I've been meaning to get to an actual Fighters minor-league game in Kamagaya for a few weeks and this was going to be my last chance until May, so I went there today. I emailed a few friends, showed up at noon, and after kind of wandering around talking to people and seeing who was with who, I ended up sitting in the front row, right behind home plate, next to Ojisan. It figures that I didn't have my big DSLR camera with me; I knew I was heading to play volleyball in the evening and didn't want to lug around the camera bag.
I saw lots of various interesting people I hadn't seen in a while, including the same Lotte hecklers who sat behind me last year at Kamagaya during Marines games, sitting there with their scorecards. They said "You weren't here yesterday, we thought you might have left Japan!" and I told them, not yet...
Most amusing pre-game moment was probably while I was talking with Ojisan over the Fighters dugout during warmups. YUKIO FREAKING TANAKA, who is now a ni-gun coach, walked by, and I was just staring at him like OMFG THAT'S YUKIO TANAKA! So he looks up and sees us, and points at me and asks Ojisan (in Japanese), "Friend of yours?" Ojisan basically answers, "Yeah, she's part of my posse!" and I shout down "And I'm a huge Yukio fan!" He laughed and disappeared into the dugout, but Ojisan claimed he'd introduce me to Yukio after the game, if I did the usual routine of stalking players. (But then Yukio ended up running through everyone so quickly afterwards and wouldn't stop for anyone except for a little league team that swamped him, so no, I still have not gotten to talk to him, sadly.)
Another friend I saw told me there'd be a Hayami Kentaro mini-concert before the game, and indeed there was:
He sang Kamagaya Tokimeki Fighters and then also the Fighters Sanka. My friend filmed it all, but hasn't put it up on Youtube yet, and I didn't have enough space left on my memory card to film it myself.
Anyway, this game was a little weird. I guess both teams are kind of settling into the season and figuring out who needs playing time at ni-gun to get up to ichi-gun, and who needs playing time at ni-gun just to stay in practice, because this game featured a rehabbing Hichori Morimoto, as well as an elder statesman Koichi Hori, as well as the newly drafted Shota Ohmine and Ikuhiro Kiyota (out of Toyodai and NTT, but who is apparently from Kamagaya), but on the Fighters' side it was almost all guys with a lot of ni-gun time but not so much ichi-gun time, an odd mix. Romash Tasuku Dass started for the Fighters and Masatomo Uematsu for the Marines.
The game action itself is kind of not very good for a story flow, so to sum up:
2nd inning, bottom: Masaya Ozaki hits a home run to left field. Fighters up 1-0.
3rd inning, bottom: Hichori walks, is bunted up by Imanami, driven in on a Masayoshi Katoh single, 2-0. Katoh himself scores on a subsequent Yuta Sekiguchi single, 3-0.
6th inning, top: Koichi Hori pinch-hits a home run into the right-field grass. 3-1.
7th inning, bottom: Seiichi Ohhira walks and Kenshi Sugiya doubles to drive him in. 4-1.
So, let's see what I can add to that.
Hichori was there, and apparently Makoto Kaneko was also in the stadium, but hiding in the dugout or somewhere like that, because we never saw him at all during the game. Hichori still hasn't gotten a hit at ni-gun at all, so apparently that's making him grumpy and unwilling to talk to fans or sign anything, at least not on a cold windy Sunday.
Hichori leading off in the bottom of the 1st.
At the dugout after Katoh got an RBI hit in the 4th.
After the game, running as fast as he can to get out of the crowd of fans.
Dass was better than he'd been in the past, that much is clear -- he got 4 strikeouts in the first 2 innings as opposed to the 4 walks in the first inning I was accustomed to. He came out of the game after 3 innings and 41 pitches, though, not really sure why.
The win went to the newly acquired Yuya Ishii, who pitched only the 4th inning, and who was still carrying all of his stuff in a Baystars bag. I'd rather have Ejiri back :(
And onwards to elder statesman Koichi Hori, who just turned 41 last week. Idle minds wonder why he hasn't retired and become a coach yet, but I'm a big fan of his so I'm still happy to watch him hit home runs (as long as they aren't against us in ichi-gun games).
Hori batting against Kazunori Yamamoto (his home run was off Hideki Sunaga, actually.)
Hori back at the dugout after his home run.
For the record, right after Hori's home run, Sunaga struck out Hosoya, and then hit Muniz in the head with a pitch. I'm pretty sure it wasn't on purpose, but the game stopped for a while and they put in a pinch-runner for Muniz, and Sunaga was ejected from the game on account of kikenkyu, or dangerous pitch. I'm not sure I'd ever seen that at a ni-gun game before.
