Showing posts with label Kisho Kagami. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kisho Kagami. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tokyo Big 6 Spring Camp / Preseason Games

Last spring, Rikkio, Meiji, AND Waseda all did spring camps in the US, representing fully half of the Tokyo Big 6.

This year, now that I'm in the US, NOBODY is coming to the US for spring camp. Go figure.

The official Big 6 site some of the spring information up:

Spring Camps:

Camp Regional Preseason
Rikkio: 3/8 - 3/19: Saito City, Miyazaki 3/1 - 3/8: Tokai Region
Waseda: 2/28 - 3/2: Urasoe City, Okinawa
Keio: 2/28 - 3/15: Ishigaki City, Okinawa 3/15 - 3/21: Tokai Region
Meiji: 2/16 - 2/24: Numazu City, Shizuoka 2/27 - 3/10: Kyushu, Kansai, Tokai  
Hosei: 2/20 - 3/2: Kamogawa City, Chiba 3/2 - 3/4: Kisarazu (Chiba)
Tokyo: 3/9 - 3/20: Miyazaki City, Miyazaki

(The Tokai region is kind of the part of Japan between Osaka and Tokyo, so like, Nagoya and Shizuoka and such.)

And here's the entire Big 6 preseason game schedule, in Japanese. All the games are either at the colleges' home fields or at the opponents' home fields, with the exception of the 3-day industrial league exhibition at Jingu, which appears to be from March 31 (thurs) to April 2nd (sat).

I'm guessing that Opening Weekend is still April 10/11, since only Meiji and Hosei still have preseason games going on until then; they were 3rd and 4th place last fall so they don't have league games until the 2nd week of the season anyway (the opening matchups will be Todai-Waseda and Rikkio-Keio). I still doubt I'll be able to stay in Japan that long during my March trip.

Patrick pointed out that the biannual USA-Japan collegiate match is going to be in North Carolina over July 4, apparently, so I'll hopefully be able to go to a game or two of that, and I'm pretty sure a few of the Big 6 boys will make the national squad (like Meiji's Nomura and Keio's Itoh and hopefully Hosei's Taki), so I'll get to stalk them there.

And speaking of Big 6 players that I used to stalk, here's a funny article about the Baystars ni-gun squad showing up in Okinawa, for their spring camp. Kisho Kagami's mom is from there (from the Tomigusuku area, it seems) and has a bunch of sisters and a whole bunch of her family still live there, so about 11 of his family members showed up at the Naha airport to greet him with signs and t-shirts and all. The Baystars will play against the Carp in July in Naha, so his family hopes he'll be at ichi-gun then and plans to have a big family cheering section for him, an "itoko-kai" (or "Cousin Clan" basically).

As for Kagami, he said, "It was REALLY embarrassing," and laughed, "but I'm glad that my grandparents and family members were so happy. I'll have to do my best because they came to support me [and so they can in the future]."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Craziest Day Ever, or Takayuki Makka Saves The Day

What a day. I'm still having a little trouble believing that it actually happened.

Well, let me start from the beginning.

I woke up at 6:30am on Sunday and went back to Baystars Kyujo, their minor-league and practice stadium, for Rookie Training. It was my last chance to try to meet rookie pitcher Kisho Kagami and ask him to sign the special jersey I'd had made with his name and number on it. I'd be leaving Japan on Tuesday; I'm actually in Seattle as I write up this post.

I'd been told that if I showed up by 10am, it'd be possible to talk to some of the rookies and maybe bug them for a signature. That was patently incorrect. When I arrived at 9:50am, the rookies were nowhere in sight and various other players were jogging on the field. And rather than gathering near the bullpen, as they had been on Thursday, this time the fans were all standing by the outfield wall. One lady comes up to me and says, "Oh! It's you! From the other day! The Kagami fan! You came back!"

I ask her what's going on, and she's like "Oh, you can't talk to the rookies now... but they're going to jog by here in about 10 minutes. You should hold up your uniform and yell good morning to Kagami so he notices you, then maybe you can tag him later."

So we do that. The rookies jog around the field twice, passing us twice. She helps me hold up the jersey and we both yell "Kagami-kun, ganbatte kudasai!" The first time, he looks over with a look that can best be described as "WTF?"

The second time, I hide behind the jersey because I'm embarrassed, but I help yell. Another fan tells me, "He was smiling as he came by this time... the player next to him was also pointing at you as they went by."


Then the rookies all gather together to do rookie practice... as far away from fans as humanly possible. No, seriously. They basically do their workouts in left field. Fans are allowed to stand behind the fence in right field, or be up in the stands behind home plate, or can stand outside the 3rd-base bullpen. That's it. You can't see left field unless you're in the stands or in the outfield, in which case you are VERY far away from the players.

On the other hand, a bunch of Baystars players, almost all pitchers I believe, also gathered... to play soccer! That was really funny. Kenjiro Tanaka set up some orange cones to be goalposts and by the time their game got underway they had around 10 players out there. Atori Ohta, Yataro Sakamoto, Kentaro Takasaki, Daisuke Hayakawa, Kota Kobayashi, Takayuki Shinohara, and one or two others I couldn't figure out who they were.

I realize it's hard to imagine the layout if you haven't been to this stadium before, so here's a (crappy MSpaint) diagram of the Google Maps satellite image:

The blue lines are where fans were allowed to be, outside the right field fence, and along the 3rd-base line (behind fences and netting or up high in bleachers behind home plate). The red square is where the players set up their soccer game, relatively close to us. And the green dots are where the rookies were doing most of their training, in left field. The green lines are the bullpen.

Here's kind of what it looked like from afar -- the rookies doing some weird stretches/jogging warmups by the training building in LF.

Around this time another lady standing there with a camera came up and introduced herself to me -- turns out she's a friend of Kobayashi's and she used to see me at Jingu a lot because she's also a big Kagami fan. Her name's Yuka and I completely do not ever remember meeting her at Jingu, which makes me feel kind of bad. She even gave me a photo that she'd taken of me and Kobayashi from the final Hosei game this past fall. She apparently lives near Toin Gakuen HS and cheers for their baseball players.

So I ended up sticking with her for most of the day. It was her first time at Baystars Kyujo and she liked talking about Kagami, so we got along okay.

Anyway, we watched soccer for like half an hour. It was really funny. Some of the players are clearly better at it than others; Kenjiro Tanaka is really good ("It's because he's from Shizuoka," Yuka said, "Oh right, Tokoha Kikuchikawa?" I replied.) and so was Atori Ohta, but Teikyo HS also has a strong soccer program in addition to baseball. Some players were clearly just kind of playing for fun and/or to keep warm and/or to look cool in front of the fans. There were a few times where we'd all either be yelling "nice goal!!" or "OH MY GOD BE CAREFUL DON'T GET INJURED!!!"

Atori Ohta (from Teikyo).

Kenjiro Tanaka (from Tokoha Kikuchikawa).

Yataro Sakamoto (formerly Yakult and Fighters) joins the fray.

Daisuke Hayakawa (formerly Lotte) making a big kick.

Kota Kobayashi and Kenjiro Tanaka.

Atori Ohta and Kentaro Takasaki.

Akiyoshi "Hossha" Toyoshima... lefty pitcher released by the Fighters this off-season, is now going to be a batting practice pitcher for Yokohama. He's only 21 years old -- infact Sunday was his birthday! So the other young players just acted like he was one of them, basically.

