Actually, it was pretty good gyutan. I don't even like gyutan (grilled cow tongue), but when you go to Sendai, you're supposed to eat it. Our group went to a place called Tasuke.
Cow tongue aside, the rest of the weekend was more like cow pies. Went up to Sendai on Saturday morning (April 24th) and came back Sunday evening (April 25th), saw the Fighters lose two games, and came back with a really sore throat.
The only good part is that Buddy Carlyle threw me a baseball after pregame practice on Saturday. It was raining lightly, but I went up to the fence and watched people throw, and I yelled out a "hey, nice pitching, Mr. Carlyle" at him -- and so when the rain turned to SLEET, and I am not making that up, he actually came over and threw me the baseball he'd been practicing with! I was really surprised but I thanked him and also introduced myself like "I'm Deanna, I write a blog about the Fighters, hopefully I'll get to write about you sometime!" I dunno, I was kinda babbling. But he said "Nice to meet you, Deanna!" before running off.
My friends and I waited under the outfield bleachers for the sleetstorm to finish, and when it did, we came back outside. I got a few photos of Fighters players, mostly before the storm started:
Hirotoshi Masui. We just drafted him out of Toshiba last year and he's already started 3 games for us (and has 1 win. Given that the team also has a .333 winning percentage, that's not bad).
Kazunori Yamamoto takes flight!
After that I wandered around for a while to check out all the new stuff around the stadium and the new merchandise that they have this year, especially the player-designed Animal Avatars.
Here's something explaining the goods:
Ma-kun is a lion.
Iwakuma is a bear. (His theme is "family" though, so it's a baby bear.)
Takeshi Yamasaki is a gorilla.
Teppei, because he is lame, has a human being as his animal avatar.
Satoshi Nagai is a skunk. (I think he used to be a penguin.)
Naoto Watanabe is a panther.
Daisuke Kusano is a dog. (The "Dice Ken".)
Yosuke Takasu is a stag.
Motohiro Shima is a zebra (a "shimauma").
Here's a display with a bunch of the stuff.
Here's a display of just Iwakuma stuff.
And one of just Ma-Kun The Lion stuff.
Lovely new Rakuten uniforms too. Not sure I particularly like or dislike them, to be honest.
The wall outside the players' parking lot has the new Eagles players and coaches listed. The latter two are Kenji Tomura (my favorite Rikkio beanpole) and new manager Marty Brown.
They set up a bunch of cardboard cutouts of players on a stage. I posed with them in a normal pose on the first day.
This is the "Brown Kan". They had some crazy lady with an afro interviewing a goya mascot with Marty Brown's face on it. Who comes up with this crap, I'll never know. (Goya is a vegetable that comes from Okinawa.)
Came back in time to practice Fighters' chants with the ouendan. We have a Sendai-specific set that only happen there because Sendai allows drums but not trumpets. Check out my post from last year that has a few videos of them.
The matchup for this game was Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Yu Darvish, which is what probably led to the English baseball vocabulary guessing game for the day being "pitcher's duel". It was convenient for explaining it, at least. The game was fairly well sold out because of this matchup, actually, and even the reserved seats were packed.
While I'm mentioning it, take a look at this awesome new screen they put in this year next to the scoreboard. It was awesome for displaying information and some video replays and whatnot, much better than the tiny thing on the scoreboard...
(In this picture, it's showing the pitching matchup.)
Now take a look at this. The batter is the Fighters' Atsunori Inaba. His stats are in the upper left -- number of games, homeruns, RBIs, runs scored, BA, RISP, OBP, SLG. And if he'd had any at-bats, the results would be listed next to those 1) 2) 3) things underneath. Then in the lower right corner, under the picture of Iwakuma, they have all of Iwakuma's pitching stats -- games, innings, strikeouts, wins, losses, ERA, saves, hold points, and most important for this game: the number of pitches he'd thrown so far, which in this photo was only 2.
Here's a version of it with an Eagles batter up there. Hijirisawa's stats are to his left, in the same place Inaba's were. The bottom is still pitching stats, this time for Darvish. Also, you can see that they list the speed next to the word SPEED: in this shot, 144 km/h (about 90mph). Seriously cool. I've often complained that the one thing I wish they'd show here is pitch count. Orix also has a great scoreboard in the Kyocera Dome.
