Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Game Report: Tokyo Big 6 All-Star Game in Matsuyama's Botchan Stadium, Ehime Prefecture

After taking a train to Hokkaido and walking to the Sapporo Dome from my friend's place (spurning the normal option of flying to Hokkaido and taking the subway from wherever), I figured I should also try a new and interesting way to travel to Matsuyama for the Tokyo Big 6 game, so I took the Setonai ferry from Hiroshima to Matsuyama. Here's an English pamphlet about it; the one I rode was the slower 3200-yen "cruise ferry":

This ship was nuts and had tons of amenities; the inside airconditioned passenger lounge featured tons of chairs and couches and tables, a food counter that sold hot food as well as snacks and ice cream and drinks and games and souvenirs and such; a family room with toys and climbing things for kids to play on; an upstairs with a massage chair room and also a tatami room AND also an "amusement" room with some videogames and slot machines, as well as decks on both sides of the ship with chairs and tables and such. I would totally recommend this ferry if you're thinking of going to Shikoku; it's even really convenient in Hiroshima, the streetcar goes to the port terminal in about 25 minutes from the main Hiroshima station.

Take a look at this lounge...

...and take a slightly CLOSER look at the TV over the big dinner table...

Yes, the ship broadcast BS1 on their TVs, and crazier, my Saturday afternoon ferry ride from 11:15am to 13:55pm was the EXACT same time as the Friday night 7pm Mariners-Twins game in Seattle, so I watched about half of that when I wasn't otherwise occupied wandering around the boat. The Twins won 6-3 and Ichiro got two hits and that's all BS1 seemed concerned with in their Japanese voiceovering. Also, "Tuiasosopo" and other names look really funny in katakana.

(See? The sidestory about the boat was at least partially baseball-related.)

It took about an hour to get from the Matsuyama port to my hotel in Matsuyama city; I checked in and then found my way to Botchan Stadium to meet up with my friends and see some college baseball.

Botchan Stadium, outside, as seen when coming from Ichitsubo Station

Botchan Stadium, inside, from behind home plate.

A friend I know from watching Big 6 ball in Tokyo, and a friend of hers, came down for this game, and they got there earlier than me and saved seats in the front row of the Keio-Hosei-Rikkio side. I threw my stuff down on a seat, looked out on the field and Hosei's Hiroshi Taki was out there playing catch with another guy, and I blurted out "Ah, Taki-kun da!" and he looked up and saw me and smiled and waved! That was nice. A little while later when some other guys came out I saw Kazuki Mishima (pitcher for Hosei, we both have May 7th birthdays) and yelled "Mishi!! Ganbare!!" at him and he also looked up with a "whoa! what are you doing here!" and waved. Sadly, though, when I yelled to Kisho Kagami, my favorite college player, he didn't notice at all :( Though he seemed REALLY focused on his pregame routine, I don't think I saw him look out to the stands or acknowledge anyone, so I shouldn't feel too bad, I guess.

I should probably stop and explain what this is all about, since "Keio-Hosei-Rikkio side" might have sounded a little weird. Basically, this was an all-star game to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Botchan Stadium, so the 6 universities were split up into two sides, 3 universities to a side, as "Team Botchan" being Keio, Hosei, and Rikkio, and "Team Madonna" being Waseda, Meiji, and Tokyo. (Botchan and Madonna are a reference to the novel Botchan by Soseki Natsume, which I totally wouldn't know if I wasn't a junior high school teacher). This is actually not as lopsided as it seems, believe it or not; the best of the Tokyo players are probably good enough to be spare parts on the other teams' benches, and due to other teams's strengths and weaknesses in terms of hitting, fielding, and pitching, it really did work out okay.

(Rosters here in Japanese, though all the names except one will come out in my boxscore...)

So yeah, I spent a little while wandering around the stadium after that; went behind home plate and said hi to some Meiji players warming up, Nakamura and Araki; my friend with her real camera took some photos and I went off wandering...

View of the stadium from the top of the 3rd-base side lower seats. The upper deck was closed at that time; it opened in the 1st or 2nd inning of the game when the entire lower deck filled up with people.

This is what the inside concourse looks like, all concrete. It reminds me of either Skymark Stadium or Hard-Off Eco Stadium in Niigata, with the construction.

Starting all the way at first base, they have metal reproductions of newspapers from summer and spring Koshiens going all the way to this year... these are from the 1950's.

Lots of people stopped to look at this one -- it's the 2006 one where Yuki Saitoh and Waseda Jitsugyo managed to win the summer tournament against Ma-kun and Komadai Tomakomai. It sounded like a lot of the locals came out to see Saitoh play in person.

Big table of Tokyo Big 6 goods, but aside from selling expensive (2000 yen!) wristbands of "Team Botchan" and "Team Madonna", all the other stuff like t-shirts and towels and folders and all are available back at Jingu; I was even WEARING my Big 6 t-shirt already. The game programs were actually available for free; I grabbed a whole bunch of them as souvenirs to bring back to other college ball fans here.

