at OF in the Central League, and now 4 in the Pacific.
Yamasaki has a Best Nine at OF in the Central League, this is his second DH Best Nine.

I'm totally fine with most of these choices. Nice to see people recognize the contributions by some of these guys, especially Blanco and Tanoue. My ONLY real argument here is going to be that Kazuhiro Wada might have deserved an OF Best Nine a bit more than the three guys who actually got it:

Alex Ramirez 202 .322 .347 .544 31 103 133 147 2 6 0 .961
Seiichi Uchikawa 124 .318 .369 .491 17 66 130 210 1 3 1 .986
Norichika Aoki 121 .303 .400 .444 16 66 141 300 9 3 2 .990
Kazuhiro Wada 110 .302 .382 .532 29 87 144 216 12 2 3 .991

Seriously, how the hell did Wada not end up with a Best Nine or Golden Glove this season? He is basically a right-handed Atsunori Inaba with a tiny tiny bit less range, but for a 37-year-old outfielder he is still pretty dang awesome both with the bat and in the field. Ben-chan, you was ROBBED.

Golden Gloves

     Central League                         Pacific League
(1) Dicky Gonzalez (G) P (1) Hideki Wakui (L)
(4) Motonobu Tanishige (D) C (1) Shinya Tsuruoka (F)
(2) Kenta Kurihara (C) 1B (1) Shinji Takahashi (F)
(6) Masahiro Araki (D) 2B (4) Kensuke Tanaka (F)
(7)* Shinya Miyamoto (S) 3B (1) Eiichi Koyano (F)
(6) Hirokazu Ibata (D) SS (3)* Makoto Kaneko (F)
(4) Norichika Aoki (S) OF (1) Yoshio Itoi (F)
(1) Tetsuya Matsumoto (G) OF (4) Atsunori Inaba (F)
(1) Yoshiyuki Kamei (G) OF (2) Tomotaka Sakaguchi (B)

Miyamoto has 6 Golden Gloves at SS, this is his first at 3B.
Kaneko has 2 Golden Gloves at 2B, this is his first at SS. (WTF! Really?!?)

So the Two-Headed Double Play Monster Arakibata wins its 6th consecutive Golden Glove, which is fine with me as those two are seriously the best keystone combo in the game here. My only question about the Central League choices is, WHAT THE HELL IS KAMEI DOING ON THAT LIST!? Seriously. Matsumoto is awesome, even I have to admit that, but Kamei? I see that the next two choices were Akamatsu and Fukuchi, either of whom would be more deserving of the award. Kamei spent half of his time at 1B anyway! Come on, give Kazuhiro Wada that Golden Glove instead of Kamei, for crying out loud.

I am not complaining about the PL choices because they're all Fighters :)
No, seriously, though, everyone who got a GG on the Fighters IS pretty solid defensively. It's kind of what our team is known for -- especially this season with the way we've been holding Sho Nakata at ni-gun because he can't even adequately play first base defensively.

Other awards/leaders:

     Central League                         Pacific League
(2) Alex Ramirez (G) MVP (2) Yu Darvish (F)
Tetsuya Matsumoto (G) ROY Tadashi Settsu (H)

(1) Wei-Yin Chen 1.54 (D) ERA (1) Yu Darvish 1.73 (F)
(1) Kazuki Yoshimi 16 (D) WIN (2) Hideaki Wakui 16 (L)
(1) Shohei Tateyama 16 (S)
(1) Dicky Gonzalez .750 (G) WP% (1) Yu Darvish .750 (F)
(1) Toshiya Sugiuchi .750 (H)
(2) Colby Lewis 186 (C) K (2) Toshiya Sugiuchi 204 (H)
(3) Hitoki Iwase 41 (D) SAV (1) Hisashi Takeda 34 (F)
(1) Tetsuya Yamaguchi 44 (G) HLD (1) Tadashi Settsu 39 (H)

(1) Alex Ramirez .322 (G) AVG (1) Teppei Tsuchiya .327 (E)
(1) Tony Blanco 39 (D) HR (2) Takeya Nakamura 48 (L)
(1) Tony Blanco 110 (D) RBI (1) Takeya Nakamura 122 (L)
(2) Kazuki Fukuchi 42 (S) SB (3) Yasuyuki Kataoka 51 (L)
(2) Norichika Aoki .400 (S) OBP (2) Hiroyuki Nakajima .398 (L)
(3) Alex Ramirez 186 (G) H (1) Hiroyuki Nakajima 173 (L)

Special Awards
Championship Manager: Tatsunori Hara (CL / G), Masataka Nashida (PL / F)
Speed Up Awards: Daisuke Miura (Baystars pitcher)
CL Special Award: Kazuyoshi Tatsunami (Dragons, for his 22-year career)
PL Distinguished Achievement Award: Katsuya Nomura (Eagles manager)
CL Umpire Award: Kazuaki Nakoh
PL Umpire Award: Masami Yoshikawa

Matsutaro Shoriki Award: Tatsunori Hara (Giants manager, 2nd time)
Sawamura Award: Hideaki Wakui (Seibu Lions)