Takayuki Shinohara (from the Hawks) as goalkeeper.

(and a little bit of video I took. Yataro Sakamoto kicks a goal but Atori Ohta makes the save!)

Then there was bullpen time for the rookies! I went over to see Kota Suda (JFE East, but formerly Waseda) and Kagami pitch, throwing to rookie catchers Tsuruoka and Matsushita. Matsushita, I mentioned before in my pre-draft catchers roundup; he went to Kansai Gaidai and supposedly speaks fluent English from having lived in London for several years as a kid.

Kota Suda. The last time I saw him this close up was the fall of 2008, he was wearing a Waseda uniform, and I was still somewhat surprised he wasn't drafted. (Now he joins his classmates Hosoyamada and Keijiro with the Baystars, I guess.)

Kisho Kagami, the entire reason I went to Yokosuka in the first place.

Rookie catchers Ichiro Matsushita and Kenjiro Tsuruoka.

Matsushita supposedly speaks really good English, but of course I wasn't able to get anywhere near him to actually find out... to be fair, I suppose if I was a lot more outgoing and didn't mind having a lot of people staring at me and thinking I was obnoxious, I could have called out to him in the bullpen, but just like with Kagami, it's just really hard to yell out to one player when there's a whole group of 9 of them there and they are ostensibly "working" at their job, and I hate to be a loud obnoxious gaijin since there's such a ridiculous stereotype here.

Just because you're a pro player doesn't mean you get out of smoothing the grounds out afterwards.

Okay, so that was all well and good and exciting and takes us up until around 11:30am... the rookies all disappeared at that point and went indoors, ostensibly to eat lunch, or to get out of the cold for a bit, it's not really clear what.

I went up into the stands to sit with some of the other fans and watch the other players still playing soccer or running around or whatever.

Eventually the older players settle into a game where Daisuke Hayakawa and one of the other guys hit fly balls to the outfield and the other players have to chase down the fly balls. The rookies came back outside a little while later and started doing some more exercising and some throwing in left field again, once more far away from everyone.

Hayakawa hitting a fly ball out.

The rookies finishing up and coming in.

See... around 12:30pm the rookies just headed indoors, never to return. I guess it was just like Thursday. They might have had some indoor training to do or whatever, but they never did come out to talk to the fans or anything, which actually surprised many people -- Saturday was a day off from training and Sunday is one of the few days most normal people have off from work and can come to the stadium to watch training, so a lot of people expected the rookies to come out and talk a little and sign stuff. Apparently they'd done that on the first day of training, on Saturday the 8th or whenever it was.

On the other hand, the non-rookie players were still all running around shagging flies and playing catch and whatnot. They eventually gathered up all their stuff around 1pm, bowed to the fans in the stands, and ran off the field, done training for the day.

I was already starting to freak out a little like " mean practice is over for the day and we had absolutely no chance whatsoever at all to talk to players?"

One fan told me, "Well, you can go wait by the entrance to the stadium and hope some of them come out to go to convenience stores or shopping or whatever... or if you wait by the parking lot you'll sometimes see players coming out to their cars and can call out to them then..."

"I have to be home by 4pm to get a delivery, I can't just stay here all day. Plus it's so cold!" It was seriously around 6 degrees Celsius out (low 40's), which actually wasn't so bad in the sun but was pretty brutal in the shade or when the wind was blowing.

Atori Ohta decided to come out and throw about 30-40 pitches in the bullpen. I like Atori a lot (no, really) so that was at least a nice distraction for a while. He's fun to watch throw, and actually, he kind of resembles Kagami. It's kind of crazy that he's already got 3 years pro experience and is still a year younger than Kagami and this year's college grads, though...

Atori threw for a while and then just basically ended practice and also disappeared inside.

And then a groundskeeper came out and started hosing down the bullpen and taking in the leftover equipment and stuff. Which seemed pretty ominous. Yuka asked him whether practice was over for the day, and he basically said straight out, "They're not going to be coming back out on the field today, no. That's why I'm cleaning up. Sorry. You should probably go home."


That sucked.

One of the other women who was out there by the bullpen was like, "Oh, how terrible for you, it's such a shame that you came all the way out here twice and still couldn't meet Kagami... it's all about timing you know... maybe if you had been able to get his attention when the rookies were still out there... can you come back another day? Or come to spring camp in Okinawa?"

"I can't," I said, feeling pretty hopeless, "I'm going back to the US on Tuesday and I won't be back in Japan until mid-March. I can't even stay much longer today because it takes me almost 2 hours to get home and I have a delivery coming after 4pm."

"Wow, that sucks. What about in March?"

"I'll only be here for a week or two then, and anyway, by March, I'm hoping he'll already with the ichi-gun team. I'm really afraid that basically there's no day but today, for me. I really failed today. Big failure." 大失敗。

And well, I couldn't help it, I started crying. It was really brutally cold and I was already kind of depressed that this would be my last baseball-related thing I was doing in Japan before leaving, not to mention being depressed about leaving Japan in general. (It's such a catch-22. I can't leave, and yet I can't stay.) And I mean, I'd basically wasted 6 hours coming there on Thursday, and another 8 hours today, time that I should have spent packing suitcases, and was really really cold and really really sad, and had absolutely nothing to show for it.

Everyone was telling me "don't cry, don't cry", as we went from the infield bullpen area towards the outfield and to start walking back to the train station. Yuka also had to get home by a certain time so she had already planned on leaving around 1:30-2pm to begin with.

If you look at the map above, I drew a little yellow smiley face near the outfield gate. That's where the next part of this story takes place.

See, practice was over, but we saw a whole bunch of fans still hanging out there by the gate... around two players. I couldn't tell who they were at first, and I was still all red-eyed from crying, so I hung back a little. The two players turned out to be Takayuki Makka and Taketora Anzai, both 2nd-year pitchers, both pretty young, both very tall.

Takayuki Makka.

I listened to them talking for a while. Taketora is very quiet and a little bit shy; Makka was even riding him for not having a girlfriend and for being so uptight around fans. Makka is ridiculously outgoing and funny, he was telling jokes and laughing with fans, and saying how Taketora should be leveraging his uniform number of 48 to get some kind of tie-in with the AKB48 girls since they're so cute. It was almost like watching a manzai comedy duo. Taketora mostly just kind of smiled and nodded and talked a little.

Even though there was a crowd around them, occasionally people would go up and ask for signatures, so once my eyes had dried up some, I got out some of my shikishi (those Japanese autograph boards) and got Makka and Taketora to sign them... as I said to Yuka, "Well, they're not Kagami, but I mean, I came all the way here, I might as well bug some baseball players... y'know?" and she said "Yeah, these two seem like really nice young guys, even if Makka is a bit crazy." And so I said "I wonder if I could get a photo with them? But they seem happy talking to everyone."


Yuka finally asks one of the women gathered around the two players whether it'd be ok to take a photo, so the woman's like "oh, that poor American girl, she didn't get to meet Kagami, right?" So SHE actually asks Makka and Taketora on my behalf if I can take a photo with them, because I'm leaving Japan soon and all. And they say sure, of course.

OMG these two are really TALL. You know that I'm 5'7" or so and that I often end up getting photos with Japanese players who are barely taller than I am!

But, it's right before taking the photo that the craziest thing happens.

