Thursday, January 31, 2008

Happy Hichori Morimoto Day!

(I did this last year too, so why not?)

It's Hichori Morimoto's 27th birthday today!

As you know, Hichori is one of my favorite players in the entire world. He's a crazy good baseball player and a crazy funny person in general. Like his predecessor in the Fighters centerfield spot Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Hichori has a goal of making people laugh and enjoy baseball, whether it's fans, teammates, or whoever.

Sadly, unlike last year when lots of Hichori-isms were showing up in the press, this year's highschool slugger boy Nakata Sho is completely dominating the Fighters media (and you have no idea how annoying it's getting), so I'm not entirely sure exactly what Hichori is up to, although he was apparently spotted in Hawaii taking batting practice a few weeks ago, hanging out with Shinjo. Cool.

So, instead of rounding up a "What's up with Hichori" for Hichori day this year, I'm going to translate his Wikipedia page into English! Yay!

(I'm leaving the Japanese in this post for now because I'm sure I'll want to tweak my translation in the future and it's easier to do it this way than to keep looking back and forth)

森本 稀哲(もりもと ひちょり、1981年1月31日 - )は、東京都荒川区出身のプロ野球選手。ポジションは外野手で、主に中堅手。北海道日本ハムファイターズ所属。真面目でとにかく明るい性格とスキンヘッドが特徴。イメージカラーは緑。

Hichori Morimoto (1/31/1981 -) is a pro baseball player from the Arakawa area of Tokyo. He is an outfielder for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, primarily playing center field. He has a bright and interesting personality and is known for having a shaven head. His associated color is green.



His father is a resident (zainichi) Korean and his mother is Japanese. They run a yakiniku restaurant called "Erika" in the Nippori neighborhood of Tokyo where Hichori grew up.

When he was in elementary school, suddenly all of his hair fell out due to an unknown disease. He has gotten better from the disease now, but in order to remember those times and also in honor of other people who have illnesses that cause hair to fall out, he shaves his head every day.


In 1998, Hichori was captain and shortstop for Teikyo High School's baseball team, which played in the Summer Koshien tournament. In the third round of the tournament, playing against Shimane Prefecture's Hamada High School, their team was down 2-0 in the 8th inning, and Hichori hit a 2-run homer off of Tsuyoshi Wada to tie the game (though Hamada went on to win the game anyway). Hichori hit 34 home runs total during his high school career, and was drafted by the Fighters in the fourth round of the 1998 draft, and they converted him to an outfielder.


He made his debut at the top team level in 2000, but it wasn't until 2005 that he really improved enough to stick around and play in over 100 games.


2006 -
- At the end of April he established himself as the leadoff hitter and regular left fielder. He led the Pacific League that year in runs scored, and along with his teammates Atsunori Inaba (RF) and Tsuyoshi Shinjo (CF), won an all-Fighters Golden Glove outfield. 2006 also was Hichori's first time being elected to play in the All-Star game.


2007 -
- Hichori inherited uniform number #1 from the recently-retired Tsuyoshi Shinjo. He batted leadoff and played in every single inning of every single game for the Fighters (ed. note: this is not strictly true -- he DH'ed in one game, the "dare aitsu" game of September 30, but it's true he never missed a game or an at-bat), and batted .300 for the first time. His 24-game hitting streak was tied for the 6th best in Pacific League history and tied for the team best with Hiroshi Oshita.


- He also led the Golden Glove voting for the second year in a row, made the Best Nine team for the first time, and led all of NPB outfielders in assists with 15. (ed. note: No joke. The next highest were 10 from Yokohama's Kinjoh and Rakuten's Teppei.)


He is still close friends with former teammate and fellow 1998 draftee Kazunari Sanematsu (now with the Giants -- and thank god for that). Also, he feels like a younger brother to Shinjo, who gave him the uniform number #1 and named him as his "successor".

Uniform numbers
- 53 (in 1999)
- 46 (2000-2006)
- 1 (2007-)

Titles / Awards / Records

- Golden Glove, 2006 & 2007
- Best Nine - 2007, OF

- All-star game voting (2 times, 2006 / 2007)
- All-star game "new player award" - 2006
- All-star game MVP - 2007
- Japan Series MVP - 2006

- Every inning of every game - 2007
- 24-game hitting streak - tied for 6th in PL history, tied for top of Fighters team history
- 2 leadoff home runs in consecutive games (4/25/06, 4/26/06 vs. Seibu), the 11th person to do so
- Stole home during an All-Star game, the 3rd person to ever do so
- 6 hits in a game (9/17/2006 against Chiba), tying a league record

- Debut game: 8/2/2000, against Seibu at the Seibu dome, came in as a pinch-hitter in the 10th inning, struck out against Shinji Mori
- First starting lineup appearance: 8/10/2000, against Kintetsu at the Osaka Dome, batting first, playing left field
- First hit: same game (8/10/2000), in the third inning off Narciso Elvira
- First home run: same game, 9th inning, off Shinji Udaka
- First RBI: same game, it was that home run
- First stolen base: 7/18/2001, against Seibu at the Tokyo Dome -- in the 2nd inning, pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, catcher Tsutomu Itoh

- His father named him "Hee-chol" in Korean, and then they made the kanji for "Hichori" in Japanese.