Ni-gun Awards/Leaders
Eastern League                       Western League
Hitoshi Fujie 1.97 (R) ERA Daisuke Yamai 2.38 (D)
Hiroshi Kisanuki 9 (G) WIN Daisuke Yamai 7 (D)
Ryoji Katsuki 9 (M) Shoji Nagamine 7 (D)
Hitoshi Fujie 9 (R) Ikketsu Sho 7 (T)
Hitoshi Fujie .750 (R) WP% Daisuke Yamai 1.000 (D)
Hiroshi Kisanuki 94 (G) K Shingo Tatsumi 80 (H)
Kentaro Hashimoto 13 (M) SAV Hiroki Kondoh 13 (D)

Juan Muniz .342 (M) AVG Aarom Baldiris .358 (T)
Sho Nakata 30 (F) HR Takahiro Okada 21 (B)
Sho Nakata 95 (F) RBI Takahiro Okada 59 (B)
Masayoshi Miwa 36 (S) SB Takaaki Matsumoto 23 (C)
Masayoshi Miwa .397 (S) OBP Ryota Arai .426 (D)
Yuki Takamori 112 (R) H Aarom Baldiris 93 (T)

Team MVPs
Wilfin Obispo (G) Yudai Kawai (D)
Ryoji Katsuki (M) Aarom Baldiris (T)
Yuta Naitoh (R) Takahiro Okada (B)
Hiromitsu Takagi (S) Akira Nakamura (H)
Sho Nakata (F) Tsubasa Aizawa (C)
Ryo Sakata (L)
Jobu Morita (E)

(R), by the way, is the one-letter abbreviation for the Shonan Sea Rex, for lack of a better one.

Special Awards:
Yoshiyuki Noguchi, Yakult: For hitting a cycle on 6/25 against the Fighters
Sho Nakata, Fighters: For the record of 30 homeruns in a minor-league season

Eastern League umpire: Kazuki Kudoh
Western League umpire: Ryotaro Sakai

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009 NPB Fan Fests Schedule

Hi guys -- I'm not dead, honest. Just feeling kind of burnt out after the season, and was REALLY busy last week with my school, and well, there's no real reason for me to translate news when someone else is doing that. I even skipped the Jingu HS/college baseball tourney last weekend in favor of watching hockey instead. (Which was really awesome. Thanks, Simon!)

But, this Sunday I'll be going to the U-26 NPB vs. College game, which I'm psyched for, though I'm not really sure who I'll cheer for. (Probably the college kids, since the NPB team couldn't be bothered to include Hiroki Ueno. No, just kidding. Mostly.)

And the other thing I'm planning to go to, unless the weather turns truly crappy, is the Shonan Sea Rex fan fest on Saturday. That's the Yokohama Baystars minor-league team, which I am infinitely more interested in than the ichi-gun team these days. So while I was looking up info for that I figured I'd check in and see when all the NPB fanfests are -- if I get bored and the weather's reasonable, I might try to stop in on the Seibu Lions or Yakult Swallows fan fests on Monday too. I figure there can't possible be anything this year more disturbing than Yoshinori and Masaru Satoh in drag last year...

Anyway, almost all of the fan fests are during this 3-day weekend, though one or two are next weekend. And there's the Giants parade on Sunday too.

Pacific League Fan Fests

Nippon Ham Fighters
November 21st (Saturday)
11:00 - 16:00
Sapporo Dome
300 yen

Rakuten Golden Eagles
November 23rd (Monday / Holiday)
10:00 - 16:00
Kleenex Stadium

Softbank Hawks
November 22nd (Sunday)
11:00 - 16:30
Yahoo Dome
1200 yen

Seibu Lions
November 23rd (Monday / Holiday)
10:00 - 15:00
Seibu Dome (and surroundings)

Chiba Lotte Marines
November 21st (Saturday)
10:00 - 15:00
Chiba Marine Stadium

Orix Buffaloes
Nov 29th (Sunday)
10:40 - 14:30
Kyocera Dome Osaka

Central League Fan Fests

Yomiuri Giants
November 23rd (Monday / Holiday)
Starts at 10am
Tokyo Dome

Also, there's a Yomiuri Giants Victory Parade
November 22nd (Saturday), 10:00 - 11:00am, Ginza area (Otemachi to Shinbashi)

Chunichi Dragons
November 28th (Saturday)
11:00 - 14:00
Nagoya Dome

Yakult Swallows
November 23rd (Monday / Holiday)
Starts at 11am
Jingu Stadium
Free (I think)

Hanshin Tigers
November 21st (Saturday)
Starts at 11am
Koshien Stadium
(This event seems to be sold out.)

Hiroshima Carp
November 23rd (Monday / Holiday)
10:30 - 15:30
Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium Hiroshima
(I think this is also sold out, actually)

Yokohama Baystars
November 23rd (Monday / Holiday)
10:00 - 15:30
Yokohama Stadium

Shonan Sea Rex (Baystars minor-league team)
November 21 (Saturday)
11:00 - 14:30
Yokosuka Stadium

I haven't really been to a LOT of fanfests here aside from the Fighters Kamagaya ones and a Baystars one a few years ago, so I don't have any particular recommendations, just throwing this info out for anyone who might be interested in it. I'll certainly try to blog about this weekend for y'all, whatever I end up doing.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Japan Series Game 6, Kamagaya Report: And So It Ends

Saturday, November 7th, my half-birthday, the Yomiuri Giants won the Japan Series by beating the Nippon Ham Fighters 2-0 at the Sapporo Dome. Yet again, just as in 1981, the Giants beat the Fighters in the Japan Series 4 games to 2, and for the Giants, this was their 21st Japan Series title, which of course is still almost double the next-highest winning team, the Seibu Lions with 13 titles.