Came back to the side and saw the ouendan taking photos of each other. These are the Keio ouendan leaders and head cheerleader.

Something I found out is that the brass bands were actually not from the colleges, but from local high schools. My side had kids from Matsuyama Chuo HS, the other side were from Matsuyama Shogyo HS. The kids apparently had such a good time with the ouendan that several of them stormed Hosei ouendan leader Takahashi for autographs after the game, I heard.

A bit later, the players came out to take team photos and whatnot...

Team Botchan poses in front of their ouendan.

And some smaller posed photos. I'd love to see what these actually came out like for real, but I'm not sure whose sake they were taken for.

Keio's Takayuki Matsuo and Masahiro Nagasaki.

I met Nagasaki a few times back in the spring semester (and even rode the subway with him and Itoh once), and he's pretty much the nicest college ballplayer in existence, as far as I can tell. My friend and I yelled hello and goodluck to him, and he saw us and got a total surprised look on his face and took off his cap and bowed deeply to us! Then he came over and shouted up hello like "I can't believe you guys are here!" and my friend yelled back "You know we're crazy!"

So then she wanted to take a photo of him for the sake of another friend of ours who couldn't make it (who was, at that moment, at the Tokyo Dome texting us updates about the Intercity Baseball Tournament and how our former Big 6 favorites were doing). Nagasaki was like "a picture of just me? Wouldn't that be boring? Here, let me get someone else too," and so he tagged Matsuo, and that's how I ended up with that photo above. He's really adorable. For the rest of the game he kept coming out every inning to play catch with pitchers or warm up infielders, and he'd always stand right in front of us.

A bit later than that, both sides did pregame throwing. Here's our side...

and also, I had suspected all along that Kagami was going to be our starting pitcher, and seeing him come out and warm up with Takuya Hiromoto and with the team manager watching pretty much confirmed it:

Oh yeah, and ANOTHER pitcher and catcher were ALSO warming up on the side at the same time as Kagami and Hiromoto, in preparation for the ceremonial first pitch. At the time I didn't know who they were but took a photo anyway...

Pitcher Kana Sakamoto

Catcher Tomomi Nishi

Both women are from the "Matsuyama Madonna" women's baseball team, apparently, and played with the Team Japan that just won 1st place at the World Women's Baseball Championship. Nishi was even on the Best 9 for the tournament; she looks stronger than most of the Tokyo Big 6 guys, to be honest!

Here's a shot of the board after they announced the starting lineups.
I was right about Kagami. Amusingly, Shirakawa was named as the other team's catcher so everyone figured that was a setup for Yuki Saitoh to be starting pitcher, being as Shirakawa never catches much in Big 6 games but was Saitoh's catcher at Waseda Jitsugyo HS. HOWEVER, no, the starting pitcher for Team Madonna was Waseda's Yuya Fukui, who is actually from Ehime prefecture and went to Saibi High School, so he's a local boy; another local boy in this game was Waseda's Koji Udaka, who went to Ehime's Imabari Nishi HS, batting third and playing third base.

Lined up for the national anthem.

Meiji's Yamaguchi swings at the ceremonial first pitch. (It was a fastball and he ACTUALLY swung and missed. None of this "throws like a girl" stuff.)

Sakamoto and Kagami bow to each other, exchanging the pitcher's mound.

Anyway... here's my boxscore from the game itself. I tried to include which college and uniform number and all kinds of stuff, but I realize it's probably a little confusing, sorry:

(Meiji, Waseda, Tokyo) Madonna 1 - 4 Team Botchan (Keio, Hosei, Rikkio)
Saturday, August 28, 2010

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Madonna 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 10 1
Botchan 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 x 4 9 1

Madonna AB R H RB K BB SB SH E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
M-4 Yamaguchi, 2b 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 G6 .. f9 .. .. .. .. .. ..
T-5 Utsumi, ph-2b 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. G6 .. S9 F3
T-7 Iwasaki, ss 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 S7 .. KS .. .. .. .. .. ..
W-2 Matsunaga, ss 2 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. S7 .. S7 ..
W-5 Udaka, 3b 3 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 G6 .. .. BB .. S8 .. KC ..
M-3 Shashiki, dh 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 F7 .. .. f5 .. .. .. .. ..
W-25 T.Yamada, dh 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. G5 .. G5 ..
M-8 Nakamura, cf 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .. G4 .. G6 .. .. .. .. ..
M-25 Yajima, ph-rf 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. G4 .. HP
M-6 Araki, lf 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. L4 .. G4 .. .. .. .. ..
T-8 Kihara, ph-cf 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. KS .. KS
T-23 Tachi, 1b 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. S9 .. .. KS .. .. .. ..
W-8 Gotoh, 1b 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. KS .. F9
T-1 Horiguchi, rf 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. F8 .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
W-24 Habu, ph-rf-lf 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. S4 .. .. G6 S7
W-26 Shirakawa, c 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. KS .. .. .. .. .. ..
T-6 Tanaka, ph-c 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. G6 .. .. .. ..
M-10 Yamauchi, c 2 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. S4 S7