Another case of the "absolutely no resemblance" family:
Shota Ohmine. I admit I haven't been anywhere near as close to him as I have to his older brother, but still, besides the last name, I would have never guessed they were related.
And Ozaki-kun was the game hero:
Most of the really interesting stuff in this game for me involved the extracurriculars, really, like the Kentaro Hayami stuff (he sang Fighters Spirits during the Lucky 7 interlude, too) or various things in the stadium. I had to go run off and talk to a friend of mine for a bit about some college ball stuff, and I enjoyed heckling with the Lotte hecklers, and then one funny moment was when a staff guy came over with a tray and four cups of iced coffee for Ojisan and the other three of us sitting with him. That was nuts! Ojisan was like "Oh, this is because we're VIPs". I think he was making that up, but you never know.
The top Fighters team also won 4-1 behind Masaru Takeda. Hooray!
After the game I went to go stand with the usual suspects to try to get photos and signatures. What sucks is, the weather during the game was HOT today, and sunny. I was sweating in my t-shirt for a while, and I kept putting sunscreen on to avoid getting sunburned even worse (I have a bit from Saturday since I didn't put on sunscreen until the second game at Jingu). But at about 3:30pm, suddenly the weather turned LOUSY. It got all cloudy and gray, and WINDY. So my hair was blowing all over and I got a little self-conscious about photos, so I mostly went for a few signatures today. Hichori wouldn't stop for anyone, nor would Yukio-coach, but I got a few others...
The old signatures were Tadano, Yohei Kaneko, Imanami, and Nakata. Today I got Sekiguchi, Kikuchi, Ozaki, AND Masato Yoshii :) Sekiguchi's signature is the best, it's the one that looks kinda like a smiley face with a 57 coming out of it. He was really sweet.
With Yuta Sekiguchi. Seriously nice guy. We got him in the big offseason trade with the Baystars (Sekiguchi, Matsuka, and Katoh for Naoto, Matsuyama, and Yataro). He's also a fantastic defensive outfielder and his bat isn't too shabby either.
Yuji Arahari! I was debating bugging him for a photo or signature, I didn't want to bug him as he's a new guy, a catcher, we just drafted him in the fall out of the SIL, but then another girl was chatting him up for a photo and signature and DEAR GOD HE HAS THE NICEST SMILE EVER. Holy crap! I blurted out "egao ga sutekiiii~~~~" and my friend Tomoko nearly fell down laughing and told me I should go get a photo with him too.
This is John Clayton Unten. His mom's Japanese and his dad's American, but they divorced when he was fairly young, he's from Okinawa, they sometimes call him "Okinawa's Darvish" since he's a tall lanky half-breed. I asked him if he spoke English, in Japanese, and he was like "...no, not really, sorry". Oops. I wonder if he gets bugged about that a lot. I did say I write a Fighters blog in English and sometimes get asked about him, but he didn't seem to care.
After all that I went and waited for the bus to Nishi-Funabashi (that's the only one that comes by once the game has ended and all the shuttles are gone). While I was sitting there, the Marines' player Takehara came out to get in his car and go home and he got swamped by autograph seekers. I thought about it, but didn't get there in time. The thing is, the woman sitting next to me by the bus stop just started babbling at me about stuff, so I babbled back at her, and she's like "I've seen you before in the ouendan, you have an Imanari jersey? You sit with Ojisan? And you like Tsuboi?" and so we ended up sitting on the bus and chatting all the way back to the station and pretty much until she got off her stop somewhere on the Sobu line, I forget where. She's been a Fighters fan for about 5 years, is from Sapporo, and I never caught her name, but before she disappeared she did say she was really glad she finally talked to me, she was curious but scared to before because she can't speak English. Sadly, I get that a lot. But the weird thing is that she acted like she'd known me for a long time, and was like "Hope you come join us in the Kamagaya ouendan sometime! Don't worry about not knowing anyone... everyone knows who you are..."
I dunno, I guess that's why Ojisan told me, "ディアナは、顔が広い。。。"
By the way, something that sucks: it used to be that being a Fighters Fan Club member meant that you got in at Kamagaya for 500 yen instead of 1000 yen. That is no longer the case. Instead, you get some points on your Fan Club account for attending a game at Kamagaya, but you still have to pay full price. I guess it makes the Season Passport that much better a deal, but I'm still not sure I'll be able to go to enough games this summer to make it worthwhile, sadly.