If you want to know about what actually happened in the game, I recommend reading up on it in other places:

Japan Times: Giants scratch seven-year title itch
Daily Yomiuri: Giants finish off Fighters / Capture 21st Japan Series title as 6 hurlers combine on shutout, MVP Abe provides punch
Japanball: Giants down Fighters in Game 6 to win Japan Series title
Yakyu Baka: Giants shutout the Fighters 2-0 to take the Nippon Series in 6!
and even Bleacher Report: Japanese Yankees Win Their World Series Too, where I want to punch the author by the end but he does have a valid point: have the damn Yankees and the damn Giants play each other already! Seriously!

As for me, what I'm going to share with you is the fan experience of watching the game at Fighters town Kamagaya on Saturday night, since I didn't keep a scorecard and the only moments of the game I really remember very well are Shun Tohno getting knocked down in the first inning and being replaced by Utsumi, and I remember when Ejiri came out to pitch, and I kinda remember the Giants scoring their runs because we were all like "OMGWTFINABA", and of course the last inning, where we really hoped the Fighters could put one or two of the guys on base into home plate for once but I think we all knew in our hearts it wasn't going to happen.

(More photos and videos at the end of the post.)

Kamagaya, for those tuning in for the first time, is a small town in Chiba prefecture, about 30-40 minutes out of Tokyo by train. The Fighters built a minor-league stadium and training center and dormitory there back in 1996, when their major-league team was still based in Tokyo. When the team moved to Sapporo, they kept the minor league team in Kamagaya, and as such, it has become a bit of a gathering place for the relatively large remaining contingent of Tokyo-area Fighters fans.

I read on the Fighters website that they would be having a free "Public Viewing" of Game 6 (and 7) at Kamagaya. They would set up a big TV and seating outside the stadium, and they advertised that there would be merchandise tables with special postseason stuff, and food stands and "fun events" and the minor-league mascot Cubby and some "presents" and whatnot.

So I emailed Hiromi and she emailed Ojisan, and by the time we arrived at Kamagaya around 5:30, we found Ojisan and another friend Chizaki sitting at a picnic table, and they had also saved some seats up front for us as well!

Before the game, I wandered around, said hi to friends I saw there, looked through the merchandise (there was a LOT, but none of it screamed out to me that I HAD to buy it), went to the food stand and bought some curry and rice, and sat down with my friends to have a little mini-picnic, since we had all brought snacks and whatnot to share with everyone. Chizaki had even brought a huge thermos full of hot water and some packets of powder to make coffee out of.

The "presents", by the way, turned out to be plastic folders, which you could get for free if you wrote your name and address and phone number on an information form for Tokyo Dome and Kamagaya 2010 season tickets. The PL championship folder is pretty cool though, has the entire team on it and says "WE DID IT" in big letters.

I was interviewed by a lady reporting for Chiba TV. Or more like, Ojisan dragged her over like "You HAVE to talk to Deanna! Get the international angle!" So after clearing up that yes, I can speak Japanese, I was filmed for about 3-4 minutes. Oddly, most of what she asked me was things like, who is your favorite player? Why is Imanari your favorite player, what do you like about him? Do you come to Kamagaya a lot? How long have you been a Fighters fan? Stuff like that, rather than about the Japan Series itself or anything. I'm just hoping that it didn't actually make it onto TV, or at least that nobody I know SAW it.

The pre-game festivities included having EVERYONE throw out an imaginary first pitch, and then singing the entire Fighters sanka (team song), all three verses, with the lyrics up on the big screen karaoke-style. They also lit up some strings of Christmas lights behind the screen to look like Mt. Fuji, and we did some cheering with Cubby, the mascot. Almost everyone had brought cheer sticks and wore jerseys, usually over several layers of jackets. Some people brought signs. A group of guys in the back even had big Fighters flags on poles that they waved as if we were in a real ouendan at the stadium.

During the game itself, the atmosphere was not entirely unlike being spread out in the Fighters side of the Seibu Dome outfield, just without the trumpets and drums. Most of us tried to do the cheer songs along with the TV as we could hear them, including the Kensuke call and Inaba jump and the chance themes and even just clapping and yelling "Kattobase" and "Go go let's go" and so on. Guys waved flags in the back when Fighters got on base, and we all generally cheered as appropriate, although for the most part people stayed seated rather than standing up to cheer, partially because the seats were on flat ground and standing up would really get in other people's way.

Between innings, the TV display kept showing Kamagaya mini-commercials. Occasionally, there were even little mini-events between innings. Notably, we did YMCA at the same time they did it at the Sapporo Dome, and another time, they called out, "We have a special timed discount starting now! It's the 38 discount! Does anyone know what 38 is for? Yes, it's Masaru Takeda's uniform number! So from now, we'll be selling hotdogs for the next 38 minutes for 100 yen each! So hurry up and buy some!"