Since this game WAS a pitcher's duel, there really isn't a lot for me to say about it. Essentially, the Eagles put up their first run in the 2nd inning off two errors -- Teppei had singled, stolen second AND taken third on an error throwing to second base. Norihiro tried for the squeeze, and he bunted to the mound... and Teppei was already off on the bat AND Darvish ended up fielding the ball and throwing it over catcher Tsuruoka's head, so the run scored. Whoops.
The other runs came in the 6th inning. With two outs he walked Teppei and Norihiro, and then Daisuke Kusano singled to center. Teppei scored, and the throw in from centerfield was relayed by Iiyama, only he threw it past third base and it got away and Norihiro also scored and Kusano got to third base. Whoops.
And well, that was really it. Both pitchers pitched complete games and struck out 6, but Iwakuma allowed 3 runners the entire game. Really. The Eagles won 3-0. Iwakuma and Kusano were the game heroes.
Oh, one last picture from that game: here is my group of friends on the big screen during the "Lucky 7" before the Fighters' half of the 7th inning. I'm the green Hichori sign being cut off at the upper left. All of the uniform towels are friends of mine.
And here we are setting up our place in line for Sunday's game. We had 10 people in our group Saturday, though only 6 were coming on Sunday. For lack of anything else to call our gang...
...we called it "Team 52", which is both due to Konta's uniform number (one of our friends is a big Konta fan, and her nickname is even Kon-chan) and also due to it being kind of like Team 26, only twice as good.
Since I'm an Imanari fan on the Fighters and wear a #62 jersey, and my favorite Baystars player is Yuki Takamori, who also wears #62, one of my friends was joking that "Deanna is really in Team 62..."
Anyway, our gang checked into our respective hotels and then regrouped at Sendai station to go out for a night on the town, which involved the aforementioned gyutan, and then 3 hours of baseball karaoke. I think in our 3 hours at Shidax we did everything from team fight songs (we did 11 out of 12 teams as they didn't HAVE the current Buffaloes song), to at-bat music (including pretty much every Fighters batter and pitcher, and also bizarre things like Hosokawa's "Kiyoshi no Zundoko Bushi" and Nemoto's Shuchishin, and I sang Kyuji Fujikawa's entry music ("every little thing every precious thing") and another friend sang Nishioka's at-bat music, and then we started in on ouenka, like Lee Jung Hyun's "Wa", used for Imae's chant... and then we moved onto chance music, as we put in things like YMCA and Dschingis Khan and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and everyone did the Fighters words to them instead.
It was a pretty good time.
Then we all retreated back to hotels to get a few hours of sleep before coming back to the stadium the next morning. I was the first to arrive at 10am; only the ouendan and a few other people were around at that point, but almost everyone else showed up by 10:30 or so. (The game was at 1pm and the gates opened at 11. This is entirely typical when you are sitting in unreserved seating, so that you and your friends can come in and grab a bunch of seats together.)
A couple of us wandered around outside before the gates opened, looking around at some of the attractions, such as a free miso soup tent that my friends took advantage of (I didn't, because the soup had shellfish in it and I'm vaguely allergic), and the Rakuten train, and a band playing and so on. We also took a few photos...
By the big signed ball.
This time I decided to stand in front of Mr. Yamasaki for my pose.
I wandered around a bit without them and got a Rakuten t-shirt, too -- the Teppen! 2010 Team one. I figure that I'm kinda trying to collect stuff from all the teams before I leave, and I liked this one because I didn't have to pick a player. (I was debating getting someone obscure that I like, like Miyade or Uchimura, but I only saw stuff like wristbands for them. And of course there's nothing for Kenji Tomura yet.) Also got chicken curry for lunch which was FANTASTIC. If you see a Sakura Garden truck outside the stadium, I highly recommend their food.
Anyway, I watched pregame practice yet again. It was sunny, and I went to the fence to watch and maybe try to talk to the other foreign players, but was unsuccessful. I wasn't really sure what to say, to be honest. Brian Wolfe was just standing there when everyone else was throwing or running, and one of my friends said "Why isn't he practicing?" so I yelled out in English, "HEY BRIAN, WHY AREN'T YOU OUT THERE RUNNING?" but he either didn't hear me or ignored it. I also yelled "Go get 'em, Bobby!" at Bobby Keppel as he ran by, but again, no response. Alas. I didn't see Carlyle again.
