(Tons more photos at the bottom of the post.)
So on Sunday, I went to the Meiji University Stadium to watch some high school baseball. The Meiji stadium is out in Fuchu city, in west Tokyo -- I went with one of my Big 6 bleacher friends who is a Meiji fan, since she knows the place really well. It took us 20 minutes to walk there from the nearest station, and she said that was using the shortcut the players told her about. Yikes.
But the reason I went all the way out there was not to watch college ball, nor to watch one of the awesome Tokyo schools like Teikyo or Shutoku or Nichidai San or whoever...
...no, I went to watch Rikkio Ikebukuro take on Toritsu Edogawa. Why? Because Rikkio Ikebukuro's #20 player, the last kid on the roster, the only freshman to make the cut, was a kid named Hoshino... who graduated last year from the JHS I teach at. He was a fantastic student in English class, a class leader, very funny and clever, and since he's a smartass and a baseball player we got along pretty well. I hadn't seen him since graduation, but since our school doesn't have a baseball club, I'd never actually seen him play baseball.
(The few kids at my school who play baseball are on local little league teams. Hoshino was the captain of his team last year, actually, and last summer there was a week when I was helping him and some other kids practice for the Eiken interview speaking test. His interview time was scheduled for the same time as a big game for his little league team, and we spent a good chunk of our practice sessions discussing whether he should go to the baseball game or the English test. In the end he took the English test, passed with flying colors, and his baseball team lost the game without him. I firmly believe, though, that part of why he got into Rikkio in the first place is because he could pass their English interview as well as their normal test and interview process -- it is a pretty selective school. Heck, looking at the roster for their high school baseball team, 15 out of 20 of them went to the Rikkio Ikebukuro middle school as well.)
I had no idea what to expect from this experience to be honest. I went to a Saitama regional tournament game last year at the huge 30,000-seat Omiya Prefectural Stadium, for Urawa Gakuin vs. Seibo Gakuen, two Saitama powerhouse highschools, so nobody really cared at all about a random gaijin showing up in the midst of the tons of other people there. But Meiji's stadium has 200 seats or so and this was a 1st-round game between two average teams -- neither school has ever gone to Koshien. So the stands were pretty much filled with parents and siblings of the players, and some assorted kids from the respective schools.
But we showed up and were greeted by some women wearing purple Rikkio parents' shirts, and purple Rikkio towels, and they asked if we were cheering for Rikkio and we said yes, so they gave us purple St. Paul's fans to wave and bottles of green tea, and told us to sit in the front row. (Good thing we showed up early!) This was both good and bad -- good to be close up, bad because little kids kept getting in the way standing in front of me. My friend told me that when Meiji plays games at the stadium, it is usually pretty much empty.
When the team guys were assembling down on the field, I did yell down "HOSHINO!" and he looked up with a complete look of WTF on his face when he saw me, and for lack of anything else to yell, I followed it with "GANBARE!" It was right before his team was getting into a circle though so I may have totally embarrassed him. Who knows :) I spotted his mother a bit after that since the Rikkio parents' shirts had names embroidered on the sleeves, so I introduced myself as a teacher from his junior high school and apologized, and she didn't really seem to know how to react, but was like "I see, thank you for taking care of him in JHS. And thank you for coming! Did you get a bottle of green tea?"
Anyway, as expected, he didn't actually play for real in this game -- I actually have a hunch that part of why he made it onto the team at all is that they didn't HAVE a reasonable backup catcher last year!
Edogawa won this game 3-1 (here's the Asahi official score). But in reality, it was a hell of a close game, and the entire thing was decided on one error, pretty much.
Edogawa HS 3 - 1 Rikkio Ikebukuro HS
Sunday, July 11, 2010
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Edogawa 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 3 0
Rikkio Ikebukuro 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 1
Edogawa AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Nihei, cf 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 F8 HP .. .. KS .. .. G5 ..
Tsukui, ss 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 G4 .. f5 .. KS .. .. G5 ..
Hariyama, 1b 4 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 L6 .. F9 .. .. KS .. .. KC
Ajiro, c 4 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. D8 G6 .. .. f5 .. .. KC
Itoh, lf 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 .. BB .. D9 .. G5 .. .. F8
Yagi, rf 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. KC .. G1 .. .. .. .. ..