(You would be surprised how many people don't want a hot dog for 200 yen, but when you make it 100 yen, the entire place storms the food counter.)

They also often walked around yelling out advertisements for the merchandise there. "See the super-warm and comfortable Fighters 2009 Pacific League Champions parka she's wearing? Oh, it's very comfortable and so fashionable! And if you buy it now, along with a scarf and bag and cheer sticks, it only costs 5000 yen! What a deal!"

Cubby was out there for pretty much the entire game, cheering along with everyone. In the 8th and 9th innings when things were starting to look pretty bad, Cubby was going up to people and patting them on the head and high-fiving and making motions of "Come on, we can do it!"

Anyway, here are some photos and videos from the evening...

Here we are about 10 minutes before the game, doing the "first pitch" together.

Lighting up "Fuji".

And this was the view from my "seat" in the front.

Utsumi coming into the game after Tohno was knocked down and out.

Here's another view from sitting at our picnic table, towards the side.

One of the flag-waving guys way in the back.

Out in back, near where some charcoal grills were set up for people to come warm their hands by, people had hung out all of the normal big banners that they hang in the stadium during games during the season.

I got a photo in the midst of the "We Love Fighters" one.

Here's the merchandise tents.

A display of Fighters bears in various outfits, on a table with Japan Series programs. They also had the Cubby pinbadge capsule machines out as well.

Food stand.

Food stand being swamped by 600 people trying to get 38 hot dogs.

And, as promised, some videos...

Here we are doing the Inaba Jump in the 9th inning. (It starts with us waving cheer sticks for "I Was Born To Love You" though.)

And the Kita no Kuni Kara chance theme, for Naoto Inada's at-bat in the 9th inning. He eventually walked, and you can see how excited the crowd got every time Kroon threw a ball instead of a strike.

In case you are wondering, by the way, I do believe there were a few Giants fans watching the game there, but for the most part, they weren't vocal. (One guy was fairly vocal in the first inning, and he was either escorted out or told to stop it by the police.) I don't think there was any particular ban on Giants fans, but as someone else put it in Japanese, "Can't that idiot read the atmosphere? This is NOT a place to be cheering for the Giants."

(Seriously, if you're a Giants fan, shouldn't there be a better place to watch the game than sitting out in the cold with 600-700 Fighters fans at their minor-league facility?)

And overall, it was actually a pretty neat experience to be sitting out in the cold with a few hundred Fighters fans. I had been waffling about going because it takes me almost 2 hours each way to go there, but in the end I think it was worth it to finish off the season with my friends.

Thus the 2009 season comes to an end, and in theory in the worst possible way, having the Giants beat my Fighters and the Yankees beat my hometown Phillies, but really, I think I'm already over it for the most part, and focusing on how unbelievable the year actually was. Sometimes I think being a Fighters fan has actually turned me into a nicer person and mellowed me out a lot.

And don't worry, there's still more baseball on the horizon for me in 2009, even if it's not pro yakyu. Jingu Taikai next weekend, fanfests and the JUBF-U26 game after that, Master's league and other crazy things after that. Also some hockey, hopefully. I love this place!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Japan Series Game 5 Report: Fighters vs. Giants @ Tokyo Dome - Hisashi Handed Heartbreaking Homeruns

I thought about just posting the following:

The Fighters got a run in the 2nd inning off of two Giants errors, and held the 1-0 lead for most of the game, which became tied 1-1 in the 8th off Takahiro Suzuki's clever baserunning and Noriyoshi Ohmichi's pinch-hit single. Shinji Takahashi hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 9th to make it 2-1, and then closer Hisashi Takeda gave up two home runs to the Giants in the 9th, the second one being a walkoff shot by Shinnosuke Abe, and the Giants won 3-2.

Because seriously, I don't really want to think about this game any more. The entire game really did come down to that totally devastating last 20 minutes where the Fighters were suddenly not winning, then winning, then completely not winning.

Both starters were really good -- Shugo Fujii and Dicky Gonzalez both went 7 innings and didn't give up an earned run.

I was sitting in the second row of the Fighters cheering section in the outfield for this game, actually, thanks to a friend of a friend scoring excellent tickets and being nice enough to offer one to me.

And you know what the crazy thing is?

It honestly didn't feel any different from any other game this year, aside from being more crowded.

I mean, back in June, I also sat in the second row of the visitor's cheering section for the Fighters-Giants games in interleague, and for the most part, this felt exactly the same -- lots of people who all love the Fighters and hate the Giants united in the purpose of yelling and screaming and singing cheer songs until our team won or lost. I'm really not sure there was any big change in atmosphere between this game and the other ones. Maybe we were slightly louder than usual.

I guess the only main difference is, back on June 5th when last we saw Fujii vs. Gonzalez as a pitching matchup, Shugo Fujii gave up 4 runs in the first inning and it was pretty clear we were unlikely to come back from that, so it was a slightly different mood.

I'm not sure how to explain it, but when you're behind for the entire game and lose, that has a completely different feeling than being ahead for the entire game and then to suddenly have it all yanked out from under you at the last moment.

