Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tokyo Big 6 Game Report: All Kagami, All The Time

It was snowing in Tokyo last night, but warm and sunny by 3pm this afternoon. As a result, the Tokyo Big 6 games today started an hour late, at 12pm and 2:30pm. I was at Opening Weekend last weekend and saw Todai get slammed 14-0 by Meiji, so I wasn't THAT interested in going to their game against Keio today, and got to Jingu just as the first game was ending... unfortunately, that means I missed Daisuke Takeuchi pitching the 22nd no-hitter in Big 6 League history as Keio slammed Todai only by a margin of 7-0. It lasted less than 2 hours.

If you're curious, there is a list of all the no-hitters on the Big 6 Records Page, in Japanese. A few of them are pretty notable, like Hall of Famers Tadashi Sugiura (Rikkio) or Motoshi Fujita (Keio) or guys like Senichi Hoshino (Meiji) and also my favorite Baystars sidewinder Atsushi Kizuka (Meiji). And, counting Takeuchi's, only 10 of the 22 were against Todai. I figured it'd be much higher than that, but there was even a Todai pitcher who threw a no-hitter back in 1927. Go figure.

The second game today was Hosei vs. Rikkio, and I went because I heard that Kisho Kagami was going to be starting for Hosei. He is my absolute favorite college baseball player, so I HAD to go watch him. I sat in the front row with some of the other Jingu college ball regulars, received a bunch of Hosei magazines and stuff from a friend of mine in the ouendan, and watched as Kagami-kun pitched a complete-game, 10-inning, 146-pitch, 8-strikeout win over Rikkio's Kenya Okabe, who I had watched balk in a tying run against Waseda last weekend. Okabe is a chunky kid from Rikkio Niiza who is a pretty good pitcher, but Kagami is just better. (Though I'm worried about both of them throwing 140-something pitches, honestly.)

Kagami got off to a slightly rocky start when Rikkio's Koichiro Matsumoto doubled to lead off, was bunted up by Kumagae and then scored on, of all things, a wild pitch during captain Soichiro Tanaka's at-bat to make it 1-0. Then things settled down for a while.

Hosei got 2 runs in their half of the 6th; Masashi Nanba led off with a grounder that awkwardly bounced off the pitcher and Nanba headslid into first safely. Kento Tatebe FAILED to bunt him up and so did Takashi Nakao, but then Hiroshi Taki, who we had said beforehand was going to kick ass, went ahead and singled to center to drive in Nanba, 1-1. Yoh Sasaki followed that up with a single, and then Tetsuro Matsumoto followed that up with another single, scoring Taki! 2-1. There was questionable fielder's interference on the play, too, but it wasn't clear that Sasaki could have scored even if he didn't almost get punched in the face by a roving Rikkio infielder on the way to third.

PL Gakuen alum and Rikkio infielder Keisuke Okazaki, who also hit a home run off Yuki Saitoh last Saturday, hit an almost-identical homerun to left field off Kagami in the 6th inning to tie things up at 2-2.

(The funny part is that there were a whole bunch of young boys sitting in the row behind me, from some baseball team or another, and I and the older Hosei alum I was sitting with in the front row were trying to encourage them to cheer for Kagami, and for Taki, but the boys were all like "OMG THIS DUDE WENT TO PL GAKUEN! HE MUST BE AWESOME!" and then once Okazaki hit that home run, the kids were convinced he was the coolest player on the field.)

Oddly, my friend also told me he went to all of the Hosei preseason games and the problem was that the guys simply could not hit. Period. Even in this game, Kagami was batting 8th instead of 9th, which says something. Even better, Kagami went 2-for-4 and is currently leading the team in batting average. But that's another story.

Anyway, the game stayed tied for a while, and as I watched Kagami and Okabe's pitch counts both go over 100 and keep crawling, neither guy would leave the mound, and neither guy would give up anything, so the game went into extra innings.

What was super-surprising is that Kagami was up to 136 pitches by the end of the 9th, and yet he still led off the 10th inning -- no pinch-hitter. However, he led it off by singling to center! Nanba bunted him up, and while sadly Tatebe hit a liner out to short, Nakao hit an awkward grounder to the mound and the runners were safe at the corners! Hiroshi Taki came up to bat, and WHAM, he hit a line drive out to the back wall in center-right, and Kagami and Nakao scored to make it 4-2.

Kagami-kun retired the Rikkio side on 10 pitches to end the game.

Kagami and Taki were the game heroes, for obvious reasons, mostly being that THEY ARE AWESOME. However, I must express my concern that there may be a severe lack of awesome on the rest of the team, as a hell of a lot of awesome graduated last year.

It was really cold out, but I waited around outside Jingu stadium until all the Hosei players came out anyway, and I got fireballer Kazuki Mishima and catcher Takuya Hiromoto to sign some photos I'd taken of them playing last year. Another friend of mine who used to play for Hosei several years ago introduced me to team captain Seiya Ohyagi, and to backup catcher Naoki Harada, and backup infielder Kota Imamura, who said he'd met me before, but I actually totally didn't remember it. Oops.

Eventually Kagami came out, and was swarmed by a group at first, so I hung back because I didn't want to be annoying, and eventually when he had broken away from it, I approached him to say an otsukaresama and ask him to sign a photo too. I guess I was a little bit overly nervous in asking, but he smiled at me and said "Daijoubu, yorokonde!" which is like "It's okay, I'd be happy to!" and he signed it for me the long way, writing his university and his name and uniform number on it. I'd met Kagami once last year and sat in the front row to take photos of his starts a bunch of times, including today, and I guess I stand out, so when I thanked him and told him how totally awesome and amazing he pitched today, he laughed like "Thanks for always cheering for me!" He's really very sweet, very smart, very polite. (And ridiculously handsome as well.) I hope he gets drafted in the fall, and preferably by a team I don't hate, because it'd break my heart.

Anyway, I swear I took photos of lots of players today, but I just went and cropped a bunch of the Kisho Kagami ones because he is awesome and the game hero and all, both for his batting and his pitching. Well, and since Hiroshi Taki was also a game hero I did a few of his too.

Kagami on the mound.

Kagami on the sidelines.

Kagami running to third base.

Kagami batting. He is awesome wherever he is.

Taki at bat.

Taki tagging out Matsumoto at 2nd base.

Taki hitting in the go-ahead 2-RBI double.

Our heroes after the game!

It was really wonderful to get to not only watch my favorite pitcher win the game and kick ass on the mound and at the plate, but to get to talk to him a little after the game too was even better. I'm thinking I should maybe print out some photos and make a mini-scrapbook for a few of the players that I've taken a ton of. If nothing else, I have the same birthday as Mishima-kun and I'll be at Jingu the day afterwards...

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