Kubo, ph 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. KS .. ..
Kanemura, rf 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Ozawa, 3b 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. E6 .. G6 .. .. G4 .. ..
Minami, 2b 3 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 .. T7 .. G6 .. .. F9 .. ..
Michishita, p 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. KS .. .. G5 .. .. G4 ..
Rikkio Ikebukuro AB R H RB K BB SH SB E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Sakuma, cf 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 S9 .. F7 .. G6 .. .. G5 ..
Hosoki, ss 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 b1 .. F7 .. F8 .. .. S7 ..
Masuda, 1b 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 S9 .. F9 .. .. G6 .. G4 ..
Enari, 3b 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 F8 .. .. G4 .. G3 .. .. D9
Nanbu, 2b 4 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 KC .. .. KS .. L4 .. .. G5
Itoh, rf 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. KS .. G6 .. .. F9 .. G6
Murata, lf 3 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 .. KS .. .. BB .. S9 .. G4
Semoto, c 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .. D9 .. .. b3 .. F9 .. ..
Matsuba, p 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. KS .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
Masaki, ph 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. HP .. .. .. ..
Hagimoto, p 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. KC ..
Edogawa IP BF H HR K BBH RA ER
Michishita (win) 9 34 6 0 6 2 1 1
Rikkio Ikebukuro IP BF H HR K BBH RA ER
Matsuba (loss) 5 20 3 0 4 2 3 2
Hagimoto 4 12 0 0 4 0 0 0
This game could be summed up pretty quickly:
In the bottom of the first inning, Rikkio's leadoff Sakuma singled to right, Hosoki bunted him up, and then Masuda singled to right to drive in a run to make it 1-0.
Edogawa answered that in the top of the second inning when cleanup batter Ajiro doubled to center to lead off, and then Itoh walked on four straight pitches following it. The next batter struck out... and then Ozawa grounded to short. In a college game or pro game it would have been a very easy double play and the inning would have been over. In this game, however, Rikkio shortstop Hosoki couldn't get his hands on the ball and the ball bounced up past him, and the runners were all safe on the error. This set the stage for second baseman Minami to hit the ball over the left fielder and into the gap for a bases-clearing triple, and by the time the dust cleared, Ajiro, Itoh, and Ozawa had all scored, making it 3-1. Another strikeout and then leadoff man Nihei was hit on the shoulder by a pitch... and then picked off first base a few throws later to end the inning.
That is the entirety of the scoring for this game. And without that error, Edogawa might have only pulled one run if any -- had Rikkio gotten the double play, there would be no runs scored.
I would say Rikkio had two more moments when they could have maybe pushed something ahead but failed. In the 5th inning, Murata walked and was bunted up, and a pinch-hitting Masaki was hit by a pitch. With two on and one out, though, Sakuma grounded into a 6-5 force out at third, and then Hosoki -- the boy who made that original error -- hit a monster shot out to right-center. It looked like it could go all the way out, and I watched both center and right fielders running back to the wall... and then the two little boys who kept blocking my vision jumped up and I couldn't see what happened. I had to judge by the cheers on the other side of the stands and the disappointed sounds on our side to know that the ball had been caught. A shame, because a home run at that point would have turned the game to Rikkio's favor.
The other sad part was when Murata singled in the 7th, and then Semoto hit a fly ball to right... and Murata was off running and got himself doubled off first.
Enari actually led off the bottom of the 9th with a double, but the rest of the team couldn't bring him in, despite that Edogawa's pitcher Michishita pitched the entire game. Alas. So the game ended at 3-1.
The Meiji scoreboard was broken due to hard rain the day before, and so it only showed Edogawa on the lit scoreboard -- a bunch of Meiji HS boys had to manually be the Rikkio scoreboard, sitting in the outfield at the bottom of the board. So amusingly, in that inning where Rikkio had 2 guys on base, one kid was sitting there with a "2" waiting to put it on the board, assuming Rikkio could bring some of their runners in... and he finished the inning by putting back the 2 and getting out a 0.
I wasn't that impressed by either starting pitcher, though they were certainly good enough for high school teams. Michishita did make it through the entire game and only allowed the one run, but he was helped a lot by having some really good defense behind him, particularly the shortstop. Rikkio's Matsuba wasn't all that impressive either, though he certainly wasn't bad either.