The worst thing was, I think, having this happen at my last Fighters game of 2009. (For real. I know I've had four "last game of 2009" games this year, but this is REALLY the last one.) Afterwards, outside Gate 11, there was just a huge congregation of Fighters fans, and everyone's mood was some combination of:

- "I really wanted them to win their final game in Kanto..."
- "It's not over yet! Are you going to Sapporo for Games 6 and 7?"
- "I can't go to Sapporo."
- "I hate the Giants so very very much."
- "I hate Shinnosuke Abe so very very much."
- "I hate the long long winter with no baseball so very very much."
- "It's been a great year anyway, hasn't it? We'll all be back next year together, right?"

(And a little bit of "Why do you have 嫌 on your t-shirt?" to which I'd turn around and display the "俺はジャイアンツが大っ嫌いだぁ!" ("I HATE the Giants!") message, generally to laughs.)

So there were a lot of goodbyes, a lot of people exchanging contact info to maybe get together over the winter, a lot of "see you next year", some "see you in Sapporo", things like that. Some of us already have a plan to get together for dinner in a few weeks. (And a whole gang of us headed to an izakaya together afterwards anyway.)

I mean, that's the thing: this really HAS been an amazing year. Running around before Game 3 saying hello to a bazillion people really knocked that into my head. I went to 60 Fighters games this year, counting minor league, and all over the country. Everywhere I went, I met amazing new people and had a great time cheering and hanging out and being a Fighters fan.

Win or lose, the bottom line is still that this was a great year for the fans. It would have been a great year even if we'd finished in last place, I think, but finishing in first certainly made it that much better.

On that note, I'm going to Kamagaya today for their "public viewing" of Game 6. It's going to be pretty chilly this evening, and Kamagaya's pretty far from where I live, but I figure that it'll be a good place to be watching with everyone.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Japan Series Game 4 Report: Fighters vs. Giants @ Tokyo Dome - Our Takahashi Is Better Than Theirs

Wednesday morning, I went to an English speech contest with a few of my students. One of them is a big Giants fan and we talked about the Japan Series on the streetcar over, since she grabbed my cellphone and was looking through all of my Fighters charms and straps dangling from it. When I asked who her favorite player was, she told me she likes Tetsuya Matsumoto. I had to admit that of all the members of the Giants starting lineup, she did pick the only one that I don't have any reason to dislike, aside from that he displaced Takahiro Suzuki, who used to have the honor of being the guy in the Giants lineup that I didn't dislike.

I said I was heading back to the Tokyo Dome for the game in the evening, and that the Fighters were going to win.

She seemed unsure whether trash-talking her English teacher was a good idea or not, but assured me she would be watching on TV and that her beloved Matsumoto-kun was going to kick ass.

Well, she was right. Matsumoto was the only player on either team who reached base all 5 times he came to the plate.

Fortunately, it didn't matter.

The game started out as an epic battle between two lefty starters -- Hisanori Takahashi for the Giants, and Tomoya Yagi for the Fighters. Hisanori started out by striking out the side in the top of the 1st, which was a bit ominous.

But then the Fighters totally beat the crap out of him in the 3rd, which made up for it. Shinji Takahashi came up with the bases loaded and hit a single to left which scored Kensuke and Hichori to make it 2-0 and two batters later Eiichi Koyano hit a triple to center which scored Inaba and Shinji to make it 4-0.

The Giants answered that with one run in the bottom of the 3rd, as Hayato Sakamoto led off with a double and advanced on a wild pitch and then scored on a Matsumoto single to make it 4-1.

Shinji Takahashi hit a solo home run in the 5th to make it 5-1.

Kimura Takuya, who had allowed Hichori to get on base in the 3rd, also got himself picked off first in the 5th, a really embarrassing tagout on the base path.

The Fighters added one more run in the 7th after Kensuke Tanaka hit a triple and Hichori Morimoto squeeze-bunted him in, 6-1, and two more runs in the 8th off of reliever Shota Kimura, who gave up three hits and two runs in three batters before being escorted off the mound, a Shinji single, Sledge double, and Koyano 2-RBI single. 8-1.

I think I need to take a brief break from describing the game action to actually talking about my situation at the ballpark. See, I was sitting in the infield for this game again, about 21 rows up from the field behind the 3rd-base excite seats. This time I was there with a friend of mine from college, Shin, who also hates the Giants. Last year we watched Game 7 of the Japan Series together on his Sony PSP because it was the best option at the time. This year we had a slightly better vantage point.

While it wasn't quite the same as Tuesday, there were a fair number of Fighters fans scattered around the area we were sitting in, so during the scoring frenzy in the 3rd inning, we all kept standing up and singing and yelling. There was a lady sitting a few sits down who had a Shinji sign, so when Shinji got his home run in the 5th, we got up and banged cheersticks together and also got the people in the row behind us. By the 8th, I was actually running up a few steps up the aisle to bang cheersticks with some other small groups of Fighters fans a bit further up.

So the bottom of the 8th started with the Fighters holding a huge lead and me answering an email asking whether I could come up to Sapporo on Saturday for Game 6 (the answer: no), and Takayuki Kanamori taking the mound. Amazingly, Yoshinori Tateyama had come out for an inning with nothing disastrous happening, and Naoki Miyanishi also had a 1-2-3 inning aided by a nice double play.