- 入団当時「ひろより」と振り仮名を振ってあった名鑑もあった。また、「稀哲」を「秘哲」と誤植していた名鑑もあった。
- When he first joined the team they misprinted the kanji for his name, thinking it was "Hiroyori".

- 小学生時代に、当時好きだったクラスメイトの女子から「(ドラゴンボールの)ピッコロみたい」と言われた事がある。
- "He looks like Piccolo (from Dragonball Z)!" said female classmates of his in elementary school.

- 高校時代、登校日にはいつも両親手製の焼肉弁当(肉・タレは店で使うものと同じ)を持参し、他の野球部員と交換していた。仲間に焼肉弁当を堪能してもらおうという計らいによる。
- During high school, his parents always made him a yakiniku bento for lunch, which he would bring to school and trade/share with his other baseball teammates. Everyone liked this arrangement :)

- 2006年10月12日のパ・リーグプレーオフ第2ステージ・対福岡ソフトバンクホークス2回戦の9回裏、内野で送球が逸れた際に二塁からホームインし、サヨナラ勝利でリーグ優勝を決めた。優勝の瞬間については「何が何だか分からなかったが、稲葉さんを見たら『喜びを通り越した怖い顔』をしていたので、優勝したことに気付いた」と語っている。
- On 10/12/2006, during the second game of the Pacific League Second Stage playoffs, in the 9th inning, he ran home from second base to score the deciding (and only) run of the game, which won the league championship for the Fighters. He said of that moment, "With all that happened, I best remember seeing Inaba's face, which was of such complete joy that I realized we were the champions."

- 森本には専用の応援歌があるが、2006年のアジアシリーズ決勝戦(11月12日)の第4打席ではファンから後継者という期待を込め、新庄の応援歌の替え歌が演奏された(歌詞中の「メジャー」を「鎌ケ谷」、「新庄」を「稀哲」としていた)。
- During the final game of the 2006 Asia Series, fans sang a parody of Shinjo's player cheer song to cheer for Hichori, replacing the words "Major" with "Kamagaya" and "Shinjo" with "Hichori".

- 2006年11月18日、長袖を千葉県鎌ケ谷市・ファイターズスタジアムに送ってしまったため。札幌市で行われた優勝パレードに半袖のユニフォーム姿で登場した。
- Hichori's long sleeves were supposedly left in Fighters Town Kamagaya and thus he wore short sleeves for the Fighters victory parade in Sapporo on 11/18/2006.

- 2007年3月18日、北海道新幹線大使に任命。
- On 3/18/2007, he was an ambassador for the Hokkaido Shinkansen project.

- 2007年シーズンから、新庄の後を継ぐかのようにタイムリーヒット及び本塁打に「○○ヒッツ!」「○○ホームラン!」と命名している。
- From the 2007 season onwards, he took up Shinjo's gimmick of naming his RBI hits and home runs "so-and-so hit" and "so-and-so home run".

- 2004年9月20日、試合前練習に他の外野手4人(SHINJO、島田一輝、石本努、坪井智哉)とともに『秘密戦隊ゴレンジャー』のマスクをつけて参加。
- 9/20/2004, before the game, he and 4 other players (Shinjo, Shimada, Ishimoto, and Tsuboi) went out in Mighty Morphin Power Ranger masks.

- 2006年7月2日、試合後のヒーローインタビューで尾崎豊の『きっと忘れない』を熱唱(前年のファン感謝イベントでの公約による)。
- 7/2/2006, he sang Yutaka Ozaki's "Kitto Wasurenai" song during a hero interview.

- 2006年7月21日、オールスターゲーム第1戦の試合前イベントに漫画『ドラゴンボール』の登場人物・ピッコロの姿で登場。しかし版権の問題からか、実況は一切コメントをしなかった。第2戦(7月23日)の試合前イベントにはカツラを装着し、差し歯を抜いて登場。
- 7/21/2006 - during the All-Star game, he dressed up as Piccolo from Dragonball Z.

- 2006年8月13日、試合前のスターティングメンバー紹介時に1人だけ「ラリージャパン」の幟をつけた自転車で入場(他の先発メンバーは全員ラリーカーに乗って入場。ラリージャパンの宣伝のため)。
- 8/13/2006 - during the starting lineups, he rode a "Rally Japan" little bicycle out onto the field, despite that all of the other players had ridden cars out.