The guy I was most impressed by, or at least most enjoyed watching, was Rikkio's second pitcher, Hagimoto. He was a side armer, or more like a submarine delivery, and his pitches came into the corners and fooled a lot of batters, sort of like Shunsuke Watanabe. He threw four perfect innings to end the game, striking out 4 -- the Edogawa hitters really had no idea what to do with him, except once or twice where he'd accidentally hang a pitch and it looked more like a slow-pitch ball -- but even in that case they just hit fly balls to the outfield, luckily. I dunno, I am a fan of non-standard deliveries, and in this game at least, his seemed to work well. It'd be cool if he ends up at Rikkio University next year, although I probably won't ever be here to watch him.
And as for my former student Hoshino? Well, he didn't enter the game for real -- Semoto, the 3rd-year catcher, played the entire game. But, a few times when Semoto was the last batter of the inning, or was left on base at the end of the inning, Hoshino came out and caught for the pitcher warming up, so unlike a lot of other kids who get stuck in the dugout the entire game, I at least got to see him do SOMETHING.
I kind of wanted to hang out after the game and see if I could talk to Hoshino, but I figured he might be kind of embarrassed (everyone would be like "why is this crazy gaijin stalking him?") and it was really crowded outside the stadium due to the first two teams getting out and the next two teams coming in anyway. So, my friend and I cleared out and went to sit in the outfield for the second game. There aren't seats in the outfield, just grass, BUT the centerfield steps happen to be halfway between the Meiji University dorm and the training ground, so it turned out to be an opportune place to see the Meiji college baseball players walking back and forth as well as a reasonable place to watch the HS game from. This is what they call "personal training" season for college baseball players... which basically means that everyone still just shows up as a team to work out together. So most of the Meiji university team was around, except for a few guys who are going to go do crazy things like play in the WUBC in a few weeks.
Most of the guys know my friend since she goes to a lot of their games and other events, and some of them know me because I stick out, so a few of them stopped by to chat on their way to/from the fields, kinda like "What are YOU guys doing here? This is high school baseball," and she would explain "oh, I'm just here with her -- she has a former student who plays for Rikkio HS now." "How'd they do?" "They lost and her student didn't play." "Oh, that sucks." Still, it was kinda cool to see them out there. My current favorite Meiji player, bullpen catcher Shuhei Ikenaga, was driving around a tractor-thingy -- I don't know exactly what you call it, it looked like a lawnmower but was used to straighten dirt. Anyway, he was driving it down a hill and pretending to try to run over some of the freshmen. It was pretty funny.
We watched the second game, which took all of 5 innings before being called. Nittai Ebara beat the crap out of Bunkyodai 13-2. The Meiji HS boys keeping score only had to put out numbers for the Bunkyo team, and that meant lots and lots of zeroes for a very long time. They were probably pretty happy about that. Infact, halfway through that game, since about 5 boys were assigned to scoreboard duty, 3 of them started playing catch behind the scoreboard instead, while the other two sat and watched the game with a "Oh my god these guys suck" look on their faces.
We looked at the player meikan later and it seems that Bunkyo was almost entirely freshmen, while Ebara has actually been a fairly strong school over the years even if not a perennial powerhouse, and their team was mostly 3rd-years with a few others scattered in. These games always seem to happen in the first few rounds, totally lopsided contests between schools with real teams that have like 100 kids in the baseball club, and ragtag teams that have like 11 kids in the club total, so that IS their roster.
After that was another long walk back to the station and a long train journey home, so I was pretty wiped out by the end of it all. But, still a good day. I wish Rikkio had won though, their next match would be at Jingu on Saturday if so.
Here are a whole ton of photos from the day:
The Meiji University - aka Utsumi/Shimaoka Ballpark, from the outside with the signs all over the place.
This is what my view was like from my seat for the Rikkio game. There were a few little kids that kept running in front of me, so sometimes they'd be in a fine place for me to catch the action and sometimes they would be right in front of me.
The deck on the Rikkio side. A club member would hold up each player's name, though I am not sure why as there was no organized ouendan type thing. This one says "Nanbu".
The rest of the club members who weren't playing in the match were also up there yelling general encouragement at the players on the field.