The first batter Kanamori faced was Hayato Sakamoto, who hit a huge foul ball out to right field, and Atsunori Inaba chased it down and DIVED headfirst into the Excite Seats, but made the catch.

The second batter was Tetsuya Matsumoto, who was 3-for-3 at that point. Matsumoto hit the ball to short, and Yuji Iiyama, a late-inning defensive replacement, dropped the ball, so Matsumoto was safe at first yet again. Ogasawara followed that up with a single, and then Alex Ramirez came up to bat with two guys on, and BLAM, he sent a line drive into the Giants cheering section. Suddenly it was an 8-4 ballgame.

Kanamori walked Kamei after that, and I wrapped my towel around my head. "We survived Tateyama... why is Kanamori doing the honors today?"

Yoshitomo Tani singled, and I said "Okay, they're bringing out Masanori Hayashi next to face Abe." Shin said, "Really?" I said "Yeah. I have no idea how he'll DO, but I can tell you for sure that he's going to be the next pitcher."

And Hayashi was the next pitcher. And he got the next two batters out. Whew.

Despite a 4-run lead not being a save situation, Hisashi Takeda came out to pitch the 9th inning. And he made things interesting by giving up a leadoff hit to Shigeyuki Furuki, though Sakamoto hit a pop fly out after that. Tetsuya Matsumoto grounded to short, Iiyama making a FANTASTIC play to snag the ball and get it to second base in time for the force on Furuki, though there was no chance on a double play against the speedy Matsumoto, who reached base for the 5th time that day.

Michihiro Ogasawara's clean-shaven doppleganger came up to the plate as the only thing standing between the Fighters evening it up at 2 games each and the Giants taking a 3-1 lead. And Ogasawara stared at his former teammate and then proceeded to hit a single to right field...

...and get himself thrown out at second base trying to stretch it into a double. GAME OVER and the Fighters win it 8-4.

Shin kind of raised an interesting question at that point though -- it seemed like Matsumoto had made it home before Ogasawara was thrown out, and it WAS a valid single, so it's curious they didn't count him as scoring. I don't think it really matters either way, as the Fighters still won the game, though it might matter for Hisashi's postseason ERA someday or something like that.

Either way, woohoo!

Shinji Takahashi and Eiichi Koyano were the game heroes for knocking in those 4 runs in the 3rd inning. Shinji was 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs, and Koyano was 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs, accounting for almost all the Fighters runs.

And once the legions of Giants fans cleared out from the section a little, I also made Shin take the following picture:

which is not a very good photo of me because I was too tired to hold a smile at that point, but at least it serves well enough as a "No really, I was at the Japan Series" photo.

After the game we made our way outside, with me running into a whole bunch of people on the way, including some of the English newspaper writers I hadn't seen in a while, and then a whole bunch of Fighters fans I hadn't seen in a while. I ran into my one friend who carries a Fighty stuffed animal with him to all the Fighters games and whose son is named Yukio, and he lent me the Fighty so I could go up and get a photo over the Japan Series sign. Sadly, it didn't really come out, but it was pretty funny at the time:

Anyway, onward to Game 5! Let's hope the Fighters win this one too -- it'll make the weekend that much more interesting!

A Blog Backdated 75 Years

Rob Fitts is blogging the All-American baseball tour of Japan.

It's going on through November...

...1934, that is.

Remember, if you want to go see baseball in a stadium Babe Ruth played in, in addition to Fenway, you can always come to Japan and go to Jingu or Koshien! :)

(I'll be writing a bit about Japan Series Game 4 shortly -- sorry for the delay.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Japan Series Game Report: Fighters vs. Giants @ Tokyo Dome - Duped Again By Ogasawara's Clean-Shaven Doppleganger

Hooray! I finally got to go to an actual Fighters Japan Series game! How cool is THAT?

Now if only they hadn't LOST, it would have been even better.

Because November 3rd is a Japanese national holiday, Culture Day, the area around the Tokyo Dome was already full of people several hours before game time. This was the crowd outside Gate 22 (where lots of people get their photo because the big Nippon Series sign is up there):

I got inside around 4:15pm, after going through some serious security measures -- metal detector scanners and people ACTUALLY looking through my bags.

Went to try to take some photos of batting practice, only to discover the following things:

1) The Dome lighting sucked even more than usual, and
2) It was already retardedly crowded. There were at least a hundred media-pass-wearing folks on the field, and then several rows deep of fans trying to take photos of the entire thing:

This is the only clear shot I got during BP at all, go figure:

(It's Sho Nakata, if you don't know/recognize him.)

So I gave up and decided to go look for friends instead. Partially because people had tickets for me, and partially just because it had been a full month since my last Fighters game, and almost TWO months since our final Fighters game in Kanto, not counting Kamagaya.

First I went upstairs since I knew a few people would be up there. I found a nice uncrowded shopping stand and got a Japan Series pen and keychain and program (which came with a ticket holder -- convenient!), and then went to hunt down a Giants thing I saw during the playoffs and wanted to take a photo with. Fortunately, just as I found it, I also found a Fighters fan friend of mine who took the photo for me. It might have been a little hard to convince a Giants fan to take this one:

If you tapped the fists with your fists, it said various Giants-supporting messages in Hara's voice. Me, I just wanted to pretend I was going to punch Hara.

