I'm in North Carolina! And as promised, I'm posting about the US-Japan tourney!
I had a pretty great day at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park today, watching the Japanese national collegiate team take on the US national collegiate team. I was so ridiculously happy when I got into the stadium and saw the guys warming up. I was just like "There's Fukutani! And Itoh! And Mikami! And Taki! And Okazaki! And Fujioka! OMG OMG OMG!" I hadn't realized how much I missed watching these guys play. There's only 8 guys on the roster from the Tokyo Big 6 league, and then a few others from Tohto, and then others from all over the place, but still.
I had my big orange Hosei towel, so I got Mikami to come over and chat for a bit, and said hi to Taki too. The guys on the team who know me were all like "Whoa, what are you doing here" but the rest of the guys were like "Why is there this crazy girl cheering for us?" Still, they seemed more amused than anything. I sat with some photographers from Japanese papers, and took photos, and yelled "GANBARE!!" a lot.
Awesomeness happened in the form of Asia Univ's Tomoki Takata throwing me a ball at one point (he was looking for someone to throw it to, I asked for it in Japanese, he threw it to me), and then after the game I got it signed by Hodaka Yamakawa, who is my new "WTF" player, in that I'd never seen this guy before but he blasted a grand slam over the left field "Blue Monster" wall. It was a BIIIIIIG hit.
To be fair, you can read the game log on the USA baseball site, in English even. Or you can check out the box score. What basically happened in this game is that Japan had a huge 5th inning and the US had a huge 7th inning, and the USA eventually won 7-6. My observation is that the Japan relievers spent so damn long warming up, in the 95-degree heat, that maybe they were already kinda tired by the time they got into the game?
In addition to Yamakawa's bat, I was really impressed by the defense of third baseman Yuji Kaneko (from Ritsumeikan) and second baseman Ryosuke Obuta (Tohoku Fukushi). It was also a super treat to finally see Yuhei Nakaushiro, the crazy lefty sidearmer from Kinki Univ, pitch in person. Overall I'm sad that Japan lost, but happy that I got to see everyone play. Yusuke Nomura started, and then was Nakaushiro, and then two batters' worth of "little" Nao Higashihama, and then finishing with Tomoyuki "The man" Sugano.
The announcers were terrible at the Japanese names -- it was REALLY ATROCIOUS. The worst was him calling Higashihama "Hagashima". WTF? When the Japan-US tourney happened in Japan, they got an actual English speaker to do all the announcements.
Oh yeah, after 4 years I finally got a photo with Yusuke Nomura. Now the only one of the 5 left is Nakaushiro. Gotta stalk him tomorrow I suppose. I also got Takahiro Fujioka to sign a photo after the game, and after chatting with him a bit and saying I saw him in the preseason and took a photo together, he was like "OH! YES I REMEMBER YOU!" That was really neat :) When I told him I came here from Seattle, he was like "Isn't that far?" and I'm like "Not as far as Japan!"
I was also really happy to get to spend the day chatting in Japanese with people -- players, fans, photographers, etc. And I got to catch up with an old USSM friend Conor Glassey, who now works for Baseball America and told me some stuff about the USA team, since I babbled at him about the Japan team. (Seriously, how silly is it that I know absolutely nothing about US college ball? The US is huge. Yeah.)
Hosei's Hiroshi Taki.
Keio's awesome Hayata Itoh takes some warmup swings.
Yuhei Nakaushiro joking with Yuji Kaneko.
Yusuke Nomura warms up in the bullpen (Meiji manager Yoshinami is the pitching coach for this team.)
Takahiro Fujioka throwing in the bullpen.
Formerly Nichidai San captain, and now Rissho University catcher Yuta Yoshida.
Hodaka Yamakawa, the kid who BLASTED a grand slam over the left field monster.
Kaneko taking some warmup swings.
The Durham Bulls mascot, "Wool E Bull".
Taki at bat.
Mark Appel. I've heard this guy is likely to be a pretty high draft pick over here in the US.
Itoh at bat.
Nomura on the mound (I had wandered to the other side for a bit to shoot those other guys batting.)
Ryutaro Umeno (catcher from Fukuoka Univ)
Hosei's Tomoya Mikami!
Waseda's Koki Sasaki diving back to first base.
The four guys high-fiving at the plate after Yamakawa's grand slam.
And a high-five for Nomura too.
Meiji University's Hiroki Nakashima, who came in as a pinch-runner for Itoh.
Nao Higashihama in the bullpen.
Yamakawa at bat.
Ryosuke Obuta at second.
Yuta Iwasada (from Yokohama Shokadai).
Keio's Koji Fukutani (I really hope I get to see him pitch for real tomorrow...)
Final sadface score.
Look, I finally got a photo with Yusuke Nomura even if he looks completely nonplussed about the idea. It only took four years and moving back to the US!
This is the ball I caught from Takata and got signed by Yamakawa :)
Onwards to tomorrow! I'm so happy I get to watch these guys play! Though I feel kinda funny to spend July 4th cheering against Team USA :)