I have a little stuffed Fighters BB mascot bear hanging off of my bag, you can even see it in that photo. While I'm lining up to stand with Makka and Taketora, he looks at my bag, sees the Fighters bear, and is like "Oi, what's this? You a Yuki Saitoh fan or something?" 「お~い、これ。斎藤のファン?」

"No!" I say. I pull my Baystars Kagami jersey out of my bag. "I'm a Kisho Kagami fan dammit!"

"Whoa! That's crazy! You had this made?" says Makka.

We take a photo together. I thank them and try to explain, but start stuttering (this happens to me sometimes in Japanese when I'm either very excited about something or very stressed about something, and at this point I was both). Fortunately, pretty much every fan there that day knew my story, because I'd either met them on Thursday, met them that morning, or they'd been like "What the hell is the white girl doing here?" to each other, so it got spread that way. Even earlier that day when I stepped down from the stands at one point, one of the little boys saw me and was first surprised like "Oh!" and then in English, "Hello, Kagami fan!"

So the rest of the fans step in and explain. "She's going back to the US on Tuesday... she was a big Kagami fan when he was at Hosei... she used to cheer for the Baystars a few years ago... she promised to come back and cheer for Hichori later this year since he came from the Fighters... but she got this uniform made right after the uniform numbers were announced so that it'd be ready for rookie training, and she really wanted to meet Kagami and get his signature on it before she goes back to the US... but the rookies haven't been coming out... she came on Thursday too, all the way from the north part of Tokyo, but didn't get to meet him then either... isn't it a shame?"

Makka and Taketora look at each other. Makka says, "Want us to go see if we can get Kagami to sign this for you?"

My jaw drops. "What? Really?"

"Yeah. The rookies should still be doing some kind of indoors training right now, maybe weight training or some other stuff like that. It shouldn't be too hard to bug him for a second."

"You'd really do that? Oh my god thank you."

Taketora takes the uniform and my marker. "Where do you want it signed?"

"Uhh... under the uniform number, I guess? On the back?" I gesture.

He smiles and says something to the effect of "We can't really make any guarantees but we'll see what we can do. Be back soon."

And I'm just about ready to faint. All of the other fans are also like "OMG CAN YOU BELIEVE THEY'RE GOING TO DO THAT?"

So we wait.

About 3-4 minutes later, we see three people walking across the field...

Let me zoom in on that a second:

Makka. Taketora. And KAGAMI!

Yes, Kagami himself actually came out with the uniform to give it back to me. All the fans just went crazy like "OH MY GOD HE ACTUALLY CAME OUT HIMSELF TO DELIVER IT, WHAT AN AMAZINGLY NICE GUY!"

I'm about ready to faint by this point anyway. I'm not sure what the appropriate reaction would have been but he comes out and hands the uniform back to me and kind of nods to me in a gesture I can best describe as "Yes, I remember you. Yes, I appreciate you being crazy enough to get this uniform made, and I know you're a huge fan of mine, but OMG WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" I mean, he didn't seem angry exactly, but I mean, he wasn't smiling either.

So I just bow like "I'm so sorry to bother you like this! Sorry! Thank you so much!" And he's just kind of like "Hey, it's no problem." I said "I'm going back to the US on Tuesday so there was no day but today. I'm really hoping that by the time I'm back in March, you'll be with the ichi-gun team." And he kind of nodded.

A whole bunch of fans then swarmed the fence who ALSO wanted autographs, and formed a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge line.

Bizarrely, a lot of the other fans had been out at Baystars Kyujo fairly often but hadn't had a chance to meet Kagami either. There'd been a short signing time after practice the very first day, but other than that, most of the only time people had really met most of the rookies had been when the fans were standing out there just loitering by the stadium gate and various rookies came out to go shopping or whatever. (Which is really kind of stalkerish.)

So, I felt really bad for causing him trouble and making him come all the way out of the indoor training to stand in the cold and get stuck signing stuff for everyone (and Kagami being the way he is, he stood there and signed for every single person who asked, just like he used to do in college, when his entire team would have already gone home and he'd still be stuck there outside Jingu talking to fans and signing things).

I got him to sign the front of my uniform too (people were like "shouldn't you get it signed there too? And wouldn't it be nice to see him sign something in front of you?" to which I was like "I don't want to be a bother," but Kagami himself was nice enough about it).

But I still felt like crying afterwards. I was happy, but really felt kind of bad and embarrassed for causing such a thing.

I thanked Makka and Taketora profusely and told them they were really awesome. And then Yuka and I walked to the train station.

Another female friend of mine (one of my college ball friends) later basically told me that I should stop feeling so terrible and realize that I did a really great thing for many people.

She said that I did a great thing for Kagami, because I provided an opportunity for him to get to interact with the fans a bit, and because the fans could talk to him a little and get to know him a little, and see what a great guy he was for coming all the way out there to sign something for this crazy gaijin fan, they will become bigger fans of his. (This kind of interaction is really important in Japan, see, and often you'll see players with huge fan followings which have non-Japanese people scratching their head like "Why does such a mediocre player have so many damn fans?" but then you find out that the guy is a really nice dude who's always out running and stretching and training at the stadium even on off-days, and always talks to fans and signs stuff and takes pictures with kids and bows to the field and to the ouendan and is just a Quintessential Good Guy.) So she said that I raised Kagami's value in the eyes of the fans, and maybe even hopefully in the eyes of his coaches, since the Baystars ni-gun manager Shirai is big on the "fan service is important" aspect of being a ballplayer.

She said that I did a good thing for Makka, because now everyone's going to be telling stories about what a great guy he is too. So his value also goes up in the eyes of the fans -- and the fact that now I, and she too, wants to support him for being a Good Guy, also means a lot.

And she said that I also did a good thing for the fans, since a lot of them really DID want to meet Kagami and/or get his signature, but of course none of them on their own were able to call out to him... so I also gave all of them a good eperience as well. And since it was such a long and cold day and a Sunday at that, and half of the universe (no, really, 11000 people) was out at Kamagaya for Yu-Matsuri as they were calling the Fighters rookie unveiling, it meant that we also had a really amazing thing happen at Baystars Kyujo, so I made the day special for a lot of people.

I still feel kind of bad -- I mean, being a gaijin in Japan often has its pluses and minuses. Sometimes crazy things like this will happen, and I don't know whether it happened because I'm a gaijin or it happened just because of the circumstances. So I worry a little about people thinking "Sheesh, he only came out because this crazy gaijin was here," and of course I also worry like "is he embarrassed that he has this crazy gaijin stalking him?"

But whatever. This may be the last time I ever actually meet Kisho Kagami in person. So I should probably be happy that it happened at all, really. "It's always a little sad when they leave Jingu, but they'll always be ours in our hearts," said one of my other friends.

(And it looks like he's changed his signature from the full "Kagami Kisho" he used to write out in college to just a scrawled version of "Kisho", basically.)

And in some ways, isn't this kind of amazing? I dunno, but I'm not sure I could ever imagine this kind of thing happening in the US. The fan-player interaction in Japan is just really cool. I'm already thinking I should get Makka and Taketora some sort of gift while I'm here in Seattle; I figure they're pretty young and still likely to be in ni-gun when I visit in March.

So, that was my crazy Sunday at Baystars Kyujo.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Things I have!

I have a new Baystars jersey!