- 2006年10月26日、日本シリーズ優勝決定後のビールかけの場にスピードスケート選手の衣装で登場。
- During the beer-spraying party following the 2006 Japan Series, he dressed up as a speed skater.

- 2007年6月2日、試合前練習に特注の竹馬とズボンを履いて登場。当日先発登板したダルビッシュ有の身長をはるかに超える3mの「ひちょ・マックス」姿で守備練習を行った。
- 6/2/2007, he came out onto the field before the game wearing stilts and called himself "Hicho MAX!"

- 2007年7月20日に行われたオールスターゲーム第1戦では帽子から「伸びた頭」を披露。しかし遠目ではよく分からなかったため、不評であった。
- 7/20/2007 - during the All-Star 2007 games, he dressed up as a conehead.

- 翌日(7月21日)の第2戦ではタイのムエタイ風の姿(上半身裸に緑のトランクス)で登場し、全パのヒルマン監督と打ち合った。
- The next day he came out dressing like a Muay Thai boxer in green trunks.

- 同年シーズンオフの三井ゴールデングラブ賞表彰式会場に、マイケル・ジャクソン『スリラー』の様な上下赤のレザーファッションとメイクで登場
- During the Golden Glove ceremonies, he dressed up as Michael Jackson.

- 同年(12月1日)札幌ドームで開催された日ハムのファンフェスティバルにて、選手のPK対決で同じ地元のJリーグチーム・コンサドーレ札幌のユニフォームを着てゴールを決めた(その時のキーパー役は鶴岡慎也)。
- During the fan festival, he came out dressed up as a soccer player for Consadole Sapporo, and kicked a goal (the goalkeeper was Fighters catcher Shinya Tsuruoka).

Yikes, my brain hurts from going through all that. I need to add pictures to most of those later "episodes", although I'm sure by now everyone's seen the one of him dressed as Piccolo during the ASG...

Anyway, happy Hichori day! And remember.. Hichori Day means only one day until Spring Training!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Powell Outage, aka NPB Roundup, Dondake Edition

On January 11, articles happily reported that Jeremy Powell was going back to Orix. It was even on the Buffaloes' site. They said he would wear #50 and made him a player page accordingly.

However, uh, today, supposedly the Softbank Hawks signed Powell? Huh? They seem to be claiming either that the Powell signing by Orix was announced but not finalized, or finalized but not announced properly, or something like that.

I see nothing of it mentioned on the Hawks' site yet, though there's a bunch of articles categorized as "パウエル獲得" on Yahoo and other sports article sites. And sadly, this is all the variety of stuff that I have trouble reading, but I'm sure that whenever people figure out what the hell is going on, it'll get posted to the thread on accordingly.

(There is another article in the Daily Yomiuri which has some more details, but is almost as "WTF?" as everything else, I think.)

Spring training starts in only a few days, so I hope they get this mess straightened out soon. (And in all honesty, I hope he ends up with Orix, because Softbank already has a pretty loaded rotation.)

Anyway, on another note, the Fighters apparently invited Jermaine Van Buren to spring training to try out for the team. Yes, this guy. They're very kind to him, saying that he's 1-2 in 16 games in the majors, rather than mentioning his career 9.00 ERA and that he's walked 24 guys and struck out 11. But to be fair, his AAA numbers are actually really good and the kind of stuff that can sometimes transition really nicely to Japan. So, who knows.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

NPB Roundup - Money Riceball

Seriously, the problem with the Japanese baseball news at this point is that most of it is things like which guys are going to be in the ichi-gun or ni-gun camps for spring training, which starts in about a week (yay!!)... or random gossip about players and what trips they're making for personal training time, or some last-minute contract-signing stuff (such as Old Man Shimoyanagi finally agreeing to a 2-year deal with the Tigers), or whatever else people think is worth reporting about, even if it's something like "Sho Nakata's mom rants about her son".

Mostly I just skim articles and go "Er, whatever" a lot of the time, but tonight when I came across one saying that Orix Buffaloes manager Terry Collins came back to Japan and essentially said "Hamanaka? Who the hell is that?" about Osamu Hamanaka, I was thinking that they're REALLY stretching it for stories. To be fair, Orix did the Hirano-Hamanaka trade like two months ago now and have been hyping the "Kiyo-Hama" combination. Erm.

Senichi Hoshino's 61st birthday was on Tuesday, and there was a big party for him. I saw it on TV a bit, but here's a picture of him eating a special "2008" rice-baseball and curry. He said that he hopes to eat delicious curry again in August", following the Olympics, I suppose :) It's funny how I never really understood why Hoshino is so well-liked until I came here and saw him on TV all the time, and now I get it. He oozes charisma.