Botchan AB R H RB K BB SB SH E 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
R-5 K.Matsumoto, 2b 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 G4 .. G3 .. F9 .. .. .. ..
K-10 Yumoto, 2b 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. KS .. ..
H-9 Nakao, cf 1 1 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 BB .. BB .. F7 .. .. .. ..
R-10 Tanaka, cf 1 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. H9 .. ..
H-39 Taki, ss 2 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 S9 .. BB .. G6 .. .. .. ..
K-5 Fuchigami, ss 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. E5 .. ..
K-9 Itoh, rf 4 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 F8 .. KS .. .. G4 S7 .. ..
K-23 Yamaguchi, dh 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 BB .. G3 .. .. .. .. .. ..
H-5 Kameda, ph-dh 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. F8 S9 .. ..
K-22 Matsuo, 3b 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 G6 .. .. F8 .. .. .. .. ..
R-1 Okazaki, 3b 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. D7 G5 .. ..
R-29 R.Maeda, 1b 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. S4 .. KS .. .. .. .. ..
H-10 Ohyagi, 1b 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. F2 .. KS ..
H-20 Hiromoto, c 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .. KS .. .. .. .. .. .. ..
K-2 Nagasaki, c 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. G3 .. .. .. .. ..
R-27 Y.Maeda, c 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. D7 L4 ..
R-28 Hasegawa, lf 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .. F8 .. .. S7 .. .. .. ..
H-27 Imamura, pr-lf 2 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 .. .. .. .. .. .. KC S9 ..

W-11 Fukui 3 1 1 2 4 2 0 0
W-1 Ohishi 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
T-29 Katori 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
T-10 Maeda 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0
M-11 Nomura 1 3 2 4 0 2 0 1
M-21 Nishijima 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0

H-19 Kagami 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
K-19 Takeuchi 2 0 0 0 1 2 0 0
R-19 Okabe 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 0
K-11 Tanaka 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
R-13 Komuro 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0
K-17 Fukutani 1 0 0 3 0 1 0 0
H-13 Mishima 1 1 1 2 1 1 0 0

The official one is up here on the Big 6 website.

I don't have a lot to say about the game itself. It was fun to be back at a Big 6 game, though surreal singing the cheers with the various colleges (ie, there'd be a Meiji guy pitching to a Hosei guy and we'd be singing Dash Dash Keio). Keio's cheers were mostly dominating the side I was on, and we did the Keio fight song a lot more than the other two, but whatever, it was fun, and they DID win the league in the spring so I suppose they're Allowed.

Koji Udaka, for all his local-boy-ness, was pretty slow at 3rd base; he got charged with one actual error, and then also just was totally phoning it in on a lot of plays he could have made, especially going after foul balls.

For all that I talk up Hayata Itoh, he was the only other guy who stayed in the entire game, and aside from basically making Yuya Fukui throw him like 12 pitches in one at-bat, he wasn't particularly impressive at the plate. Maybe it's because his team had no need for Mr. Clutch to be clutch for once.

Kisho Kagami pitched the first two innings for our side... and he gave up only two hits... both to Tokyo University batters! Argh!

Amusingly, the first three pitchers for our side are all #19; Kagami, Takeuchi, and Okabe.

Rikkio's captain Soichiro Tanaka was the only person to hit a homerun, though his was a particularly huge one to right field to get 2 runs. It was off Yusuke Nomura, which was also odd as I'd consider Nomura the best or 2nd-best of the guys who threw for Team Madonna (Ohishi might be the best, Nomura second, then Nishijima and Fukui tied, with Maeda and Katori bringing up the rear). I suppose I could joke that batters from Saga prefecture have always been Nomura's weakness...

The Jingu radar gun always has Ohishi and Mishima hitting around 154 km/h there, but both guys were topping out at 146-147 at Botchan, which makes me wonder what their REAL top speed is. Probably somewhere in the middle, which is still around 93 mph and not bad. Mishi wasn't having the best game of his life either and gave up the only run of the game for the other side.

By the way, I may note that almost every single player on both rosters played in this game. And all captains played except one as well. Can you guess who the one player/captain who didn't appear was?

Yeah, it was Saitoh Yuki. I'm wondering how many Ehime locals went home pissed off that they came all the way out to Botchan to see him play, and then all he did during the game was coach first base for an inning. I hear he pitched a complete game a few days before, so didn't pitch in this one, but I'm honestly a little surprised it worked out that way given how they seem to be trying to milk him as the face of the league as much as possible until he graduates.

Oh yeah, and..