Well, technically, I got this new Baystars jersey on November 7th, the week after the draft. But now it is in the form that I want it to be:

(If you can't read Japanese, the name is "Kagami Kisho". If you don't know why I spent 3000 yen getting his name and number put on a jersey, you should read back all posts on this blog labelled "Hosei".)

For the record, I got my jersey done at the Sports Authority near where I live in Akabane. I also got my Ryota Imanari jersey done there two years ago. As you can see, the Imanari jersey is signed at the bottom... I need to get that done to the Kagami jersey ASAP too!

As it is, the Baystars site finally put up their information on rookie training at Yokosuka Stadium, and even do say "Please come support us!", so I think I'll go down there later this week. Their off days are the 11th, 15th, 20th, and 25th, if you are thinking of going. (I'm only here until the 18th.)

I'm also thinking of going to try to stalk Tatsuya Ohishi since I couldn't do that for his time at Waseda. The Lions rookie training schedule has them off on the 11th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, and 27th, if you're curious.

I wish I could go stalk Shuhei Fujiya at Lotte Urawa but there just probably won't be time. Maybe in the spring. I know they're training up there, and I even have a friend who wants to stalk Shota Ishimine, but, timing.

I'll be at Kamagaya on the 16th for the unveiling of the new rookies there. I hear it's going to be insane, but my connections (read: Ojisan) should make it possible for me to get in regardless. I'm a little depressed about Saitoh-mania, to be honest... and here I'm just hoping to meet Masaru Saitoh, or Masahiro Inui or Yodai Enoshita or Haruki Nishikawa. It's bizarre, but I saw almost all of the Fighters draft picks play as amateurs.

Anyway.. this post is called "Things I have", so I wanted to mention something else.

I came back from my trip to Kyushu over the weekend, spending about 22-23 hours on local trains over the course of 2 days. I stopped along the way in illustrious places like Fukuyama (where I failed to see Taishi Ota.. no, just kidding) and Wakayama City (where I failed to see Tama the Stationmaster Cat because it turns out she doesn't "work" on Sundays, sheesh) and at the Osaka Dome, where I happened to be there the day after the Buffaloes unveiled their new uniform design.

(I'll post a few more pictures of the Buffaloes store and display soon, if you happen to check back.)

To be honest, the Buffaloes new design was not so intriguing to me, as they only had t-shirts with the logo on it, sweatshirts, towels, and cellphone straps. If they'd had t-shirts with player names/numbers I might have gone for one, either T-Okada or Ohbiki or someone. But, alas.

So instead, I got one of the T-Okada Home Run King foldout thingies they made. This is actually a pretty cool little contraption:

From the outside it almost just looks like an oversized baseball card.

But then you unfold it...

And it is a big series of photos of each of his home runs for the season! Except... you might notice it only goes up to 32... and he had 33 home runs...

...because the back side is a huge poster of home run 33.

Pretty neat, huh?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kagami signs!

We briefly interrupt all of our other unfinished posts in order to announce that 2nd-round draft pick and all-around nice guy Kisho Kagami signed a contract today with the Yokohama Baystars. 12 million yen base salary (which is like $150,000) and 80 million yen signing bonus, which is pretty close to what a 1st-round draft pick gets anyway. Hooray!

Unfortunately they don't seem to have assigned him a uniform number yet. Still waiting on that, though I've got the blank uniform ready to go to the local Sports Authority to have them add some numbers and letters to it. But it's still good -- no, great! -- news!

His comment? "I'm really happy to sign a contract with the Baystars. From next year, I want to fulfill the high value the team has placed on me. My goal is to become another pitcher like Kenta Maeda. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to reach the same levels as the Waseda Big 3, so I'll be working my absolute hardest to reach my potential."

Hmm. Wonder if he'll be appearing at Searex or Baystars fanfest? And whether he'd be surprised to see me if I hunted him down? :)

I haven't had time to translate his extensive interview in the Hosei Nikkan Sports blog on draft day; if anyone actually cares that much, let me know. (My favorite comment is when they point out that he still gets to bat in the CL, and he says "Uh... I think I'll be focusing on pitching first, thanks..." He actually batted really well in Big 6 for a pitcher, BUT if you've ever seen him at the plate it's pretty funny to watch.)

(And here's another interview with him about signing his contract with Yokohama. "What do you think it's like being a fan in Yokohama these days?" "...that's hard to answer. I've been watching since I was a kid (during the 'Machine Gun Offense' days) and so these past 3 years finishing in last place, you could say I'm a little worried...")

Oh, on a really quick other Hosei-related note: I was positive that either Kota Imamura or Naoki Harada were going to be the next captain, but no, the next captain is Masashi Nanba. Harada and Imamura, along with Yusuke Hasegawa, are the vice captains... I'm really surprised, honestly. Nanba is the least captain-like of the four, in terms of personality. (Though maybe I shouldn't be too surprised being as Shuhei Ishikawa was kind of a dumbass too.) And Tomoya Mikami is Kagami's successor as Pitching Leader.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tokyo Big 6, Week 7 Part 1 (and congrats to the Chunichi Dragons!)

It's gonna be a Dragons-Marines Japan Series! Hooray! That is interesting! Though if I do get to go to any games, I'm not sure what I'll do. Probly will wear like, a Marines t-shirt and a Dragons jersey together, or vice versa.

I only saw the last few innings of the final playoff game, though. It was 2-1 when I came in, then Chunichi went up 3-1 on a walked-in run after an intentional walk. Ouch. But then the Giants tied it up off Asao... and then finally, in the bottom of the 9th, a pinch-hitting Ryoji Nakata walked. Morino was up after him, so I was hoping for a Morino MVP Moment where he'd hit a home run. But no, he also walked. So instead, Kazuhiro Wada, Gifu's Giant-Killer (not really), came up and lined a single into left field. "RUN HOME, FAT BOY!" I yelled at my TV as Ryoji Nakata came in and was immediately pounced by the rest of his team as the Dragons won the game. HOORAY.

The reason I didn't see the game, of course, was because I was busy with college ball. Week 7 doesn't actually matter for the standings, so there's a lot of interesting stuff that happens. For example, I saw Yuugo Satoh make his league debut, pitching one inning for Rikkio. He's a lefty pitcher from Seibo Gakuen, in Saitama... and I saw him pitch last summer during the prefectural tournament. So that was exciting. Games like this involve an interesting combo of "let's give some new kids a chance to get out there" with "...let's give our 4th-years a chance to play in one final game", so there were definitely a few pinch-hitters or relief pitchers who were largely "Who?" to me, despite that I've been going to these games for several years now.

The game results were predictable though. Meiji beat Rikkio, and Hosei beat Todai. Though Todai captain Maeda was really giving it his all -- he pitched very well for a few innings until he ran out of steam, even striking out a few guys. Kagami pitched for Hosei and threw 8 innings in what should be his last college game ever; in the "give the 4th-years a chance" vein, Shoya Yamamoto pitched the 9th.

The exciting thing for me was that I got to meet not one but TWO boys who played on Koshien championship teams!

One was 2009 champion Chukyodai Chukyo's Kanji Kawai, now a freshman at Hosei. I was at the Koshien game last summer where he hit a sayonara homer in the 10th inning. So it's only fitting that in this game he also hit a 2-run homer. I didn't really get to talk to him, but after the game I gave him a stack of photos I'd printed of him in the spring, and I did get an autograph and a photo with him:

(That ball he's holding is his home run ball!)