I also bought dinner, my new favorite Tokyo Dome bento, the "Hit-and-Lunch" bento. It's a funnier pun in Japanese. Honest.

After that, I snuck into the outfield Fighters cheering section (I had an infield ticket, and technically was not supposed to be there). It was like some crazy reunion, seeing a whole ton of people I hadn't seen in weeks or months. I couldn't even walk more than a few feet without seeing someone else I knew or having someone come up to me like "Hi! Long time no see! How are you? (Do you remember me?)" It was great to find everyone there, though -- people had come from all over the country due to the holiday, I think. Some people had just taken off work this week and come to Tokyo for all 3 games. In addition to pretty much ALL the usual suspects from the Kanto area, I saw folks from every ouendan group, and a lot of fans who live in Hokkaido, and people from the Sendai cheering groups, and the women from Osaka who had reserved our group's dinner at Nakatani, and a friend from Fukuoka, and I even met up with my friend from Nagoya who I hadn't seen in two months.

I also met a few people who read my blog -- I was very surprised, I don't really make a big deal about it around my Japanese friends for the most part. That was really cool!

So I was feeling pretty happy and well-loved by the time I got back to my seat for lineups and the pregame ceremonies. I can't say enough how much the Fighters fans have meant to me, especially this year. In some ways it takes "summer family" to a whole new height.

My seat was really good, and in a pocket of Fighters supporters in the 3rd-base infield, which was great. The people to my right were a couple with a one-year-old daughter who was adorable, and they even recognized me from Kamagaya, so that was nice to have people to talk to.

I tried to take some photos of the opening ceremonies.
Here are the Fighters being introduced...

Yet again, Sho Nakata is the only person my camera seems to have gotten a clear shot of.

This was a kind of weird exchange that happened when the Giants were coming out.

Hichori yelled something and made some gesture at Marc Kroon...

...and Kroon smiled and yelled something back, and this went both ways for a few lines. Both guys were smiling.

(Just the two lineups. Actually, the shot after this, which was blurry, had Konta smack Murata... they were joking around for most of the time on the field.)

Some famous model came out to do the traditional pre-game flower-giving:

(Here's Nashida receiving a big pile of flowers which he is just going to hand to Kensuke Tanaka, who is going to give it to some bat boy, who is going to put it somewhere that nobody will ever remember it exists.)

Then a famous singer sang Kimigayo, and I swear I somehow completely missed who it was. Oops.

THEN the craziest part of the opening ceremonies happened -- and as it turns out, the reason for us to get scanned by metal detectors and so on...

...the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by George W. Bush!

You know, I wonder whether people should be looking at that like "Wow, there's Sadaharu Oh standing behind George Bush" or "Hey, that's George Bush walking by Sadaharu Oh..."

Actually, his first pitch was FAST. It was like, one minute, this white guy is walking out to the mound, and by the time most people in the stadium realized who he was or what he was doing, he had already thrown the ball to home plate and was being rushed off the field.

(I bet some people are already wondering if he'll appear as a First Pitch card for BBM next year, or in the Japan Series card set...)

Since I was in the infield for a change, I took a few photos of the Fighters ouendan during the first inning. (I don't usually get to see what this looks like from the other side.)

Before the game, the "駆け抜けろ王座奪回への道" banner we've had up at most games this year -- roughly, "Running Down The Road To Recapturing the Throne" or something like that. I find translating "kakenukeru" into English difficult for some reason.

Kensuke Tanaka banner.

Atsunori Inaba banner and flags!

Fans aside, the starters for the game were Wilfin Obispo for the Giants, and Keisaku Itokazu for the Fighters. The lineups:

Fighters Giants
-------- ------
Kensuke 2b Sakamoto ss
Itoi cf Matsumoto cf
Inaba rf Ogasawara's Clean-Shaven Doppleganger 3b
Shinji 1b Rami-chan lf
Sledge lf Kamei rf
Koyano 3b Lee 1b
Nioka ss Abe c
Tsuruoka c Wakiya 2b
Itokazu p Obispo p

(Makoto Kaneko is mildly injured, so Tomohiro Nioka got to make a start in the Tokyo Dome against his former team.)

And for the first half of the game -- literally the first 4 and a half innings -- all the scoring in the game that happened was on home runs. By the end of the top of the 5th, the game was tied 3-3:

1st inning top homerun by Atsunori Inaba: 110 meters to left field, 1-0 Fighters
2nd inning top homerun by Eiichi Koyano: 120 meters to centerfield, 2-0 Fighters
2nd inning bottom homerun by Seung-Yeop Lee: 135 meters to right, 2-1 Fighters
2nd inning bottom homerun by Shinnosuke Abe: 115 meters to left, 2-2 Tie (and these were back-to-back)
3rd inning bottom homerun by Michihiro Ogasawara: 110 meters to right, 3-2 Giants
5th inning top homerun by Kensuke Tanaka: 120 meters to right, 3-3 Tie

(The towel-waving Giants fans, after Ogasawara's home run.)

