I was actually somewhat specifically asked to blog about this experience, so I'm writing an entry. I guess maybe there are still readers of this blog who don't know me in other channels, but I'm back in Japan for a month (have been from Sept 5 to Oct 8, basically). I've already gone to around 25 games here, and have a few more to go.
Anyway, so I went to Kamagaya yesterday afternoon. My intention for the day was to do absolutely nothing special -- I wasn't going to bring my huge camera and take photos, I wasn't even wearing a Fighters jersey (just a t-shirt), I wasn't going to spend time after the game getting photos or autographs, I was just going to go by myself and do nothing but watch the damn game for a change.
I should know by now that this sort of thing never works out, and adventure happens to me whether I like it or not.
Basically, the guy who used to be one of the interpreters for the team, Mr. Araki, works in the Kamagaya office now, which partially means he helps run all of the daily "events" at Kamagaya. During the weekend these events can get pretty crazy -- like this upcoming weekend is the Hokkaido Festival, and holiday weekends also tend to have big things where they'll have food tents and rides for kids and a stage set up with singers and dancers and "talk shows" with the players, and autograph tables, and all kinds of crazy things. During the weekdays, the events tend to be a lot more low-key, like a "special dessert" that might be on sale only in the 5th inning, or the pre-game ceremonial first pitch, or dancing on the field in the 7th inning, etc.
Anyway, one thing that I always saw at Kamagaya but never understood fully was a bunch of people who'd get introduced on the field before the game, just random fans. And then another thing is that there's this huge book of daily reports from the Fighters Kamagaya games that sits on a table in the concourse, and you can look through it and see what people wrote about the games for the past 2 years or so. Some are detailed, some are just a drawing and a sentence or two, it depends.
So Araki came up to me and said (in English) "Hey, long time no see. Would you like to be a daily reporter today? You get to go on the field before the game and be introduced, and then you write a report about the game that we put in our book. Maybe you can write about it on your blog."
Well, I was super-nervous but it sure sounded like a new and interesting experience, so I said sure, and about 15 minutes later my name got called out with 5 other people and I reported to the stadium clubhouse entrance thingy. We got a brief explanation of the Daily Report form and then were escorted into the stadium -- my first time there! (I'd been on the field before once or twice for various post-game events, but we always entered from the outside of the stadium.) We went through the lobby (where I saw former Fighter Komai and some other guys working on something) and down a hallway, past a bunch of rooms that had various people in them that looked like media or players getting set up to chart stuff, etc, and waited outside the Fighters dugout:
They told us a little bit about what would happen on the field... now the silly thing is, they specifically asked me if I could speak Japanese, and of course I'd been talking in Japanese up to that point. But they thought it'd be funny if we did both languages... the suggestion was to do like a comedy routine where I'd say something in English, the announcer would look confused and call for the interpreter and then I'd just repeat myself in Japanese.
But what actually happened is more like, we went out there, and when the guy got to me he just said in English "Oh hello how are you" and I'm thinking "wait WTF", so I just said something in English like "Hi I'm Deanna, I'm happy to be a daily reporter, I love the Fighters and Kamagaya!" and then he said "oh okay!!" and went on to the next person.
Then a friend of mine from the stands yelled down in Japanese "Oi Deanna, why didn't you say that in Japanese?" and I yelled back "He didn't ASK me in Japanese!" and then the announcer was like "Wait, you speak Japanese? Then in Japanese please!" and so I repeated myself, kinda, like "let's have a great game today, go Fighters!"
And as a joke he asked the next guy to give his answer in English.
The other funny thing is that the last guy in the group is actually one of my Kamagaya friends (and is one of the ouendan leaders), but he was wearing a Searex t-shirt, so they were giving him crap about that.
Anyway, that was quite a crazy experience, it was really weird looking out into the stands and realizing how many people I recognized out there -- it sounds crazy but in the last 5 years I've met a LOT of the Kanto-area Fighters fan regulars!
I made Araki-san take photos while I was on the field, so here, you can see that I'm not making this crazy thing up:
Here we are on the field, getting ready to be introduced as daily reporters.
I am looking around at all the people in the stands and definitely being like "WTF am I doing here!"
And here I am being interviewed myself. How bizarre! Apparently Nakahara-san didn't get the memo about the comedy thing but it sounds like it was still funny to everyone, so that's good.