The other was a lot more interesting. In the second game, I was sitting next to a random drunk Hosei alumni guy who wouldn't shut up, so that was kind of annoying, but next to him was a Hosei baseball club guy, and next to that guy was Mishima's girlfriend. An interesting mix, to be sure.

I finally asked the Hosei baseball guy who he was, since I had seen his face but couldn't remember, and it turned out he was Eiji Egashira! From the Saga Kita 2007 Miracle Kids team! He's now a sophomore at Hosei.

I only talked to him a little during the game itself, but afterwards he was outside by himself when I was waiting for players to come out, so I chatted with him for a while then.

I explained that I moved to Japan in 2007 and that his team's Koshien was my first ever, and that I'd actually been cheering for them. And so we got to talking. I asked if he wanted to face Yusuke Nomura again and he said that of course he did -- maybe next year. (Nomura was the losing pitcher when Egashira's school won Koshien.) We talked about his teammates -- I said that I'd seen Ichimaru-kun play for Waseda a bunch, and he said "Dude! How did he do? Were you at the Waseda-Meiji game?" and we looked at my scorebook (to which he was like "SUGOI!") and we saw that Ichimaru did get a hit off Nomura, and he said "I bet he was really happy. Shohei Habu was also on that Koryo team, now those two are teammates." And then he told me about where a bunch of the other kids are from that Saga Kita Miracle Squad. Almost all of the basic 9 are in college -- places like Chuo, Asia, Fukuoka-dai, various others. Egashira himself, he said he came to Hosei because he got a recommendation from his coach, and being in Big 6 was, in his mind, the top of the top, for playing in college.

And he also said "You've only been living here for 3 years? How do you speak Japanese so well?" and I said "...but I don't! I can talk about baseball very well but everything else is so difficult!"

I asked if he'd be playing in the rookie tournament this time around and he said "I injured my shoulder... I can't throw. I've started rehabbing it but the muscles are still messed up." I was like "OMG that sucks I'm so sorry to hear it. I wanted to see you play again!" He said "Thank you so much. Maybe next year?"

Anyway, he was really nice and I really enjoyed talking to him. It was very surreal to be talking to a guy who I watched on TV 3 years ago when he was in high school. He seemed very humble and very down-to-earth, like, sure, he was part of a team that achieved what every baseball-playing kid in Japan aspires to, but, whatever, he was just another random non-active Hosei baseball club member, for the time being.

Aside from that... I got a few other Hosei guys to be in photos with me...

Kazuki Mishima, who said he'll be pitching on Sunday...

Kota Imamura, who is a really nice guy. I gave him some photos too and talked for a while. I have this hunch he'll be the captain next year but can't really explain why.

I also found Ryo Imai and talked to him for a bit about his plans next year; he's not doing anything baseball-related at all but instead is going to try to get into the business of running a live music house, or a bar with open mic, or something. He's always seemed kind of unique so I think it's great he's trying to follow his own dream, and I told him so.

Some of the other guys have companies to play baseball for next year; captain Ohyagi is going to Oji Seishi, I think, and Kento Kameda is going to Mitsubishi, things like that. I also got autographs from Shoya Yamamoto and Fumiya Kitayama and gave them some photos I had of them from earlier on too.

Oh, and of course, I had to go talk to this guy for the last time... and give him some Halloween candies and wish him luck...

I asked him, "Are you nervous about the draft this week?"
He said "Honestly? Yeah, I am."
I said "Ganbatte. No matter where you end up, I will cheer for you."
He said thanks.

I'm really nervous for Kagami too, of course.


Between the first two games of the day I also was on a rampage for signatures, so picked up a bunch of Meiji guys; Ikenaga, Araki, Kawabe, and Shashiki. Only got one Rikkio guy, but it was a good one, Keisuke Okazaki.

And I got a photo with Shogo Shashiki! I was very happy about that. He's very nice in person, I'd never really talked to him much before beyond simply aisatsu, but always had this image of him being a tough-guy type since he was a year ahead of Sho Nakata at Osaka Toin. Instead, he turned out to be very sweet.

So, that was very cool. And I still have tomorrow to stalk more Meiji and Rikkio guys. Hooray!

I should add that the funniest of the Meiji guys was Shuhei Ikenaga -- I noticed him a year or two ago, he wears glasses and is a catcher, so of course my image is of him being cool like Furuta. And every time I've seen Ikenaga, even just as a bullpen catcher, he's always got a big smile on his face and is being cheerful and encouraging to the guys he's catching for. But trying to tell people that my favorite player on the team is a bullpen catcher is always kind of embarrassing. I'd never approached him before, so when I asked him for a signature he was like "...WTF? You want MY autograph?" and I said "YES! I think catchers who wear glasses are really cool!" He laughed. I told him I had two photos, please sign one and I'll give you the other, and he was like "seriously? you're awesome! thanks so much!" I'm glad to know that my perception of him was pretty close to the reality. Wish I'd gotten a photo with him, but the time between games is a little more frantic for the players trying to get to the team bus.

And for the record, Kazuki Nishijima was giving off a total "Do NOT come near me" aura as he RAN for the bus. So I didn't. Grr. Yusuke Nomura, on the other hand, bothered to say "My arm hurts, I'll sign stuff tomorrow, I promise."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Short Takes, Wednesday Morning Edition


The Fighters played their last game of the year last night at the Kyocera Dome, and they won 4-0. I spent an hour trying to get Yahoo to accept my money in exchange for letting me watch the game over their internet feed, to no avail, and had broadcasts of every OTHER game except the Fighters, so instead of watching the game, I slept for 10 hours last night.

This win puts them into 3rd place with a W/L/T record of 74-67-3 and a .525 win percentage. Softbank and Seibu are now pretty much set in 1st and 2nd place, so it's just a matter of who takes 3rd -- the Fighters or the Marines?

The Marines have pretty much run out of steam, and right now are in 4th place with a 73-67-2 record... and 2 games left to play, both against 5th-place Orix. They beat 6th-place Rakuten last night. If the Marines win both of their last 2 games, they will edge out the Fighters for 3rd place at 75-67-2 and a .528 WP%. If they win one and lose one, they will finish in 4th. If they win one and tie one, the two teams will be in a dead tie. I am not sure what happens in that case -- a one-game playoff, perhaps?

Either way, over the last few days, my Fighters friends have started the email chain for "Who's coming to Seibu for the playoffs if we make it?" and seeing how many Seibu Fan Club members we have among us to secure tickets.

Big 6

You may be wondering where my Big 6 Week 3 roundup is. Well, guess what -- Week 3 isn't OVER yet. Waseda beat Meiji in 2 games, but after Keio beat Rikkio in the first game, they tied their second game on Sunday 0-0 (in 9 innings due to the pro game in the evening, with both Koji Fukutani and Masato Komuro refusing to budge), and were rained out on Monday, and then tied their THIRD game on Tuesday 4-4 (in 12 innings due to league regulations, with homeruns from both Hayata Itoh and Soichiro Tanaka), so now they are set to play their FOURTH game today. And get this, if Rikkio wins or if they tie again, they will go to a FIFTH game on Thursday. What I'm wondering is, who's going to pitch today? Daisuke and Fukutani both pitched 6 innings yesterday for Keio, and Okabe and Komuro both pitched several innings for Rikkio.

