Two entries in one, because I'm swamped and these are already a week late. (They're about the games on March 30 and 31. I've been adding to this slowly.)
Tuesday: Keisaku Itokazu started for the Fighters and gave up 5 runs in the second inning on three hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch, and the Fighters never really recovered from the deficit. The Buffaloes eventually won 8-4.
Wednesday: The Fighters held a nice 1-0 lead behind starter Buddy Carlyle and relievers Tateyama and Miyanishi, and then our new closer Brian Wolfe came out and gave up a 3-run homer to "T" Okada in the 9th and the Buffaloes won this 3-2.
Holy crap: the Fighters are in last place in the PL, and even Yokohama is doing better than we are overall. WTF.
So, last week my boyfriend was visiting me from Seattle. I told him we had to go to the Fighters games at the Tokyo Dome, and I told all of my friends in the cheering section that I was bringing him. He doesn't speak Japanese and they don't really speak English, but it was less of a problem than I thought it would be. I lent him a jersey and some cheersticks and taught him the words "Kattobase" and "Ganbare", and we were on our way!
We were there early enough to catch the mascot B*B wandering around, so now I have yet another photo with him...
Mike pointed out that we are standing in the wrong order and if I was in the middle, the jerseys would read "Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters" instead. Whoops.
Also, I did pinbadges for the first time this year. I'll talk about that a bit later.
Also, look who we saw warming up in the outfield!
Shogo Akada, recently traded from Seibu, and SOOOOOOOO TAGUCHI! Back from the majors. Exciting. My friends asked Mike (through me) if he knew about Taguchi, and when I translated his "only because Deanna told me about him," I said "Yeah, Taguchi is really famous in the US."
It was kind of amusing acting as a translator and also as an ouendan teacher of sorts. For the first game, on Tuesday, rather than sit in the first row, we sat in the sixth row with a slightly different group of friends, so that Mike could see people in front of him and copy their actions for clapping and waving and all. He doesn't speak any Japanese, but I taught him the general rhythm for clapping sticks, when to yell "Kattobase", wrote out a list of the lineup in English for him, and that seems to have worked out fairly well in general.
Mamoru Kishida started for the Buffaloes, and Keisaku Itokazu started for the Fighters. Itokazu really ran into some problems in the second inning where, with two outs, the following happened:
Ohbiki walked. 1-0.
Sakaguchi ALSO walked. 2-0.
Akada hit a bases-clearing double and everyone else scored. 5-0.
...Gotoh grounded out. Inning over.
That kinda set the tone for the rest of the game, as being down 5-0 behind an iffy starter is not easy to crawl back from. The Fighters picked it up to 5-1 in their half of the 2nd, but Koyano basically scored on a GIDP by Tsuruoka, and we didn't even bother to do a run-scoring cheer for it. Seriously.
Okada hit a home run in the 3rd to widen it to 6-1, and the Buffaloes made it 7-1 on a crazy grounder/rundown in the 5th.
FINALLY, in the Lucky 7th, Koyano singled with one out, Sho Nakata followed it with another, and then Takayuki Takaguchi HIT A HOME RUN! That made it 7-4 and a lot closer, and Kishida came out of the game.
The Buffaloes added another run in the 8th when PINCH RUNNER SOOOOOOOOOO TAGUCHI stole second and scored on an Ohbiki single, though I could have sworn Itoi's throw beat him to the plate. Nakata did gun down Takeshi Hidaka one runner later at least.
The weirdest play of the game was in the Fighters' half of the 8th, when Itoi hit a single to right that bounced off the RF wall, and from our angle I have no clue where it hit, but apparently whether it was fair or foul was in dispute and people came out and argued for quite a while about it. The Fighters fans started chanting "VI-DE-O! VI-DE-O!!" over and over again. The single stood but Koyano immediately grounded into a double play anyway.
Jon Leicester closed out the game and it ended at 8-4.
So then there was Wednesday. This time rather than it just being two white people in the crowd, it was us plus Ken Dick (who posts to the japanesebaseball.com forums but actually blogs about hockey), plus Shini from the japanesebaseball.com forums, who was moving back to Hong Kong on Thursday. Ken met up with us earlier in the day for lunch before heading to the Dome, but Shini was stuck at home glued to his TV watching Koshien until game time, pretty much. Of course, being Asian, he doesn't count as a foreigner anyway, apparently, but that's another story.
We went into the stadium and found my friends Hiromi and Risa at the seats in front, and they'd saved four seats for us in the 2nd row at my request (easier for people to pick up ouenka if they're watching people in front). We chatted with people around us (including Akki, who was making good use of his college education to say English sentences like "I am a terrorist.") and then when Ojisan showed up we all went off to do pinbadges and to find batteries for Ken's camera. We were successful on both fronts, and we also got ice cream! And then another friend gave me 3 more badges when I came back into the stands.