I also just realized that I never mentioned here about Koji Yamamoto and Tsuneo Horiuchi being elected to the Japanese baseball HOF. (Press conference photos here.) I really ought to get down there and check out the new HOFer stuff and the Hoshino Japan exhibit. Hmm.

The funny part is, in college, one of my Japanese professors had a Tsuneo Horiuchi poster up on her wall. I asked her who he was, and she told me how great a pitcher he was, and how great it was to be a Giants fan in their V9 days. She grew up in Tokyo and was a gigantic Giants fan. She said that pretty much EVERYONE in Japan was a Giants fan. It took me a while to find out how untrue that statement was, of course.

Which also reminds me -- since putting my Fighters calendar up on my wall at work, which has new manager Nashida as the January guy, I've had comments anywhere from "Why the heck is Nashida your manager? He's not even a Fighters OB. Is it because Takada went to manage the Swallows?" from one guy, to "Ohhh, I remember when Nashida was young. He was VERY cool and had MANY female baseball fans!" from one woman. As for my Dragons calendar, which is on the other wall, the overwhelming reaction has been "Why is Kosuke Fukudome in this calendar? He isn't on the Dragons anymore."

And that leads me into my latest conspiracy theory. See, the Swallows and Fighters both recently posted their "welcome to the new guys!" about the players involved in the 3-for-3 trade a week ago. The Fighters welcomed Fujii, Miki, and Sakamoto, who will wear #18, #33, and #30 respectively, and the Swallows welcomed Hashimoto, Oshimoto, and Kawashima (sigh), who will wear 35, 65, and 00 respectively.

Anyway, I had this weird realization that the aforementioned new Yakult manager Shigeru Takada... just spent a 3-year stint as the general manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters. And he even would have been at the helm to draft Kawashima, and Hashimoto and Oshimoto came in the two previous years. I'm not sure why, but this just feels very Gillick-like to me -- a GM switching teams and then grabbing some of his old prospects to follow him. Although I suppose it can't be THAT Gillick-like, being as he traded away veterans to get younger players.

In other news, Seibu outfielder GG Sato attempted to go into salary arbitration to be the seventh Japanese player in history to do so. However, he was denied. I have to admit I don't really understand the system at all, and it's true, you rarely ever hear about players here going to arbitration. (Come to think of it I haven't seen any crazy stories about holdouts/etc this year; I must just not be reading enough articles, but it's plainly nowhere near as exciting as last year with Sekimoto's crying, Satozaki's yawning, and Morino's dragonbutting.)

It also seems that most teams have their rosters pretty set now. Wayne Graczyk talks about this year's foreigners in the Japan Times, and this week's Shukan Baseball is the "money issue", in which we find out that Ichiro's 2008 salary is larger than the 2008 team payrolls for the Hiroshima Carp and the Rakuten Golden Eagles. I mentioned this in a class tonight to try to get a discussion started about economics, but instead it turned into a discussion about how they all need to make sure they teach their children to bat left-handed and run very fast.

Also, in case you're curious, the payrolls from this chart:

Giants: 53.9-oku
Dragons: 38.2-oku
Tigers: 36.5-oku
Baystars: 23.6-oku
Yakult: 22.8-oku
Carp: 15.5-oku

Hawks: 34.5-oku
Marines: 26.4-oku
Fighters: 23.3-oku
Orix: 23.4-oku
Seibu: 21.8-oku
Rakuten: 17.3-oku

Of course, these aren't exact figures -- they had an estimate for Shimoyanagi's salary, for example -- but still, it's kind of scary.

Speaking of the Hawks and Giants, an image that pretty much showed up on every sports site possible, rightfully, is one of Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, and Isao Harimoto hanging out together at a celebration dinner recently. I'm not sure what the MLB equivalent would be, but it'd be something to the effect of if you could get Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Ty Cobb to pose for a picture together. Again, Japan is really lucky in some ways that its legendary baseball figures are mostly still alive, although that's becoming less true.

In fact, I was noticing that a lot of former Nishitetsu guys have been dying lately, what with Inao and Hanai passing away in December, and then earlier this week Hirokazu Katoh died at the age of 56 of lung cancer. Katoh spent most of his early career languishing on Nishitetsu's ni-gun team, then spent a few years breaking into the Hanshin Tigers lineup before he eventually became a base-stealing terror with the Yokohama Taiyo Whales for a few years in the mid-80's, even ending up on one all-star team. He worked as a media analyst after retiring as a player.