I feel sort of bad for the Tohto League, who gets pushed aside by all this, especially because their first game this week is Toyo-Aoyama, which should be a fantastic pitching duel between Takahiro Fujioka and Yuto Fukushima. Alas.

(EDIT> The answer to "Who will pitch?" was apparently Akihiro Hakumura for Keio and Hayato Saitoh for Rikkio. But Hakumura got knocked out after like 2 innings.)


Also, if you are in the Tokyo general area and are interested in the 2010 draft, you have one more day to enter the lottery for fans attending the draft.

I have been closely monitoring the college players who registered to enter the draft and today finally saw the first Big 6 guy to show up on the list -- Kisho Kagami! Hooray! I expect a few more guys to show up out of the Big 6 and Tohto leagues, but I'm not sure when their deadline is to notify the league is. I think the only other big-name college player listed so far is Yudai Ohno from Bukkyo University.

The high school players who registered list is a lot longer right now, and a lot more diverse. I know that they have until Oct 14th to notify the league. The only players on there so far that I've seen play in person (at a glance, there are probably others) are Shutoku's Taiki Mitsumata, Teikyo's Yasuaki Yamasaki, and Chiben Wakayama's Haruki Nishikawa, but I expect that some more Kanto-area players will show up soon. Narita's Ryo Nakagawa and Kojo's Justin Nakano are also registered for the draft.

I'm more nervous about this year's draft than I have been in the past, that's for sure -- probably because I am so much more emotionally invested in the college players more than anything else.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tokyo Big 6, Week 2: Kagami Is Awesome And Some Other Guys Played Baseball Too

This is a massive post detailing the entirety of Week 2. I was only at one out of the five games, but was doing my best to follow the games all weekend...

Day 1, Game 1: Todai vs. Meiji - The Freshman Continues To Be Fresh

Meiji 5, Todai 2

Unfortunately, I had to work on Saturday morning, so I missed the first game. 3rd-year ace Yusuke Nomura started for Meiji, and freshman apparently-new-ace Shota Suzuki started for Todai. I've talked about Nomura extensively on here; he came within 2 innings of winning Koshien 2007 with Koryo HS, was already a regular starting pitcher as a freshman at Meiji, and in his sophomore year became the anchor of their rotation. Suzuki, I just saw him for the first time last week, but he doesn't entirely suck, and has a lot of guts for a freshman. Also, apparently, they had him wearing #18 this time (not the #11 he wore opening weekend nor the #34 that he's listed with in the player book).

My friends that attended the first game were glowing about Suzuki during the second game, like "Tokyo really tried their best in that game, and it was a 1-0 score for the first 6 innings while Yusuke and Suzuki were pitching against each other!" Of course, Todai's offense is still fairly unlikely to get much off of Nomura when he's on, and he struck out 10 of them over those first 6 innings, only giving up 3 hits. It sounds like Suzuki came out of the game due to the manager worrying about his stamina more than anything else, which may actually be a good sign that they aren't going to kill him before he even turns 20 years old.

Naturally after Suzuki came out, Meiji scored 4 runs (only 2 earned) in the top of the 7th to make it 5-0. But it took 5 Meiji pitchers to get through the last 3 innings, and of them, only Gota Nanba had actually logged significant innings in league games before; Mizuno and Mochizuki were making their league debuts, freshman Sekiya pitched one game in the spring, and Shogo Shibata pitched once at Jingu back in spring 2009. So, Todai managed to get 2 runs off those guys, but still not really come anywhere close to winning.

Day 1, Game 2: Hosei vs. Rikkio - Hosei's Offense Shows Up, and Kagami Changes Up

Hosei 6, Rikkio 2

I got to Jingu just in time for the start of the second game. A friend of mine left me a free ticket with the Hosei cheerleading girls, so after a little bit of confusion finding the person with the ticket, I came in and sat with the Hosei ouendan for the first 7 innings of the game (which is why I have no photos; you're not allowed to take photos in the ouendan area and I didn't bring my big camera anyway). I spent the last 2 innings in the front row with my usual group of friends, and by dumb luck ended up meeting a guy who was the Hosei ouendan leader in 1959.

Anyway, this is, infact, the only photo I took while sitting in the ouendan area, because the cheer girls in front of me weren't looking:

Kenya Okabe started for Rikkio, and Kisho Kagami started for Hosei (he is the reason I spend every Saturday at Jingu).

I was super-worried that the actual problem would be no run support for Kagami, being as Hosei's offense has been HORRIBLE this year, but in the 2nd inning, the Hosei batters Kyosuke Narita, Shohei Doi, Kota Imamura, and captain Seiya Ohyagi hit 4 consecutive singles to bring in a run. 1-0. (It's like the Kansas City Royals joke from a few years back of "Four hits equals a run!", but worse). With the bases still loaded, Kagami himself hit a sac fly and brought in Doi; 2-0.

Rikkio's Yuki Maeda hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 3rd to make it 2-1. I hate to say this, but Kagami's biggest weakness is that he always seems to give up one home run per game.

But in this game it was irrelevant as Hosei added 4 more runs in the top of the 4th. Shohei Doi led off with a single, and stole second two batters later as Seiya Ohyagi struck out. So with two outs, Kagami came to the plate, and singled to center, bringing in Doi! 3-1. Yusuke Hasegawa was hit by a pitch after that, on his left side, and then Kento Tatebe slammed this ball to centerfield, all the way back to the wall, and by the time the Rikkio outfielders recovered it, Tatebe was standing on 3rd base for a triple and Hasegawa and Kagami had scored. 5-1.

Rikkio changed pitchers from Okabe to former ace Masahito Nihira after that... and Kanji Kawai followed it up with a single to bring in Tatebe. 6-1. Taki grounded out after that.

Rikkio's next pitcher was a freshman named Yuho Yabe ("Yabe!" being a male-speech phrase that is generally uttered to mean "Oh crap!"), who made one appearance in the spring, gave up 4 runs to Waseda in less than an inning, and was never heard from again. This time he fared much better, going 3 scoreless innings, striking out 4, and only walking 3. Hayato Saitoh (the pitcher, 斎藤隼, not to be confused with the outfielder, 西藤勇人, who batted 2nd and played right field in this game) finished out the last inning for Rikkio.

In the meantime, Rikkio managed another run in the 6th when Koichiro Matsumoto led off with a single, moved up on a groundout, and scored on a single by Keisuke Okazaki, which is what made it 6-2 -- and that would be the final score:

Kisho Kagami was, of course, the game hero, being as he pitched a complete-game win over Rikkio on 132 pitches, striking out 8... AND he also batted in two runs!

Since I could see but couldn't hear his real interview, here I'll translate his interview on the Nikkan Sports Hosei Blog:

- Let's look back at today's game.
It's good to win on a Saturday one way or another.

- You pitched a complete game win...
Well, because a starter should always be aiming for a complete game shutout, that was good. With that in mind, you try to pitch each inning without giving up hits.

- What's your impression of Rikkio's lineup?
There are a lot of power batters. So I was trying to be careful because a bunch of those guys can knock one out of the park at any moment... and one guy unfortunately did.

- Which batters were you most cautious of?
Koichiro Matsumoto, Soichiro Tanaka, and Keisuke Okazaki.

- What was your best pitch today?
My changeup.

- You also had a few RBIs as a batter...
It was after I gave up a run, so I was happy that I could get us back one or two runs on my own too.