Here's an amusing side story: Before the game I'd told Mike, "I'm going to get a Ryota Imanari pinbadge today one way or the other. Either it'll come out of the pin machine, OR somebody is going to come up to me and say 'Deanna! I got a Ryota badge and I don't want it, here you are!'" Sure enough, shortly after we arrived at the stadium, Kaori from Osaka called out to me and said pretty much EXACTLY that and gave me her Imanari pin, and I was so happy about it that I opened it up and put it on my uniform right then and there (I have all 5 years of his pins now).
I guess since I'm talking about it now, I'll mention that I've already somewhat made out like a bandit on pinbadges this year. After two games, this is what I have:
The design is really cute this year, like a Japanese folding fan, and the names are all in Japanese for a change, every year until now they've been in English. So for those not familiar with the team numbers, so far I have: Kensuke, Tsuboi, Carlyle, Sunaga, Tadano, Hayashi, Itoi, Ohno, Nakajima, Yanuki, Yoshikawa, Inaba, Tanimoto, Ozaki, Unten, Sekiguchi, Imanari. And the opening series badge from Sapporo, since Hiromi had a double of it.
The thing is, the way you acquire pinbadges is -- first, you show up to the game and show your fan club card at the fan club window, and they give you a pin randomly just for coming to the stadium, a raijo badge (来場). Then you have the option, if you are a fan club member, to buy up to 5 tokens to put into the gatchapon capsule machines, for 200 yen each. You go upstairs and put the tokens in, spin the handle, and hope you get some good ones to come out. But the point being, in theory, you usually acquire 6 badges per game max. So 18 in two days is pretty good :)
Anyway, side quests aside, we got back to our seats just about in time for the starting lineups. This one saw Buddy Carlyle starting for the Fighters against Shogo Yamamoto for the Buffaloes.
In the second inning, I discovered that before the game, the Fighters ouendan had taught everyone a new chance theme... because after Shinji singled and moved up on a bunt, and Koyano also singled, and the team found itself with runners at the corners and one out, they started singing this new song for Nioka...
It's apparently a variation on an old theme used for when the opponents changed pitchers. I picked it up on the fly by listening to everyone around me, and as far as I can tell, the words are:
F-I G-H-T (x2)
Fighters, soreyuke sore Fighters
Bokura no nakama da, ganbare Fighters
Tokyo Dome de, kagayake, (player's name)!
Anyway, apparently this new chance theme works well, because Nioka doubled to left and scored Shinji to put the team ahead 1-0!
And then not very much happened in the game for the next few innings. I spent a lot of it talking to Shini and Ken and Mike, and to some of my Japanese friends too. During one of the downtimes, one of my friends told me we were on TV. Bizarrely, someone in Hokkaido took a picture of their TV and sent it to Mariko, so she beamed it to my cellphone using infrared.
Japan is weird.
Oh, one other wacky thing: that crazy groundskeeper dude who was working the Tokyo Dome games all last year and going nuts on first base before the end of YMCA, who had even been there for Tuesday's game, was NOT there on Wednesday's game! I felt terrible because I was making a big deal about how everyone had to go look at the first base groundskeepers, and then nothing happened.
Yoshinori Tateyama came out to pitch the top of the 7th inning, and I got out my Kamagaya towel, and some of my other friends yelled down a few rows, "Deanna-san! Tateyama deta!!" and I made a big show of putting the towel over my head. Shini was like "Dude, everyone knows you do this?" I must point out, however, that it WORKS: Tateyama pitched 1.1 scoreless innings with two strikeouts. So there. As long as I continue to not see him pitch, he will pitch well.
Wish I could say the same for our new closer Brian Wolfe, though. He basically came out to hold that 1-0 lead in the 9th, and then Cabrera singled, LaRocca singled, and "T" Okada blasted yet another home run into the left-field stands to make it 3-1 Orix. Urgggghhh.
The Fighters managed to get one run back in their half of the 9th on an RBI single by Tomohiro Nioka (who is leading the team in RBIs), but that's all they would be able to manage as the game ended with two runners on and a groundout to first. Bleh. Notch another save for Jon Leicester and ANOTHER Fighters loss.
Despite all that, I guess we had a good enough time at the game...
Afterwards, the four of us adjourned to Denny's by the Tokyo Dome and ate food and talked about sports for an hour or two, mostly about baseball and Koshien and stuff. I don't know if it's a good or bad thing that I can go home from games not really caring whether we won or lost, as long as I had a good time hanging out with people. Probably a good thing, given how awful the Fighters are this year.
Oh, and for the record, Ken bought an Ogasawara jersey for some family member, and I didn't kill him. I must be getting soft in my old age.