I heard about Katoh's death while I was at a baseball card shop looking through cards from the early 1990's Yokohama teams; it was announced on the evening news. Katoh's last year as a pro player was 1990, with the Whales -- a team that had a young hotshot pitcher named Kazuhiro Sasaki who would become a star closer a few years later, a not-so-hotshot pitcher named Tadanori Ishii who would become a hotshot shortstop named Takuro Ishii a few years later, a kid named Motonobu Tanishige who would become one of the best defensive catchers in Japan's history, and a big slugger named Jim Paciorek who would go on to be awesome for Hanshin two years later before fading away. Oh yeah, they also had a guy named Masahiro Takahashi who I would see going 3-for-4 in a Master's League game 17 years later, but that's beside the point. I thought it was really surreal to be digging through the early 1990's Baystars and then to hear about Katoh's death. At least it put it all in context, I guess.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Baseball Card Shopping, Part 3 - Mint Ikebukuro

Mint in Ikebukuro is actually two floors. The floors aren't connected; if you want to go up to the 2F store you have to exit the 1F store and go upstairs and enter the other half, which is odd but normal for Japanese buildings.

Mint Ikebukuro 1F
Mint Ikebukuro 2F
("Trading cards, sports figures")

Location: 東京都豊島区東池袋1-28-6 (Google Map)
Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Higashi Ikebukuro 1-28-6

Hours: 1F: 11am - 8pm (every day, both floors)

Directions: From the JR Ikebukuro station, pretend you're going to the Sunshine 60 building. Take the "Sunshine Exit", which is on the east side of the station, and walk forward until you can bear left and follow the crowds crossing the big intersection to "Sunshine Road" (there'll be a Lotteria on the left and a Sanrio Gift Gate on your right once you enter the correct street, also a Shakey's on your left). Walk down Sunshine Road for 3 blocks and turn right on the corner with the Sega arcade, the Matsuya, and most importantly, the 50-yen arcade with all the UFO catchers. Go halfway down that block and it'll be on your left.

Size / Type: Standalone store, relatively huge, TWO FLOORS!

People: Eh. I was sort of put off both by the proprietors and the clientele but I might have just been there at a bad time, plus I got angry listening to them talking about how they wished they'd gotten Ogasawara signed stuff when he was on the Fighters because now they're worth more with him on the Giants grrrrr.

Stock of interest: The first floor is mostly soccer stuff with a handful of baseball stuff, nothing too exciting, some random packs and a lot of rookie cards, some figurines, a bit of soccer memorabilia and some MLB stuff.

The second floor has lots of boxes full of single cards you can look through, plus ample counter space to do so -- two full counter/bookcases of baseball card boxes. Handful of interesting cards from the early 90's, lots from the later 90's. Team sets not as well-organized but they make up for it by having more sets of stuff to poke through. This store had a full array of Rookie Edition sets from both this year and a few past years, including lots of the insert cards, and team rookie sets. Pretty big amount of single cards labelled as normal, which means they cost 50 yen each, and that includes way old stuff too.

Lots of packs but nothing too old or exciting, just a lot of 2007 team packs and they did have 2007 1st Edition, at least. Also plenty of the normal assortment of MLB stuff.

The thing is, the other two counter/bookcases are full of soccer cards and bikini model cards, which makes for some interesting clientele. The other problem is that the cases are pretty close to each other -- if one person is standing there looking at cards, it's difficult for another person to squeeze by them to look at other stuff.

What I bought:


Shigetoshi Hasegawa 1992 BBM (50 yen!)
Masahiro Tanaka 2007 Rookie Edition (300 yen)
Masahiko Morino 2007 Rookie Edition insert card reflector (250 yen)
Two packs of BBM 1st Edition (210 yen each)

I got a Shogo Akada signature insert card in the BBM 1st packs, plus a Munenori Kawasaki, plus a Carp Yuuki Saitoh, so I was happy with that.

Logic on the Masahiro Tanaka card: basically, I didn't care if I got the entire Rookie Edition, I just wanted one card from each team since they have a rookie group photo on the back of all of them, and after like 3 packs, the only team I had no cards from was Rakuten. So, I had decided I would stop buying packs and just buy one Rakuten card -- BUT, if I was gonna spend 50 yen on like, Naoto Watanabe, why not just splurge the 300 yen for Masahiro Tanaka? And then I made the mistake of looking through the Rookie Edition insert cards and I found the Morino card in with the "1997 Rookie Special" reflectors and... and... yeah. I actually had looked for an early Morino card in the 1997-2000ish singles but didn't find any, sadly.

Something seriously surreal in this store was seeing, in the early 1990's sets, say, a Takashi Saitoh 1993 card for 50 yen next to a Kazuhiro Sasaki card from the same set going for 800 yen. Also lots of early Motonobu Tanishige cards, when he was on the Baystars. (There really were a lot of great players on the Baystars at one point, but they all moved on elsewhere, it seemed.)