- How are you looking ahead to your next start?
It could be tomorrow or the next day but I'll be ready whenever!

Now see, there was a Yakult-Chunichi game at Jingu in the evening, which I wasn't attending (quite frankly, after getting up at 6:30am for work, and then doing that plus 7 innings of yelling and clapping with the Hosei ouendan, I was completely zonked). But it meant that Jingu was really crowded outside after the game with people arriving for the pro game, as well as the college game fans filtering out as well.

Still, my friends and I waited for the players to come out, and they still did schmooze with people a bit.

I had some new photos from opening weekend that I wanted to get signed (most of the ones from this post). I got new autographs from Taki and Mishima (Taki with his new uniform number, and Mishima actually changed his signature!) since I know them well enough to bother them. I also tagged Kyosuke Narita and Ryoto Yoshikoshi, who were both like " want ME to sign something...? Really?" I was asked if I had photos of Kitayama the sidearmer and Shoya Yamamoto the senior lefty, but I hadn't printed those. Whoops. (They actually wanted to see; apparently my camera has a reputation among Hosei pitchers now.)

I also chatted up Kota Imamura and Naoki Harada for information on some current/former teammates, because we've been wondering what happened to former student coach Naoki Satoh (sounds like he's busy trying to graduate and start a job next year) and to former outfielder Shingo Kamegai, now with Toyota, who apparently broke his arm while in practice during the Toshitaiko. Whoops.)

And... having not actually heard any of Kagami's interviews, and not realizing he'd actually been saying his changeup was working for him recently and all, I went up to Kagami with this photo in hand, and said, "Because your changeup has been so awesome, can I get you to sign a photo of you throwing a changeup?" He laughed and said thanks, said it was a nice photo, and signed it.

Unfortunately after that I tried to actually ask him about some other stuff and he suddenly pretty much just excused himself and ran off. I don't really know if it was that he didn't want to talk to me, or what. I was a little freaked out at the time, wondering if I annoyed him, but I've been trying to remind myself that first, it was CROWDED out there, and second, he is very much in demand these days being as he's a likely high draft pick next month, and probably doesn't have time to just chat. One of my friends said to me, "I saw you get him to sign something and you must have said something really nice because he had a huge smile on his face... I don't think he's angry at you. I bet he's just busy."

If only I hadn't been terrified to talk to college ball players two years ago when I adored him and he was just some lanky sophomore kid who was striking out Waseda batters left and right. These days I have a lot more confidence in my ability to not sound like a complete moron in Japanese, at least. I'm not sure people realize how much nerve it takes me to go up to these baseball players and talk to them.

Day 2, Game 1: Rikkio vs. Hosei - Sophomore Deathmatch Ends in a Tie

Rikkio 1, Hosei 1

I wasn't at Day 2 at all, because I was at Olympic Stadium in Nagano watching the Shinano Grandserows beat the Niigata Albirex instead.

Sophomore righty Kazuki Mishima did get the start for Hosei after all (he'd mentioned it was a possibility on Saturday, that it would be either him or Mikami). Rikkio's starting pitcher was sophomore lefty Masato Komuro.

And it ended up being a pitcher's duel, basically. Mishima pitched 8 innings, striking out 8 and only giving up one run, a solo home run to Ryuichi Maeda, and giving up 5 hits total. But Komuro did even better, giving up exactly one hit and one walk in 7 innings. And they were both to Shohei Doi.

The scoring went as such: Maeda's homerun made it 1-0 in the 2nd inning. In the 5th inning, Doi led off with that walk. Sasaki grounded into a fielder's choice but both runners were safe as Doi reached second. Matsumoto then bunted up the runners, and captain Seiya Ohyagi hit a sac fly to centerfield that scored Doi, 1-1. And that is it. Literally.

Actually, Rikkio's Kazuki Utsui pitched the last 2 innings, and he walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th but then struck out Doi and Sasaki to end the game in a tie after 9 innings according to league regulations; the rules of the Tokyo Big 6 League are such that on a game day where Yakult is using Jingu in the evening, the morning game starts at 10:30 and games end in 9 innings regardless of whether they're tied.

(According to Wikipedia, the tie rules for normal days without pro games afterwards are such that a game is called a tie in 12 innings if it's the 1st or 2nd game in a series, but at the 3rd game and later, it won't be called a tie until 15 innings. Which explains travesties like this.)

So the Hosei-Rikkio series would go on to a 3rd game on Monday.

Day 2, Game 2: Meiji vs. Todai, More of the Same

Meiji 7, Todai 2

One of my friends who is a Meiji fan actually texted me the game events as they progressed, so I was following this one slightly more closely. Tokyo captain Yoshihiro Maeda started for them, and tall lefty vaguely-draft-hopeful Kazuki Nishijima started for Meiji.

Things sailed along at 0-0 until the Tokyo infield fell apart in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Katsuya Kawashima led off for Meiji with a walk, and Uemoto bunted him up to second. Masataka Nakamura grounded to third, but third baseman Yamamoto booted the ball and so both runners were safe. Yajima hit a pop out, and then Sho Nishi came to the plate and launched a 3-run homer that put Meiji ahead 3-0. Fumiya Araki then got on base via another error, this time by shortstop Iwasaki, but the inning ended when Abe hit a pop fly out to first.

In the meantime, Nishijima sailed through the first 4 innings perfectly, and gave up one hit in the top of the 5th to Iwasaki that was immediately erased on a double play.

However, in the top of the 6th, Shota Utsumi led off for Tokyo with an infield single to short, and one out later, pitcher Yoshihiro Maeda followed that with a single to left. Hiromasa Horiguchi also hit an infield single and that loaded the bases for Takashi Kihara, who grounded out to second base, Utsumi scoring on the play. 3-1.

Meiji took back a point in the bottom of the 6th; Kenji Kawabe led off with a double to left, Nishijima bunted him up, and then Kawashima hit a double to center to score Kawabe, 4-1. Maeda came out of the game at this point and Todai's freshman sidearmer Shunsuke Kimura took over and got through the next two innings unscathed.

Gosuke Hiraizumi would not have the same luck, and Meiji hit him up for 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th to make it 7-1, on an RBI double by Yuma Miyatake and a 2-RBI double by Masataka Nakamura.

It took Meiji 3 pitchers to get through the top of the 9th (Morita, Serizawa, and Oka) and Tokyo managed to get one run off of them, on an RBI double by Atsushi Tanaka. The game ended at 7-2.

Meiji took the series point for this as expected, and Todai still has no wins to their name, but aside from the slaughter during the very first game on Opening Day, they have actually been putting up a relatively good fight.

Day 3: Hosei vs. Rikkio, Kagami Leads The Way Again

Hosei 2, Rikkio 1

I wasn't at this game either because I was at the Kamagaya Festival watching the Fighters ni-gun beat the Swallows ni-gun. It was a pretty difficult decision for me, but Kamagaya would most likely be the last Fighters event for me in 2010 (It'd be nice if they made the playoffs, but I don't want to get my hopes up too much). Plus, I sat in the front row at Kamagaya with Ojisan, who happens to be a Hosei alum, so during the Fighters ni-gun game, he kept checking the Fighters ichi-gun game score and telling me, and I kept checking the Hosei-Rikkio game score and telling him.