Nagasaki caught for one inning of Takeuchi, and also for Okabe and Keio's Tanaka, before giving way to Rikkio's Maeda, and didn't really do much impressive in the game. But he did come out and throw between all other innings. I'm hoping this picture of the twilight sky prints out well so I can give it to him next time I see him.

So yeah, the game ended with Team Botchan winning 4-1:

And a lot of bowing:

The game heroes were Hosei's Taki for batting in the first run of the game in the first inning, and Rikkio's Tanaka for his 2-run homer:

After the game, my friend had a mission, which was to meet up with a kid named Ryuichi Ochi, who was an infielder for Meiji, and graduated last year. He's from Ehime so he came back here to work and play ball, and for this series since he was a local kid who knew the teams well he was doing the radio commentary for this Big 6 all-star game. So we found him and my friend gave him a bag full of snacks and sake and stuff. I don't really know why, but they seemed happy to see each other and chatted for a while; I mostly hung around and listened, since I only remember him playing because his name is annoying for me to write :) He was nice enough to me though (I think a bunch of the Meiji team knows me as "the crazy gaijin friend", since several others have also kind of been like "hey I know who you are" and I can't think of any other reason).

And then we went back to Ichitsubo station, next to the stadium, which is nicknamed "No-boru" station in honor of Masaoka Shiki, the famous author who originally made up the Japanese words for baseball things, including calling it "yakyu". His name was originally Noboru, and so the station is a pun on that, being as the kanji 野 can be pronounced "no", and 球 is literally a ball, or "boru". They also have a museum about him and the early days of baseball in Matsuyama, but it was closed when we were there, sadly.


And as if you thought this entry was finished with the end of the ballgame and me going home, well wait, there's more. Consider this your bonus for being the only person to actually read this entire thing...

The next day before heading across Shikoku as part of my zenken seiha (quest to go to every prefecture in Japan), I stopped at Matsuyama Castle because I figured, as long as I'm here in Matsuyama, I should see it, it's one of the oldest castles in Japan with a lot of remaining original buildings from 400 years ago.

Well, you would NEVER believe who I ran into outside the castle:

Yes -- those are the Tokyo, Keio, and Hosei ouendan leaders. I ran into them and the other Big 6 fans I'd been at the game with and got this photo, since I happened to have my towel with me. Let me tell you that this is a photo that is pretty freaking rare -- three opposing college ouendan leaders together, from 3 of the most elite schools in the country, with a gaijin baseball fan, in front of one of the few original castles in Japan.

I talked to the Hosei guy a bit; I've actually met him before but he forgot, but I name-dropped my Hosei alumni friends who usually drag me into the cheering section and he's like "Oh! Well, please come cheer with us again in the fall, we'll be waiting for you!"

And in more of the "baseball follows me everywhere", after I left the castle and was trying to find my way to the station, I ended up following an older guy who works as a volunteer tourism type... and is a Carp fan. So we chatted about Friday's game some more.

I'm psyched that college ball will start again soon, but sad that the general baseball season is over in a month.

Now, off to the toshitaiko with me -- and tomorrow starts work again. Hooray.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Game Braindump: Carp vs. Giants @ Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium Hiroshima

It's a little odd that I've been to 5 Fighters games in 4 different prefectures in the last week and yet I feel compelled to braindump about this game before actually posting any of the stuff from the others. But I feel like if I don't get this one "down on paper" before I go to sleep tonight, it'll lose something later on. This game was really truly crazy in so many ways.

So I'm in Hiroshima, on my way to Matsuyama for the Big 6 All-Star Game at Botchan Stadium tomorrow. I really wanted to stop back at the Mazda stadium sometime, and interleague this year didn't work out, so a Friday night Carp vs. Giants game sounded as good as any -- I knew that if nothing else I am a very convincing member of the Anti-Giants clan, which usually works out at CL stadiums even if I don't know the home team's songs.

I got to the stadium around 4pm, but first had to go to the Carp store to make sure I had something acceptable to wear. Ended up getting a Takuro kanji t-shirt and held off on a Yuki Saitoh #21 replica jersey. I changed t-shirts in a bathroom and then went about my way of wandering through the stadium looking for adventure and excitement.

Most of the excitement involved a few statues of Soichiro Amaya in the outfield that they have set up specifically to pose with for pictures; I ended up meeting a couple from Tokyo who had come to cheer for the Giants and we exchanged photo-taking a few times (they'd snap one of me and I'd snap one of the two of them). The adventures mostly involved getting food; I had some delicious cold custard taiyaki from a stand in the outfield, and then ended up getting a Kenta Maeda bento from a stand in the infield. Several elementary-school boys at the stand were trying to do the "Hello hello hello" thing at me, so I just replied in Japanese, and they gasped like "You speak Japanese? I have never heard a gaijin speak Japanese before!" and I'm like "...you've GOT to be kidding." This isn't even anything like the countryside I was wandering through for the last several days.