Anyway, so after that we were led off the field, back through the clubhouse, back outdoors, and given clipboards with the Daily Report thingies on them, and then went back to our seats! Lots of my friends were like "OMG I SAW YOU! SO FUNNY!"
Oh yeah, also, before the game started I went and got a photo with Cubby. I'd been told that the person inside the Cubby outfit has changed, and there's a new uniform too:
So yeah, there was a game. Because I was a Daily Reporter, I took very careful notes all game! (Just joking, I kept my normal scorecard, which was more than enough.)
Takayuki Makka started for the Baystars (you may or may not remember that he has my undying support since another craziest day ever of mine) and Tomoya Yagi started for the Fighters (you may remember him being our Rookie of the Year in 2006 and never being quite so awesome ever again. Sigh, I still have home for him though.) So two lefties, exciting.
Only thing is, Makka had a really tough time in the first inning, and so after getting two quick outs, he gave up two hits in a row to Shingo Ishikawa and Atsushi Ugumori, walked Takahiro Imanami to lead the bases, and then gave up a grand slam to Masaya Ozaki. Don't get me wrong, I love my ni-gun Fighters, but I'm not sure the last time I ever saw anyone hit a grand slam in Kamagaya. So this brought the Fighters out to a quick 4-0 lead.
Though Makka did go 5 innings and only give up those runs in the first inning. In the meantime, Yagi didn't make it through 5; he came out in the top of the 5th, after giving up a run in the second inning (and then the Baystars ran themselves out of it) and then giving up 4 hits into the 5th inning... so when he left it was 4-3 and two runs had just come in on a Hyuma single that took an awkward bounce up the middle, and then runners were at the corners. Masao Kida replaced Yagi, gave up a hit to Noriharu Yamasaki, and that made it 4-4.
Makka pitching to Masaya Ozaki.
Yes, Masao Kida turned 44 a week or two ago and actually IS still playing baseball, he hasn't retired. My friend and I were just talking about that a few days ago.
So then both teams put out a whole bunch of relievers for the next few innings. The Fighters put out Takahiro Matsuka (yay!!! Todai!!) and Ryuji Wakatake (booo!) and Yutaka Ohtsuka (yay!!! Soka!!) and the three of them kept the next 3 innings scoreless. The Baystars put out Atori Ohta (yay!!! Teikyo!!!) and Takehiro Fukuda and Shigeki Ushida (yay Meiji?) and they kept the next 3 innings scoreless.
Then we got Masahiro Inui pitching the 9th. Look, I know Inui is doing very well on the farm even if he hasn't done a lot with the top team yet. And I was a fan of his when he was a sophomore at Toyo University. It's just that ever since I saw Takahiro Fujioka pitch instead of him one fateful day in April 2009, I haven't been able to see Inui as anywhere near as awesome since because Fujioka is just that much better.
So when Inui pretty much immediately gave up a home run to Yuki Takamori (who I am also a big fan of), making it 5-4, I wasn't all that surprised. He hasn't been great whenever I'm watching for quite some time now.
In the 4th inning or so, my friends were all going back to get lottery cards for an end-of-game event. Again, these are the things I think I've been aware of but just had never seen or never had anyone tell me what was going on when they happened. So I went back and got a ticket too, and my friends explained, "At the end of the 8th inning they'll call out 5 or 6 numbers from the 100, and those people get to go on the field at the end of the game and have their photo taken with the game hero, if the Fighters win. If the Fighters don't win, you can still go on the field but you get your photo with Cubby."
Well, get this, it was apparently my doubly-lucky day, since my ticket number ALSO got called.
But at the time the game was tied, so everyone was joking how "you'll get to meet Cubby on the field later!"
Then Takamori hit that home run and they were like "Yeah... have fun with Cubby!"
Lottery ticket for the picture-taking at the end of the game.
So with that in mind, the Fighers came up in their half of the 9th, and of all of the people to pitch for the Baystars, they bring out former Fighter Masanori Hayashi, who gets a flyout from Ozaki, a strikeout from Sekiguchi, and then with a very full count and many foul balls, Yuji Arahari walked. Konta pinch-ran for him, and then, out of absolutely nowhere, Suguru Ichikawa smacked a TRIPLE down the right-field line, scoring Konta and tying the game 5-5. Go Matsumoto hit a pop fly out, but the game was going into extra innings!