(Man, now I'm wishing I'd really taken notes on what some of these places had, but I'm mostly going on my memory of what I looked through, plus what things I thought about buying. Anywhere that still had BBM 2007 1st, I bought a pack, too.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Baseball Card Shopping, Part 2 - Mint Chiba

I want to write reviews of the Mint stores, but I keep thinking "I don't have time to write all of them right now" and not doing it, so I'll try to do one at a time. I just visited the Mint store in Chiba yesterday, so here's what I have to say about it:

Mint Chiba

"Trading cards, sports figures, hobby collections, capsule/gacha"

Location: 千葉県千葉市中央区富士見2-3-1 BEE-ONE3F (Google Map)
Chiba-ken, Chiba-shi, Chuo-ku, Fujimi 2-3-1, Bee-One building, third floor

Hours: 9:30am - 8pm, every day

Directions: From JR Chiba station (or Keisei Chiba, or Monorail Chiba), go to the east exit of the JR Chiba station. There'll be a big parking turnaround. Walk down the sidewalk on your left side -- you'll see a Jonathan's diner in the distance, walk towards it but DON'T WALK TO IT. Instead, a bit before you hit the crossroads you'll see an "Underground passage". Go downstairs into the underground passage and take exit "B1". When you come up from the stairs, there are a few big commercial buildings on your right. Walk up the block a bit and one of them has a sign for Yodobashi Camera - no, sadly not in English, but you can't miss it if you can read katakana. Go into that building, and there should be elevators on both sides of you before you actually get into the Yodobashi store. Take the elevators to the 3rd floor, which is a mall-like area, walk past the guitar shop, and you'll see the Mint store (and after it, Yellow Submarine).

Size / Type: Mall store, medium size

People: Polite enough (There was just one guy at the counter and I didn't really talk to him until I was ready to buy, but he didn't seem freaked out by having an American chick picking through the books of cards)

Stock of interest: 2005 unopened packs (BBM 2nd, Hanshin Tigers, Dragons, some other team packs. 4-card 2005 2nd sets for 100 yen in clear plastic so you can see the top card, 4-card 2004 sets in the same way. Konami 2005 Prime Nine packs for Orix, Dragons, Carp. Lots of 2006 packs including BBM 1st AND 2nd, team packs, etc. Binder with Calbee cards from the 1970's (I was so excited to see a Yoshiro Sotokoba card from 1975 that I actually said "Holy crap!!" out loud and got some funny looks. It only cost 400 yen! But I don't really need it.)

NOT much before 1998 in terms of BBM, surprisingly, and very few single cards before 2005.

They had a LOT of team sets for reasonable prices, but just for common cards. So if you want, you could pay 1000 yen and get all 36 Swallows cards in the 2007 1st Edition, and then also get all 15 Swallows cards in 2007 BBM 2nd Edition for another 500 yen. (I actually was looking for Swallows sets for a friend.) But that doesn't include any of the extras for players (Gold gloves, "Be Aggressive", etc).

Another thing that was both cool and uncool was -- in their older BBM sets, say 2002, you could get crazy deals where it'd be like, 100 yen for 10 cards from a team from that year. The catch is that they were all wrapped, so you could only see the first card and the last card in the set, and couldn't just look through all the individual cards to see what they had. I picked up a Dragons 2002 set because I saw Morino on top and Tatsunami on the bottom, though. I figured, "If separate cards are normally 50 yen and so these are two cards I want, I'm essentially getting 8 cards free!"

The binders were really neat, you could look through team sets and see the "puzzle piece" cards as they should be when assembled. This is particularly neat for the "Hashire, Norichika!" 12-card Aoki set in this year's Yakult team packs, or the 6-card "Kyuuji Special" in Hanshin's packs, or the Chunichi/Fighters/etc 3-card sets I showed in some of my other baseball card posts here. They also had the individual cards in binders for many boxed sets, like the all-star sets and so on.

They also HAD the Furuta retirement set normal 27 cards for only 500 yen... well, until I bought it, that is :) I do mean just the regular 27 cards -- apparently the 4000-yen boxed set comes with some special card, plus the box is special, but honestly I don't care that much about having the box.

There's a special box with lots of Chiba Lotte Marines cards, which shouldn't be surprising for the Chiba store. They also have a box of Marines rookie cards, which are really cool (but kind of expensive). There's also the usual "box of cards of Japanese players now in the majors", and there are some boxes of normal MLB cards too, but I don't pay much attention to those.

This store also has a ton of soccer cards, as well as "idol" cards, ie, collectable cards of Japanese bikini models. It also had a lot of figurines of both sports and other things; you could get a complete 12-set of those capsule game baseball figures for 5800 yen, but since I got to see them all I decided I didn't REALLY want them.