For the record, the Maeda bento is FANTASTIC. It had this "potato-in-hamburg" thing that was essentially exactly that; a hamburger that was hollowed out and filled with mashed potatoes, and it also came with yakisoba and some sausage and vegetables and rice and some grapefruit for dessert. I've been astounded by how good the bentos are in places that aren't Tokyo, or more like, the amount and quality of food you get for your buck is pretty good.

I went down to behind the dugout to take photos, but only had my small camera. I watched the guys work out; I tried to yell a happy belated birthday to Takuro Ishii (he just turned 40 on Wednesday) but couldn't get his attention. There were a LOT of people yelling encouragement at Takahiro Iwamoto; someone told me that this past week he hit home runs in 3 consecutive games and was making quite a name for himself for smacking the tar out of the ball.

For me, the last time I saw Iwamoto play was Draft Day 2008, at which time it was like "Hey, that kid at bat just got taken in the first round by the Hiroshima Carp. But who cares, THAT catcher crouching behind him just got taken in the first round by the FIGHTERS!!"

A Japanese couple shows up and sits to the left of me about 20 minutes before game time. I'd guess they're slightly younger than I am but not by much. The starting lineups are announced and I get out my scorecard, and the guy, who is sitting next to me, is like "Dude, you keep score?" and so we get to talking; clearly he thought I was just some random white person, but within 5 minutes we're swapping baseball stories and he's telling me how he grew up a Giants fan because his family always watched them, but when he grew up he switched to the Carp despite living in Nara (which is clearly Hanshin territory), and he's a longtime Tomonori Maeda fan. Me, I joke that I cheer for "the Fighters, and whoever is playing against the Giants", but that I'm familiar with a bunch of Carp players, especially since so many went to college in Tokyo, and I mention having seen Komatsu and Takeuchi and Iwamoto and all. The girl in the couple is clearly just along for the ride, but is decked out in very cutesy Carp clothing and says she thinks Kurihara is really hot. The end result of this is that rather than just sitting there on the end of the row by myself, I have people to cheer with and to high-five after stuff, and to talk to about the game, which I wasn't expecting.

So, the game starts. I've been to Mazda Stadium before, last year, but never sat on the first-base side for a game, and it strikes me as being vaguely reminiscent of Safeco Field in that you can see mountains in the distance and there are train tracks literally running along the side of the left-field wall. The main difference is that in Seattle, you HEAR the trains going by all the time, and in Hiroshima, you SEE them go by. Coming into Hiroshima by shinkansen from the north, you get a fantastic view of the field for about 40 seconds.

Ren Nakata started for Hiroshima; like Iwamoto, he's a 2nd-year player, drafted in fall 2008; like Iwamoto, he was a Hiroshima-area high school star; but unlike Iwamoto, he was drafted out of high school, not college, so Nakata just turned 20 last month. Dicky Gonzalez started for the Giants.

To be fair, the main thing I recall from the first 8 innings of the game are:

1) I got "shaved ice" in the 3rd inning from a vendor who came by, which is basically grape-flavored ice in a plastic bag. The bag started coming apart before I finished "eating" all of it. It's a nice enough idea in the heat but not recommended.

2) There are very few cola vendors. I got a cola before the game that was flat, and then gave up waiting for another and went up to get one in the 5th inning, only to see a kid with some bottles of Coke walk by a bit later. (But I'm betting his were even warmer and flatter than what I got. And 300 yen for a bottle of coke?!)

3) I was telling the guy next to me how I hate Ogasawara, he was recounting the Johnny-Damonness of it to his girlfriend, and then Ogasawara launched a homer, in that first inning. Edgar Gonzalez followed that with another homer in the 2nd inning that bounced in the left-field walkway and then bounced out of the stadium.

4) But the Carp came back in the 3rd inning on a Soyogi double and Akamatsu single to tie it up, and a Kurihara single put them ahead 3-2.

4a) This is relevant because they do this thing on the screen where they search with the camera like "If we choose you, and if we win, YOU GET TO COME UP TO TAKE A PHOTO WITH THE GAME HERO!!!". So lots of people wave their arms and dance and try to get chosen, including the people sitting next to me... well, someone only 3 rows ahead of us got chosen, a kid with a Kurihara sign! So at this point we're like "Lucky kid, maybe he'll get his photo with Kurihara!"

5) Naturally Ramirez had to hit a 2-run homer that actually went out of the stadium with NO bounce, in the 5th, and put the Giants up 4-3.

5a) Vinnie Chulk took over in the 6th to pitch for Hiroshima and gave up another run on a Wonder Boy Sakamoto double, making it 5-3.

6) Rather than doing "YMCA", they do this bizarre "C-A-R-P" dance, not to the tune of YMCA or anything, but very similar feeling. It's quite odd.