It was a little strange, to be sure. Not only were all the points on home runs, but on SOLO home runs at that.

Then things changed for the worse.

Itokazu was pitching the bottom of the 5th, and he got two quick outs from the bottom of the order before walking Hayato "Wonderboy" Sakamoto, and then Tetsuya Matsumoto (who I am fairly sure is smaller than several of my 9th-graders) singled to left, moving Sakamoto to second. Michihiro "Clean-Shaven Doppleganger" Ogasawara came up to bat at that point, and, BOOM, he hit a shot to center that wasn't a home run but bounced off the wall for a double, scoring the other two guys. 5-3 Giants.

That was not particularly good.

Itokazu pitching.

Ogasawara at bat (note a theme, the only clear pictures are guys I have grudges against?)

Ogasawara back out at 3rd base, bowing to the stands for his 2-RBI double.

Things got even worse a bit later, and I don't mean in terms of strange guys stalking the Giants dancers:

(This was really funny, actually -- the Kroon jersey guy had been yelling to Alex Ramirez every inning asking for a ball until he got one, and then when the Giants dancers came out, he seriously pretty much was just stalking this one dancer girl taking photos of her on his cellphone. Unlike most people who surreptitiously take one or two photos of the cheer girls, he was just ogling her. It would have been freaky if it wasn't so funny. He was clearly pretty drunk even before the game started.)

Anyway, former Giant Masanori Hayashi pitched the bottom of the 6th against his old team. He did okay. And Kazumasa Kikuchi pitched the bottom of the 7th just fine, too. But the Giants were still ahead.

Tetsuya Yamaguchi came out to pitch the top of the 8th, being left-handed and all, same as most of the top of the Fighters lineup. But he started things out by hitting Kensuke Tanaka with a pitch. Then he tried to pick Kensuke off first, but his throw went wild and Kensuke ran to second instead on the error. Following that, a pinch-hitting Hichori hit a grounder to shot, but Sakamoto's throw to first ALSO went wild, and Kensuke was able to run home while Hichori was safe at first on THAT error. 5-4.

Something pretty funny happened at that point: the ouendan finally had the opportunity to do an Inaba Jump, and as I mentioned, I was sitting in an island of Fighters supporters in the middle of a sea of Giants fans. So we all spontaneously got up and jumped too... looked at each other... laughed, and sat down afterwards. Inaba walked, and then what may have been the pivotal play in the game happened -- Shinji Takahashi came up with no outs and runners at the corners, and it seemed he should bunt, but he DIDN'T bunt, and by the time it became clear he wasn't bunting, the Giants fielders got set up to turn a double play. Ugh. Sledge also grounded out after that, and that was pretty much it for the Fighters' chances.

And to make things worse, Kikuchi returned for the bottom of the 8th, and things started to break down. After Matsumoto grounded out, Ogasawara walked on four straight pitches, and then Ramirez hit a scorching grounder to third that Koyano was able to dive and stop but wasn't able to stand up in time to make a throw anywhere. That was it for Kikuchi, and the lefty Naoki Miyanishi came in to face Kamei.

Kamei hit a huge shot to center that Hichori caught in front of the wall, and Matsumoto moved to third. Yoshitomo Tani was announced as a pinch-hitter for Lee.

Miyanishi left the game and Shintaro Ejiri replaced him. The people sitting next to me were apparently friends of Ejiri's, and we were all like "Oh god, please don't let him give up a run here!!" But he walked Tani, and then gave up a single to Shinnosuke Abe, and that brought both Ogasawara and a pinch-running Takahiro Suzuki home, making it 7-4 Giants.

As expected, Marc Kroon came out to pitch the 9th, now with a 3-run lead instead of a 1-run lead...

I swear the new Giants catcher gear makes Shinnosuke Abe look like freaking Batman.

Marc Kroon.

Anyway, Kroon closed out the game. That's really all there is to it. I'm not sure he's ever blown a save when I've been at the stadium watching him pitch. Koyano hit a pop out, Nioka lined out RIGHT to his younger replacement Sakamoto, a pinch-hitting Naoto Inada got on base after Kroon threw over first base on a grounder to the mound... but then the last batter of the game was this guy, pinch-hitting for Ejiri:

And it shouldn't surprise anyone too much, but Kroon struck out Sho Nakata to end the game.

(It's kind of sad that the Tokyo Dome would probly be a decent launching pad for Sho, but he can't field so there's nowhere to really put him into a game in this series.)

So the Giants won it 7-4.

I left pretty soon after the game ended, going out to Gate 25 after that to commisserate with other Fighters fans.

And then I went home -- it was a pretty long day full of way too much baseball, as I also spent the afternoon hanging out with some people at Jingu watching Hosei's underclassmen get beaten by Keio at the Rookie Tournament. And I didn't even get to see Kei Tamura, so I was kind of grumpy about that. (I did, however, get to see a kid named Eiji Egashira from the Saga Kita miracle squad who I remembered seeing in Koshien 2 years ago, so that was kind of neat.)

I am not going to bother bringing my big camera back to the Tokyo Dome for any more of the games, but I will be there for Games 4 and 5 too.