What I bought:


2 packs of 1st edition 2007 BBM (210 yen each)
1 pack of 2nd edition 2005 BBM (210 yen)
2 plastic 4-packs of 2nd edition 2005 BBM (one with Ogasawara on top, one with Shinji Takahashi) (100 yen each)
1 10-card plastic pack of Chunichi Dragons 2002 (100 yen)
Furuta intai set, 27 regular cards (500 yen)
Yukio Tanaka "Rookie Edition" 2003 BBM card (50 yen)

I have to write about the Furuta set some other time just because it's really neat.

I didn't get anything super-inspiring in the BBM 2007 1sts, a few good players and a Matsuzaka golden glove card. Nor the 2005s, really, though I got a reflector card of a Nobuhiko Matsunaka "starting lineup" card from the same game as Seguignol.

Dragons 10-card set had Morino, Kawakami, Sekikawa, Ohnishi, H. Watanabe, Noguchi, Eiji Ochiai, Asakura, Makoto Kitoh, and Tatsunami. Not bad for 100 yen.

I'll hopefully talk about the other Mint stores soon. Last weekend I visited the Ikebukuro, Urawa, Fujisawa and Yokohama stores, and I usually frequent the Jimbocho store, and I'm going to go check out Komagome today.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The So Taguchi Philadelphia Phillies of New Jersey

Shukan Baseball magazine had a big theme of "Japanese players in the MLB" this week, including back-to-back Matsui interviews (with Hideki and Kazuo). One of the other features in the magazine was a "Map of MLB Teams with Japanese Players", which is, in other words, "a map of the cities in America that will actually get mentioned regularly on the news here in Japan".

I have frequently told people here that I became really good at Japanese geography a couple of years ago during Koshien, the national baseball tournament. Having teams from every prefecture was a great excuse to actually learn where all of them were. However, I don't think it's quite as easy for Japanese people to learn American geography quite the same way. I mean, for one, not all 50 states in America have major league teams. But also, apparently Philadelphia has moved to New Jersey this year. And Kansas City moved to Kansas. And Pittsburgh moved to Erie. And so on:

All I Needed to Know about America I learned from Ichiro

At least they know where Cleveland is.

Thanks to Pau for pointing this out to me (He wrote me, "Dude, where are your Phillies?"). I don't have a scanner, though, so the best I could do was taking a photo of the magazine with my D200.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Baseball Card Shopping in Tokyo - Part 1

Before I actually moved to Japan, the only places I ever knew of to buy baseball cards was at the baseball stadiums themselves, at the team goods stores. Now, living here and being an explorer in general, I've found lots of other places to buy cards, which is great. (My wallet disagrees with me, but whatever.) A few of these places in the Tokyo/Kanto area are:

The Sports Authority. The ones near me generally stock a lot more soccer goods than baseball goods, being as I'm in the same prefecture as the the Urawa Reds, but they'll have some baseball card packs lying around as well, usually just the current BBM set and maybe a few assorted team packs, plus some MLB Upper Deck packs and the like. They also usually have a whole bunch of Japanese player MLB goods (think Matsuzaka jerseys and jackets, or Yankees hats or Ichiro shirts) and not much in the way of NPB.

Yamashita Shoten by the Tokyo Dome.
Tokyo-to, Bunkyo-ku, Koraku 1-3-61 Kiiroi Building 2F
This bookstore is between the Tokyo Dome and Suidobashi JR station; from the Dome go down the walkway and stairs opposite Gate 23 and it's on your right before you hit the videogame arcade. They stock a ton of sports magazines and books in general and about 10 different types of baseball card packs (some team packs, some things like the Nostalgic set, then Rookie Edition and Back to the 70's, plus random things like Giants 2005, and they'll usually get in the boxes like the All-Star set, the Nippon Series set, the Furuta retirement set). This is also a pretty decent place to pick up monthly baseball magazines for various teams and leagues. I have an almost-weekly routine of going to the Tokyo Dome shop to look at team goods, then stopping by nearby Yamashita to actually get magazines or cards.

Shosen Book Mart in Jimbocho.
Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Jimbocho 1-21-6
From Ochanomizu JR station, take the "Ochanomizu Bridge exit" and walk down the hill away from the river. You'll go through a whole ton of guitar shops, and then Meiji University will be on your right, and eventually you get to Yasukuni street; Shosen Bookmart is across the big intersection from you at that point. Go into the basement; near the entrance to your left you'll find various card packs (mostly team packs, plus last time they had some 2006 BBM 4-card sets for 100 yen each). In the back right corner there's also a ton of baseball books and magazines, including many "new" copies of "old" issues of stuff. Fantastic if you want things like a 2006 Japan Series program.