7) TAKURO ISHII GOT TO PINCH-HIT!!!! It was just in the bottom of the 7th and he basically literally grounded the ball straight to first base, but you know what rocks? Hiroshima uses the same cheer song for him that Yokohama did! I literally haven't seen Takuro at bat in person in two years, so when they started playing his song I sang along. It was weird, I almost felt like I wanted to cry; I miss cheering for him in Yokohama.

As an aside, cheering for the Carp is easy, you don't need to know any of the words; after the first round of any player's song, you and whoever are sitting next to you just alternate standing up and yelling the player's name. "Soyogi! SOYOGI! Soyogi! SOYOGI! Soyogiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-- SOYOGIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-- [clap, clap, clapclapclap], kattobase, Soyogi!"

8) An awful lot of people deserted the stadium in the 8th and 9th innings. They are idiots. I understand that many of them are Giants fans and don't actually expect to ever lose, and I'm sure some are Carp fans who wanted to beat the traffic; unlike in Tokyo, they actually have parking lots here and there are undoubtedly lots of people who drive to the game.

So those people missed the excitement of the 9th inning. Sucks to be them.


9) the Carp came up at 5-3 in the bottom of the 9th with Marc Kroon on the mound (who is explained as "He throws really fast but sometimes he has control issues. Hopefully our guys won't swing at everything.") But Shigenobu Shima manages to lead off with a single. Jun Hirose swings at everything and strikes out. Takahiro Iwamoto, who I had mentioned several times earlier in the game and in the post, comes up to bat, and


and takes a big swing and


No, I mean, I dropped my scorecard, I stood up so fast, and just watched that thing sail out to the right-field stands. The entire stadium went crazy. All the people around me were jumping and yelling and cheering, I high-fived a ton of people, it was great. The game was tied at 5-5!

Aizawa popped out after that but a pinch-hitting Kura doubled to center-left! And Soyogi walked!

I may have mentioned that the crazy guy next to me, who stood for the entire inning after that, was also a huge Tomonori Maeda fan. And I'm like "Someone's pinch-hitting -- dude, I think it's going to be your Maeda," and he's like "No way, this is an infielder's slot," and no, sure enough, it was the 39-year-old veteran Maeda. Who struck out unceremoniously.

10) So, extra innings. Ryuji Yokoyama dealt with the Giants for the top of the 10th, and their Yasunari Takagi (WTF?) dealt with the Carp for the bottom of the 10th. It was, by this time, getting on towards 10pm, and drums and trumpets had to stop playing in the stands. Onward at 5-5. What sucked is mostly that Amaya led off with a walk in the 10th and then Kurihara, Shima, and Hirose struck out in succession, leaving Iwamoto in the on-deck circle. And what REALLY sucked is that Kurihara's strikeout, the third strike was DROPPED. Amaya ran to second, Kurihara didn't try to run to first at either, which was lame, he seriously might have made it.

But I remember thinking that maybe Iwamoto would come up and hit a walk-off home urn in the 11th, then...

11) Except that SHIGEYUKI FREAKING FURUKI, former Fighter, came up and HE hit a 2-run homer off Yokoyama in th top of the 11th. What sucked about that was mostly that Wakiya got on base with a REALLY close safe call, it really did look like a double play and should have ended the inning, but it didn't, so that was sad, and then the run, making it 7-5.

So Takahiko Nomaguchi takes the mound for the Giants to close out the game in the 11th.


No, really! That was nuts, he just comes up there and BLAM. Hara challenged the homer and thought it was a ground rule double, so the umpires went back to look at the video, and they come out like "No, dude, that was a homerun." Woohoo! But sadly it was just 7-6, not a 6-5 walkoff. And Tetsuya Kokubo grounds out after that.

But Kura walks, and Soyogi ALSO walks. The pitcher's slot is next and I think Ishihara was literally the only guy left at ALL to pinch-hit, so he does, and he strikes out on 3 straight pitches. 2 outs, bottom of the 11th, one-run game...

Soichiro Amaya comes up. He has been sucking lately and thus was dropped from the starting lineup, apparently. With his whopping .217 average and 5 home runs it does not seem hopeful.

A ball. Another ball. A fouled-off pitch. Another ball. It's a 3-1 count and if he walks, the bases will be loaded for Kurihara... who hasn't really succeeded in doing much tonight anyway.

The next pitch comes in, Amaya swings, and


You could actually tell that one was a homer right off the bat; I think it went into the cushion seats in deep centerfield. I'm not really sure because again the 6-7 of us cheering like crazy all bolted to stand up and watch it, I dropped my scorecard again, and as that ball fell, everyone went CRAZY yet again.

3-run homer. Carp win 9-7.

The people sitting ahead of us who were picked for a photo with the game hero disappeared a while back. I thought they went home, and mused about that to the people next to me, but he's like "Nah, I bet anything that at the 9th inning they went to wait for the Game Hero photo. Watch," and sure enough that little boy with his Kurihara sign comes out to take a photo with the game hero, who is Soichiro Amaya. Which was a bit odd. But I bet the kid was beside himself with joy anyway.