Final score of the first game, 3-1. You can see the boys walking out to set that final 0.
Here is the view of the infield from the outfield, sitting next to the scoreboard. The boys sitting at the bottom of the stairs were from the Edogawa team. They get to play Ebara next week.
Closeup of the Ebara side.
Closeup of the Bunkyo side.
The scoreboard as seen from the outfield, with the Meiji dorm in the background.
And some game action...
Edogawa starter Michishita:
(and one more of him at bat)
Rikkio starter Matsuba:
My new favorite sidearm high school pitcher Hagimoto:
(and one more because I managed to get a ball-leaving-his-hand shot -- it's not great but you would be surprised how hard a shot that was to get at all given that half the time I had little kids running in front of me)
Some game action shots:
This is Sakuma splattering himself into home plate in the first inning to score the run for Rikkio.
Edogawa's Minami hitting the triple that scored the rest.
Ajiro runs home.
Ozawa also scores in the top of the 2nd to make it 3-1 Edogawa.
Rikkio's Murata walked and is at first, as Edogawa's Hariyama tries to hold him to the bag, 5th inning.
Hosoki hits that monster shot out to right-center that ALMOST but not quite went for a homer.
Edogawa's team all gets together and high-fives and yells to congratulate the outfielders after that catch.
Rikkio Ikebukuro's captain Nanbu, who used a yellow bat. (They all use metal bats, btw.)
Rikkio's first baseman Masuda, the biggest kid on the team.
Hariyama at bat. Oddly, Edogawa's captain was listed as being #3, Matsunaga, but this Hariyama kid, #13, played first in this game. He was really good, too.
The extra players on the Edogawa team did a kind of fist-pumping-and-leg-kick thing to start each defensive inning.
Okay, and one last thing...
The Rikkio players line up to bow to the stands after losing the game. The kid in the catching gear is my former student.
And here he is at the plate warming up a pitcher between innings. Very cool. It's still neat just to be like "Hey, that boy out there used to nitpick with me for extra points on his speaking tests."
Oh, and because I'm still trying to make sure I get a photo of myself at every new stadium I go to, even if it is something silly like a college park in the middle of nowhere, I asked my friend to take this one of me out by the outfield wall, by the Asahi flag that is always shown around these Koshien regional tournaments:
So, yeah, pretty cool.
I'm not sure what my next high school games will be, though I am hoping to get to a few of them since I am not going to Koshien this year (well, 99% sure I won't be -- I'll be in Seattle from July 26 to August 17). I'm kind of interested in a few teams, and their schedules are right now:
East Tokyo, Teikyo:
15th, Ota, 12:30 (can't go, school)
18th, Edogawa, 12:30 (maaaaybe can't go)
20th, Jingu #2, 10:00 (can't go, school)
23rd, Jingu #2, 10:00 (could go)
25th, Jingu, 10:00 (probably can go)
East Tokyo, Shutoku:
15th, Jingu, 9:00 (can't go, school)
18th, Jingu, 9:00 (same as Teikyo -- and would hate to choose)
20th, Jingu, 9:00 (can't go, school)
23rd, Jingu, 9:00 (can go, but would again have to choose between Teikyo)
25th, Jingu, 10:00 (wouldn't it be nice if this game was Shutoku vs. Teikyo?)
Saitama, Urawa Gakuin:
18th, Omiya, no time listed (argh)
21st, Omiya, no time listed (could probly go, my school ends on the 20th)
23rd, Omiya, 10:00 (could go but would have to choose this over the others)
25th, Omiya, 10:00 (same)
The Kanagawa ones would be nice to try to get to but a lot of them are pretty far out from here. Still, a few schools I would be interested in:
If they make it far enough, I can probably swing the 22nd at Sagamihara or the 24th at Hiratsuka.
Same, the 22nd at Hodogaya, or they also play on the 24th at Hiratsuka.
I can't do the 12th, 14th, or 18th, but on the 21st they play at Hiratsuka and the 24th and 25th are actually at Yokohama Stadium. These seem the most likely for me to make it to if I do a Kanagawa game at all -- I prefer stadiums that don't involve walking for half an hour from the nearest station in the dead heat of July, thanks.
West Tokyo's Nichidai San also plays on the 24th at Jingu, which might be a better draw if they make it that far. But we'll see.