On the other hand, my friend and I waved hi at Yamamoto and he smiled and nodded back at us.
So here are some of the guys I saw out there...
You probably recognize this guy.
And here's Darvish sitting down with Tateyama and other pitchers, after throwing.
Inaba, running for a fly ball (and missing)
This guy, we kept trying to figure out who he was. One of my friends who goes to almost every Fighters game no matter what city it's in, she told me his name was Matsu. I looked him up, and Nobuyasu Matsu is indeed an interesting lefty batting practice pitcher. He was with the Hawks for a couple of years as a pitcher, then became a Baystars BP pitcher, and then moved to the Fighters as a BP pitcher in 2008. He was also a BP pitcher for the Japanese teams in the WBC and Olympics. Neat, huh?
Bobby Keppel had to do some training with throwing a big heavy ball. Not sure what was wrong with him though.
Anyway, so, this game featured Masahiro "Ma-Kun" Tanaka starting for the Eagles, and Masaru Takeda starting for the Fighters, so the stadium wasn't quite as packed, but it was still plenty full.
Things were tied at 0-0 until the bottom of the 3rd inning, when Motohiro Shima started things off with an infield single to short, being safe on a headslide (doh). Akihisa Makida followed that with a single to right, and Ryo Hijirisawa singled to third, with an iffy safe call at first. So, with bases loaded, first Naoto Watanabe hit a sac fly to center -- and the problem is, not only did Shima score, but Makida moved to third. 1-0. Then Takasu hit a sac fly to left, so that scored Makida. 2-0. A groundout ended the inning.
In the top of the 4th, with two outs, Itoi reached base on an error (Watanabe pretty much ate the ball), advanced on a Nioka single, and then Koyano hit a pop fly to shallow center. A bunch of fielders converged on it... and nobody CAUGHT it! So Itoi scored and Nioka made it to third. 2-1.
Miracle of miracles, the Fighters actually GOT A LEAD for a little bit in the 6th! Shinji walked and Itoi singled, and then Nioka went to bunt them up... and POPPED THE BALL UP over the plate for an out. Oops. But Koyano hit a ball into left-center for a single, and Itoi scored, 2-2! Shota Ohno walked, and that loaded the bases... and then Takayuki Takaguchi also walked! Oshidashi! 3-2!
In the midst of us still doing the "UTTE UTTE UTTE UTTE _____!" chance theme, Kensuke lined out and Hichori grounded out, but hey, the Fighters were actually ahead! OMG!
Well, it didn't last long. In the bottom of the 6th, Takeshi Yamasaki singled with one out, and was replaced by Teppei in a fielder's choice. Norihiro Nakamura singled, moving Teppei to third (he's a flighty little sucker) and well, Kusano walked, loading the bases, so Masaru Takeda came out of the game to be replaced on the mound by Hisashi Takeda.
Which didn't work out so well as Hisashi gave up a hit to Motohiro Shima, a long hit which bounced against the back wall behind Hichori, and scored Teppei and Norihiro. 4-3. Shima himself ran and ran and ran, and rounded third, and then the relay from left came to short, and the relay from short came home, and Shima was out at the plate. I don't know what he was thinking running home like that, but whatever. The Eagles had taken back the oh-so-temporary lead from the Fighters.
A 19-year-old lefty kid named Wataru Karashima pitched the 7th and 8th innings, an aside from a hit to Itoi, got everyone else out. Closer Tsuyoshi Kawagishi finished the 9th in a 1-2-3 fashion and that was it for the game as yet another Fighters chance went down the drain. The only neat thing was getting to see Masaya Ozaki's first ichi-gun at-bat in two years, since he was fresh up from the farm team.
Shima, Karashima, and Kawagishi were the game heroes. I mostly only remember Karashima, they asked him something like "You're only 19 years old but with your poise you're becoming a major part of the Eagles staff already, huh?" and he's like "Uhh... no! I'm uh... I'm just doing my best! Uhhh..." and the entire stadium started laughing.
A few more photos and I give up on this post as it's already a week late.
Scoreboard during Masaya Ozaki's first ichi-gun at-bat of the year.
Hanging out behind the Inaba banner with the ouendan.