Suddenly I had a lot more to write and no room left on my Daily Report form, oops :)
Ryo Sakakibara handled the Baystars in the top of the 10th and then the Stars sent Shintaro Ejiri to the mound for the bottom of the 10th. Everyone loves Ejiri, he was with the Fighters for years, I was a huge fan of his then too, so we're all like "well, we want to win but does Ejiri have to lose?"
Unfortunately, yes, that's how it worked. Murata led off with a double, moved to third on a groundout by Takumi Ohshima (whee!) and they intentionally walked a pinch-hitting Kenji Satoh, to change pitchers to Shoma Satoh. Shoma pitched to Takahiro Imanami, who hit a single up the middle and Murata scored and that was it! 6-5!!
Apparently Imanami's parents were at the game, or at least several people told me that.
Here I am posing with my Daily Report thingy.
And here's my Daily Report. Fortunately, since I was a Junior High School teacher at some point, and had seen this at Kamagaya before too, I was vaguely familiar with what you were supposed to do for them. I decided to go all out and write mine in both Japanese and English, which meant a bunch of people were staring over my shoulder like "OMG YOU CAN WRITE KANJI" and "Wow, you really took good notes today huh?"
So as I mentioned before, I won this lottery thing to go on the field. I went down to the area by the door again and... ran into my friend Tomoko, who had another friend of hers there with her who was a big Imanami fan, and she's like "Deanna, you got a winning ticket? Can my friend go with you? He really wants to meet Imanami. He made this banner and brought it today." What was I supposed to say, no? It's really awkward when people put me in those situations, but since I know I owe a lot to my friends here I generally go along with these kinds of things. You know, like they do a lot of things for me like saving seats or taking photos or trading pinbadges or whatever, we all kind of look out for each other, that's how the whole group dynamic works here in Japan. (Honestly, had it just been someone I actually knew, I would have been absolutely totally fine with it with no reservations whatsoever, but this was some random dude I had never ever seen before who had never spoken to me... and since almost everyone at Kamagaya has spoken to me at SOME point, I felt kind of weird. It would have been a lot better if Tomoko came with us, but she wouldn't for some reason.)
On the other hand, I WAS GOING BACK ON THE FIELD! WHEEE! So I tried not to feel weird about the situation and just went with the other people, back through the clubhouse again, and back onto the field for the second time in a day.
We had to wait for the team meeting to be over first, so a bunch of us just went around the area behind home plate where we were waiting, taking pictures of ourselves with various things:
Tomoko's friend's Imanami banner that he made and brought that day, pretty lucky that Imanami was the game hero, right?
One of the other guys wanted to pose with the sweepermobile and I was like "OMG ME TOO!!!" I tried to figure out how to drive it -- that looks hard, there are like 3 separate brushes on the back.
Anyway, after a while, Imanami came out, we lined up in our 6 groups/pairs, and each group took a photo with him as their group, and then all of us together took a photo with him (and the banner). The only catch is, we weren't allowed to use our own cameras, the Fighters staff take the photo with their camera, and then they'll print out one print for you, that you can pick up at a later game. Well, I won't *be* here for the final games this weekend, or even in Japan that much longer, so I just told the Imanami fan that he could have the photo print since it meant so much to him.
Plus, really, the nice thing was mostly just getting to say hi to Imanami, congratulate him on a good game, shake his hand, you know? The entire experience is worth a lot more to me than the photo -- besides, I actually got a photo with Imanami once before, about four years ago, and I have met him and said hello to him after many games at Kamagaya, and even had him sign my uniform, so it's really not that big a deal to me. Don't get me wrong, I like Imanami and hope he does well with the team someday, but since I'm also a big Haruki Nishikawa fan I'm not sure where Imanami fits in.
So, very very crazy day. I got to go through the Fighters stadium building twice, I got to write a report thingy, I got to talk to someone at Kamagaya in actual English for a change, I got to see a lot of my friends, and then, even crazier, when I got on the bus to Nishi-funabashi afterwards, I ran into two MORE friends of mine from my normal Fighters cheering group, who had been sitting in the back and never came over to say hi, so we rode all the way back to town together.
Unfortunately, when I went to the Tigers-Swallows game that evening, Ryota Imanari wasn't starting for the Tigers as he had been on Tuesday night. Alas. The Swallows beat the crap out of the Tigers and it was an all-around good evening with my Jingu friends too.
I should probably write some more about other games I've been to on this trip -- I wonder if maybe I'll have some time to write about them when I get back to the US instead, and whether I'll remember all the details by then. At least I can post photos, maybe.