I was a little ticked that Amaya was the only game hero and they didn't honor Iwamoto, without whom they don't win the game too -- that 2-run homer in the 9th was HUGE. HUGE, in so many ways. And very exciting. But whatever, Japan is weird.

After a little bit of postgame cheering I say goodbye to the people around me and tell them to enjoy the rest of the weekend series and may the Giants burn in hell and all that sort of stuff, and they tell me to enjoy the rest of my trip.

21) I go buy that Yuki Saitoh jersey. I figure that even if I don't get to wear it in Japan, it'll be pretty funny to wear to games in the US of teams that wear white and red uniforms. Plus, I've joked about being a "Lefty Red Handkerchief Prince" fan for ages, and I really do like the kid. Though I have to admit I seriously considered an Iwamoto jersey instead. Eh.


What a game.

It was kind of fun to get back to the hotel and see a bunch of Giants fans sitting in the lobby looking a lot more subdued than they did this afternoon. Very satisfying, really.

And now I am off to Matsuyama! I'll add pictures to this post later, maybe.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Game Report: Fighters vs. Marines @ Tokyo Dome -- The Kids Are All Righties

Hey -- just a note to say that I am in Sapporo but will probably not be writing much in the next 3 days, despite that I'll be at games, because I'm crashing with a friend who doesn't have internet at her place yet.

The rest of this, I wrote on the train today while travelling from Tokyo to Sapporo. It took over 10 hours total. The tunnel is NOT that exciting but the scenery in northern Japan is beautiful. I'll expound upon this more sometime if you really want to know.

My upcoming game/travel schedule:
Aug 20: Tokyo->Sapporo (by train)
Aug 21: Fighters vs. Lions @ Sapporo Dome
Aug 22: Fighters vs. Lions @ Sapporo Dome
Aug 23: Sapporo->Akita (by train)
Aug 24: Eagles vs. Fighters @ Akita
Aug 25: Akita->Morioka, Eagles vs. Fighters @ Morioka
Aug 26: Morioka->Tokyo (train)
Aug 27: Tokyo->Hiroshima (train), Carp vs. Giants @ Mazda Zoom-Zoom
Aug 28: Hiroshima->Matsuyama (boat), Tokyo Big 6 All-Stars @ Botchan Stadium
Aug 29: Matsuyama->Takamatsu (train), Kagawa Olive Guyners vs. Tokushima Indigo Socks
Aug 30: Takamatsu->Tokushima (train), Tokushima->Wakayama (boat), Wakayama->Tokyo (train I guess -- haven't figured out that far out yet)

Should be a pretty fantastic roadtrip aside from reports of possible rain. Sigh.

Anyway, I got back to Japan on Wednesday, and sadly missed International Day at the Tokyo Dome, as all my friends informed me later ("You could have done YMCA on the field again, and translated all the English crap that they were saying during the game for us!!") but was back in action for Thursday night's game -- the last Fighters Tokyo Dome game of 2010 and maybe my last ever if I go through with my plan to move back to the US at New Year's (well, I suppose I could time a trip to Japan in the future to coincide with them, but...). It was special for me because I got my entire start in Japanese baseball at a Fighters game at the Tokyo Dome back before they moved to Sapporo, so I wanted to try to get to at least one last one before leaving.

For some stupid reason, they were only letting fans come in through gate 25 for outfield unreserved -- that is, rather than Marines fans at gate 11 and Fighters at Gate 25, so it was RIDICULOUS. I got in around 4:40pm, but friends had saved a seat for me, so it wasn't a big deal. I went around greeting some people (got a few "I thought you moved back to the US after you didn't show up in Chiba or the first few games here!") and then went to do pinbadges. I was decked out in Hichori Green and ran into Hichori's mom in the concourse, who smiled and said hi when she saw me.

This time of year is called Obon, and a lot of people go travelling to visit relatives or friends outside of Tokyo, so basically everyone came to the game with souvenir sweets from various places around Japan to share with everyone. I came with a box of fruit bars from Seattle, which went over well too just for the novelty, I think.

And I also went around talking to various people who were Brian Sweeney fans when he was with the Fighters and I told them that I went to a Mariners game and saw Brian and he's doing well and all -- when I showed them the photo of him in the Mariners bullpen but holding my Fighters BB keychain, it was like "that's so cool that he's in the majors again but hasn't forgotten us! Did you see him pitch? Is he doing well there?" I even talked to Akki, who was basically like "Is he still pissed at me?"

The Fighters starter was Masaru Nakamura, who just graduated from Kasukabe Eikyo High School in March. He's 18 and will be 19 in December. And this was his SECOND pro start already. Holy crap, huh? They used to call him the "Darvish of Saitama" when he was in HS, despite not being half-Japanese. And Yuki "Karaage-kun" Karakawa started for Lotte, and he just turned 21 last month. What a day for young kids.