Hosei's Kisho Kagami and Rikkio's Kenya Okabe were the starting pitchers for this game again, just like Saturday. Hosei got a run off Okabe right away when leadoff man Nakao doubled, Nanba followed it with a single to put runners at the corners, and Tatebe hit a sac fly to left to bring in Nakao, 1-0. Taki also got a hit, but Narita grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Hayato Saitoh (西藤勇人) hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 3rd to make it 1-1. It worries me that Kagami gives up one home run pretty much every game.

On the other hand, Kagami actually HIT A HOME RUN HIMSELF to lead off the 7th inning and make it a 2-1 game. I nearly dropped my phone when I read that update! (The home run was off Masato Komuro, for the record.)

So yeah, he not only pitched ANOTHER complete-game win, he also hit the game-winning home run. How cool is that?

His interview on the Nikkan Sports blog this time is a little more sparse, but they have a picture of him receiving his home run ball, at least...

- Let's look back on today's game.
It's great that we won the series point!

- How was your condition today?
Relatively good.

- What was your best pitch today?
My fastball.

- Which Rikkio batters were you most cautious of?
Matsumoto, Tanaka, Okazaki.

- In the 8th inning, Hayato Saitoh, who'd hit the earlier home run, came up to bat with runners on and a very good chance to tie up the game. How did you feel when you pitched to him?
I absolutely did not want to give up a run at that time, so I had to really give it my all, I thought.

- Your fastball was clocked at a personal best of 153 km/h, how does that feel?
Honestly, I feel happy.

- How are you looking forward to your next start?
I want to win another series no matter what it takes!

And that's how Hosei managed to get their first Series Point of the season.

I want to point out something that's somewhat frightening, and that would be the league pitching stats for this semester so far. We're only two weeks in, but Kagami's already had 4 starts and pitched 3 complete games -- his 31 innings and 3 wins is already more than some guys had all SEASON in the spring. And he's also pretty much putting up the exact same rates he did last semester -- walking 5% of the batters he faces, striking out 20%. I just hope his home run rates go down from here on in. (That is, home runs given up. I wouldn't mind getting to see him hit another one in person someday!)

But last fall, when the draft was looming, Kazuhito Futagami went from being Hosei's Saturday-Monday pitcher to being the Sunday-only pitcher. I kind of hoped/expected they would do that for Kagami this year too, but apparently not. I wonder whose choice it was in both cases...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Big 6 Opening Weekend, Day 1

Game 1: Reigning champion Keio University COMPLETELY CRUSHES Tokyo University and nobody is surprised:

Actually, Todai was holding its own for the first 3 innings behind the reasonable-but-not-spectacular pitching of their captain Yoshihiro Maeda. Then he came out of the game and BLAM the floodgates opened. But they even loaded the bases against Keio's starter Daisuke Takeuchi, in the 3rd inning... but once they were losing, they stopped trying to fight at all, it seemed.

The highlight of this game was that I got to see the college debut of Akihiro Hakumura!

Hakumura, if you haven't heard of him, is a freshman at Keio currently. When he was in high school he was clocked throwing 147 km/h, which is around 91-92 mph, and he's HUGE, like 187cm tall, which is around 6'3". A ton of teams were scouting him in high school, but he said "Nah, not now, I'm going to Keio University", which was a pretty big deal when he announced it.

Well, he hit the 150's on the Jingu radar gun, which is notoriously a few km/h fast... and he also struck out 5 of the 6 batters he faced. Though, they're all Todai batters, so it will be interesting to see what he can do against a real team later on in the semester.

Still, that was pretty exciting.

Game 2: Kisho Kagami, Hosei's ace pitcher, and noted Waseda-killer, pitches a complete-game win against Waseda.

Of course, the news display on the subway later just says "Yuki Saitoh loses his first game of the semester". Thank you, Japanese mass media.

I was sitting in the front row of the Hosei side, so of course this game was pretty awesome for me. And of course, HE was pitching right in front of me between innings...

Also, something I noticed in this game was that Kagami TOTALLY had his changeup working. He's had some games in the past where he tries to fool batters and instead ends up walking them, so here's a photo of our hero throwing a changeup:

As for what happened, most of the offense was led by our OTHER hero, sophomore shortstop Hiroshi Taki, who is also a pile of awesome. (I've noticed that a lot of my Hosei win stories involve Kagami and Taki, come to think of it.)

Taki hit the first Big 6 home run of the year in the second inning off Yuki Saitoh. 1-0. It was also Taki's first home run during college! So that was very exciting to see, and when I saw him after the game I said "congrats on your first college home run! It's even better that you got it off Saitoh!" and he burst into a huge grin, which is pretty rare for Taki, he's a fairly reserved guy.

Hosei got 3 more runs off Saitoh in the 4th inning, starting with Kanji Kawai walking, Taki singling again to move Kawai to 3rd, and Shohei Doi singling to bring in Kawai, 2-0. Tatebe sac bunted Taki and Doi to second and third, and then Kota Imamura hit a grounder to second. Waseda's Koji Udaka charged the ball and threw home, but Taki had a great jump on the play and managed to score to make it 3-0, and Imamura was also safe. Captain Seiya Ohyagi then singled to right, and that brought in Doi to make it 4-0.

Taki running home around the tag from Waseda's Daisuke Ichimaru. Actually, you may remember Ichimaru if you watched Koshien 2007, as he was the catcher for the championship Saga Kita miracle team.

In the bottom of the 4th, Waseda's first baseman Shota Sugiyama slammed a 2-run homerun to dead center. It barely barely cleared the wall and didn't even clear the yellow fence, but that made it 4-2.

Fortunately that's all they'd get. Kagami threw a complete game, striking out 9. He's awesome. Can we just draft him now and get it over with?

Saitoh lost the game and only threw 5 innings at that; lefty Kensuke Ohno threw two innings and then Tatsuya Ohishi finished out the last 2 innings, striking out 2, but only hitting 149ish on the Jingu gun. There were a ridiculous number of people in the camera well on the 3rd-base side, and every time Saitoh or Ohishi threw a pitch you could hear the click-click-click-click-clicks. It was actually somewhat frightening.

I still like Ohishi but being that I'm kind of anti-Waseda these days, I'm not quite outwardly as big a fangirl as I used to be. ESPECIALLY not when he's pitching against Hosei.

After the game I went and talked to a bunch of the Hosei guys; got Mikami and Imamura to sign photos, chatted with Mishima for a while, and congratulated Taki. Naturally, Kagami was completely and totally swamped with fans and reporters so I couldn't really get near him, but on his way out I shouted an otsukaresama at him and said he pitched a great game and good luck this semester, and he was in a hurry but stopped for a second to bow and smile and say thanks. He's a pretty nice guy. And a damned good pitcher.

And then in the evening, two of my friends had invited two Meiji University players out to dinner, Kumabe and Ueda, and also invited me along. Ueda's birthday was Thursday so this was apparently a birthday dinner for him. It was really interesting to talk to those guys; I learned a lot of things I can't really repeat here. Though one thing I can tell you is... remember a few months ago I mentioned that the Meiji team has a cat named Tama? In their blog they wrote that Tama is technically a 3rd-year member of the team, so the underclassmen are supposed to speak to the cat using formal speech. Well, Ueda confirmed to me that it was a total joke, and infact the cat doesn't like guys much and is a lot nicer to girls. And that being mean to the cat is considered tantamount to "bullying" a team member.

It was a pretty bizarre day all around.

And hopefully I'll repeat it on Sunday! Whee!