It's Senbatsu time, so what did I end up doing today? I ended up going to a college preseason game and seeing a fantastic former high school pitcher. :)
It was actually entirely by accident -- I knew Hosei was playing Chuo today, I'd called to confirm the game was on, and then I got really lost trying to get to the Hosei baseball field because both the train line I wanted to take wasn't running due to blackouts, and then once I did get there, I couldn't figure out how the hell to actually get into the ground itself. (Beyond baseball, I also saw the football and soccer and some other teams practicing as well, from walking around the entire sports ground.)
Showed up in the 3rd inning, ran into both my scorekeeping buddy Suda and my retired-actress buddy Hanako Tokachi... so I ended up sitting in the front row with Suda for the entire game and we kept score together and he told me about the other preseason games. Of course, umm... we were in front of the entire Hosei baseball club that were in the stands (the rest were on the field or in the dugout). I heard one of the guys talking about me from a few rows back like "Oh, she comes to a lot of our games at Jingu, she writes Japanese really well and always keeps score and takes photos... but I thought she was a Kagami fan..."
And Kazuki Mishima (3rd-year pitcher) was sitting in the row right behind me, so when I came in I said "Long time no see!" and he was like "Whoa! Hi!"
Anyway, the really really really big deal about the game was the starting pitcher for Chuo University...
...YOSUKE FREAKING SHIMABUKURO!!! The boy who won Spring AND Summer Koshien last year!
He's only a freshman -- he hasn't even started college classes yet! But he's already practicing with the team and I guess they figured since Hosei's theoretically one of the stronger teams they're playing in the preseason, might as well have him pitch against them. He's SO GOOD! He still has that ridiculous tornado motion that makes him look like a lefty Nomo. Here he was facing college juniors and seniors and just mowed through them.
He pitched 7 innings, allowed exactly 4 runners (3 hits and one error), and struck out 6, including striking out the entire side at one point. It was really neat seeing him!
Hosei's pitcher were Ryoto "Yoshiko" Yoshikoshi for 6 innings and Kazuki Funamoto for the last 3. Funamoto is also a tall righty from Toin Gakuen who wears #19 now, but I don't think he's going to be the next Kagami for me or anything. And it's not like Yoshiko and Funamoto were bad or anything -- Chuo infact only won the game 2-0. Personally, besides Shimabukuro, the Chuo player I was most impressed with was a sophomore named Junji Kageyama, batting 9th and playing right field. He has LEGS. In his 4 plate appearances, I saw him hit a triple, then get a bunt single up the left line, then get on base on a fielder's choice and a single and steal second both times. Super runner, super bat. He's also from Toin Gakuen, for the record.
Oh, and the Chuo player I was most amused by was the boy wearing uniform number 28. He's a kid from Iwakuni named Takahiro Tsuchiya. Which doesn't seem special at all unless I tell you that the kanji for his name is 二十八貴大. Yes, his last name is the number 28, and he wears #28. Cool, huh?
Anyway, some photos. Mostly of Shimabukuro but not all. :)
And for a few that aren't of Shimabukuro....
Ryoto Yoshikoshi, starter for Hosei. I'm guessing he'll get a decent amount of time in league games this year...
Kazuki Funamoto, the new wearer of Hosei #19. But can he possibly wear it as majestically as Kagami did?
Ryosuke Itoh, freshman from Shinko Gakuen HS. (I saw him play at Senbatsu last year.) I am mostly including this photo because it amused me how you could see his name written on his belt strap.
Seiya Inoue being a big stout 3rd baseman.
Yohei Watanabe, the guy who finished the last 2 innings for Chuo.
Masashi Nanba, the Hosei captain.
Kageyama. This dude can run. I was quite impressed with him.
A dive back to the bag at first base.
Teams line up to bow to each other afterwards.
Hosei field... I tried to get the big "HOSEI" into the shot but it was impossible.
The scoreboard. Sadly I didn't get the final score! Whoops!
Me, because this represents yet another new stadium in Japan that I saw a game at!
After the game I hung out a bit; the Chuo players all did come out past the stands but Shimabukuro had already hit the figurative showers apparently since he only pitched 7 innings, maybe they didn't want him to be mobbed (a la Yuki Saitoh in the past). So I didn't get to meet him, unfortunately.
Instead I waited for the Hosei players' meeting to be over, and when it was, the players filtered out; some that recognized me nodded hello, and then Eiji Egashira came up to me with a big smile like "Hey! You're here! Remember me?" and I'm like "Dude! I went to Saga Kita this winter!!" and we got into a conversation about that for a while. He told me there was also some other stuff from the 2007 Koshien team that I didn't get to see because it was all either in the school or on the field ("I was in Saga when you were there... next time tell me and I'll show you around!") He's a very nice boy, I enjoyed talking to him for a few minutes. I had some photos to give Mishima and Yoshikoshi among others, so when Mishima came out I handed him the photos and apologized that I never got around to making him a photo book ("It's ok. These are really good. You're like a pro photographer or something!") And I gave a box of Seattle chocolates to him and Egashira (I think they're roomates now though I might be wrong) and told them to share with their teammates.
Unfortunately I kinda wanted to get Masashi Nanba's autograph, since I never did and he's the new captain. But he was still in meetings and stuff, and everyone was putting things away, like the batting nets and so on. Kota Imamura, one of the co-captains, also saw me and had a huge smile like "Hey, long time! Thanks for coming to our game!" and I told him "I hope you kick ass this season but I won't be here for it!"
So I dunno, I left and went home after that. It was nice though, a year or two ago I felt like the players only talked to me because I was with my Hosei alum friends, but today I was there by myself and they still took a second to chat, so that was neat! Maybe they were all surprised that I showed up despite Kagami having graduated :)