Also oddly, the ouendan changed our call for Nakamura to "Ganbare, ganbare Masaru!" which is making me wonder if that's what we will continue to yell for Masaru Takeda also...?

The kids kept things tied at 0-0 for the first 5 innings and then everything rained down from Lotte in the 6th. Imae singled, Iguchi walked, Fukuura also walked to load the bases, and then Saburo hit a grand slam into the very front row of fans in right-center; we weren't even convinced it was a homer until a dude stood up with the ball and threatened to throw it back and some guards came over to make sure he didn't.

Atsunori Inaba made some FANTASTIC plays in the last few innings including some amazing catches against the wall, a bullet throw to third where he gunned down Shoitsu Ohmatsu running, and another play where he outran Yoshio Itoi for a catch in right-center. And all this from a guy who turned 38 two weeks ago. Inaba is awesome. I am honored to have had a final chance to sit behind him in the right-field stands.

The Marines eventually won the game 7-0, which sucks, but I had a good time anyway. Karakawa got a complete-game shutout. And the Fighters ouendan wanted to do the Tokyo Dome Chance Theme but there were never enough people on base, so we just did it for the entire 9th inning instead...

Another funny thing I have no video of is that during YMCA, when last year a groundskeeper at first base would have gone crazy, this time BB came out to first and was trying to MAKE a groundskeeper go crazy. But the groundskeeper wasn't having any part of it. It was cute though and we all cheered for it.

The big event of the game for us was when BB came into the right-field stands and cheered with us in the 8th inning! He stood with me and my friends for Kensuke Tanaka's at-bat..

This is my friend Tsuyoshi with his new Kensuke towel that he made.

Kensuke call with pink inflatable hands.

"Kattobase, Kensuke!"

And a better shot of BB in front of us doing the motions.

BB takes one of Junko's towels and holds it up too... but then Kensuke grounded into a double play to end the inning. BB pretended to cry and use the towel like a handkerchief.

Final score.

And well, I'm uploading this now. If any of you are going to the Fighters games up here, drop me a line -- I can read email on my phone even if I can't update Blogger :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photopost: PGE Park

I'm back in Japan. Tonight I'm going to the Fighters game at the Tokyo Dome, and then tomorrow I'm getting on a train and going to Hokkaido. More about that later.

My last weekend in the US, we roadtripped to Portland for the weekend so Mike could buy books at Powell's, and I insisted we take in a minor-league game at PGE Park. Little did I know that the Portland Beavers era is coming to an end and the Beavers will be leaving the city next year (it's still unclear where they're going) thanks to the stadium being remodelled to be a soccer-only stadium so the Timbers can join the MLS.

We saw the Portland Beavers (AAA Padres) play against the Albuquerque Isotopes (AAA Dodgers). Seth Etherton started for the Isotopes. Coincidentally, the last time I saw him pitch was his last ever major league appearance (Royals vs. Mariners on June 3 2006), and the Mariners hit him up good, and he's been wandering between teams quite a bit since. Cesar Carrillo started for the Beavers.

Anyway, Etherton pitched well in this game and the Isotopes beat the Beavers 5-1. I recognized some players, and lots of them, I didn't. Mike Restovich was playing for the Isotopes, he used to play for Softbank, but he never got into the game, just was on-deck at one point.

There were a ton of cub scout troops at the park because they were going to have a sleepover on the field that night to watch the meteor shower or whatever, which is kind of cool in theory, but being surrounded by a ton of hyper boys who don't actually care about baseball and just wanna go on the field and run around is kind of annoying in a way.

I didn't realize that PGE was a super remodel of an old old ballpark that had been standing in that spot for almost a century; the first time I ever walked by it about ten years ago, it just looked like a gorgeous new ballpark, and I'd never looked it up before.

Anyway, here are some photos.

Being a Japanese tourist outside the park beforehand.

Really nice concessions for minor league, though maybe not so for MLS.

There's a ton of luxury box things here, which is kind of odd for minor league too.

And there's a board that showed the players' info and also showed video between innings.

Looking out at the game.

The left field patio thingy (and the bullpen is behind those fieldside picnic tables too)

Awesome oldfashioned scoreboard -- except that meant that the score guys were often screwing up who was on base and at bat and all.

The mascot came to be with some folks on screen in the 3rd inning, because they won upgrades or something.

Final score (yeah, blurry).

Touristy shot behind home.

Actual bleacher bleacher seating. Upper parts were covered, though.

Old old photo of the first game played in this spot, and explanation of the creek in the area.

What those luxury boxes look like from the other side.

The starting lineups (I didn't find them until afterwards).

Me posing outside the Beavers team store.

There's this weird mask sculpture out front of the stadium, so Mike is being an eye in the face. Whee.

Seriously, sorry I haven't been writing much. It's been a busy summer and it's just about to get busier, although maybe I will have some time to write while on the road, we'll see.