(As an aside, there is a used book store in Jimbocho called @wonder that has an AMAZING wall of old NPB books and magazines, including Shukan Baseball going back over 30 years, other old magazines and team books and whatnot. It is practically next door to the Jimbocho subway station exit A1, on Yasukuni Street. Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Jimbocho 2-5-4)

Most other major book stores actually will have baseball card packs somewhere, if you just know where to look. This includes Kinokuniya (the large 8-floor Shinjuku branch has them on the 6th floor to the left of the cash registers; baseball books in general can be found in the front left corner of that floor) or Sanseido (the big store right across from Shosen has some packs by the escalators on the third floor)

R&B21 in both Ryogoku and Shinjuku (and Osaka!)
Ryogoku store Map: Tokyo-to, Sumida-ku, Ryogoku 4-37-2
Shinjuku store Map: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 7-1-7
This is a really interesting store. They don't really have much in the way of Japanese baseball cards or packs or anything, which is kind of funny, but they're your place to go to if you're living in Japan and looking to buy or trade MLB cards, or football/hockey/basketball/etc. They make their very own patented thick card holders among other things. The people there are really nice, but they don't always have someone around who can speak English, which is odd considering their stock. However, if you're interested in their card holders, they can do English over email, and they're happy to ship them to other countries, and you can pay via Paypal and such. The above links are English directions to their stores, and I can at least vouch that the Ryogoku ones are valid.

I've bought things from all of the aforementioned places, but the real inspiration for writing about this is a store called Mint, which I have spent way too much time and money at in the last few weeks. See, most of the places I've listed here that sell NPB cards basically have them in packs. Mint is awesome because you can just go in and look through individual cards for hours and hours. Not that I've done that, of course... anyway, next post is going to be just about the different branches I've visited of the Mint store chain.

Let me know if this information is actually useful to anyone. I'll try to organize it better later.

Friday, January 11, 2008

NPB Roundup: Open letters

Dear Ichiro,

First, I was really happy to see you on the news the other night, back here in Japan, doing personal training. You have a lot of knowledge to share with other players here. Also, about your upcoming milestone of 3000 hits in both the MLB and NPB, I think that's really amazing, I hadn't even realized you were up to 2870 hits now. Given that we all know you are incapable of getting less than 200 hits per year, you are likely to beat Isao Harimoto's all-time record career 3085 hits either at the end of the 2008 season or early in 2009. I have no doubt that you could have surpassed his number had you stayed in Japan, of course. At first I thought that it was a little unfair that you get 30-40 games per year more, but I guess that means that you're really only getting maybe 2-3 "seasons" worth more of games, so that's not that big a deal.

Second, I went to the post office today and I saw you on the front of the "Entertain-post" magazine. The Ichiro ASG MVP postage stamps are REALLY sweet. I totally should buy some and send postcards to people in Seattle. That'd be awesome.

Deanna the Marinerd

Dear Kazuhito Tadano,

You should know by now that I really don't judge you for things you did while you were in college. I was really happy when the Fighters drafted you, and I was really looking forward to seeing you in our rotation this year.

However, a month ago I noted that you were probably going to get struck by some sort of curse when they assigned you Kanemura's old uniform number #16. So it completely shouldn't surprise me that you had to go and break your wrist while going for a run the other day. Now, at least you broke your LEFT wrist instead of your RIGHT wrist, but still.

I'll come see you pitch in Kamagaya in a few months!

Deanna the Hokkaidork

Dear Keizo Kawashima,

I will miss you. A LOT. I was really expecting to see you in a platoon with Kudoh this year in left field, and then this trade came out of nowhere. I'll totally come see you play at Jingu sometime this year (maybe I'll get to see a Kawashima-Aoki-Miyade outfield someday! That'd be all cute and happy).

Deanna (and the rest of the female Fighters fans)

(The Fighters and Swallows just did a 6-man trade: Fighters gave up 24-year-old outfielder Keizo Kawashima, 25-year-old RHP Takehiko Oshimoto, and 28-year-old RHP Yoshitaka Hashimoto, for Yakult's 30-year-old LHP Shuugo Fujii, 30-year-old switch-hitting utility guy Hajime Miki, and 25-year-old RHP Yataro Sakamoto. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the deal here is, but offhand it seems like this deal favors Yakult a LOT more than it favors the Fighters. Maybe it's just that I like Kawashima. Feels like Yakult may have filled in the Ramirez hole in their outfield and the Fighters got another left-handed starter, but I kind of feel like Fujii's really not that good.)

Friday Foto: Dragonstone

"Hey," I said while we were wandering through Kenrokuen, "Look at that board next to that tree and lantern."

"What about it?" my friend asked. "Tatsuishi?"

"Maybe," I replied. "竜石 would mean Dragonstone, wouldn't it?"

"I guess. Shame you're not wearing your Chunichi Dragons shirt today, we could take a picture next to it."

"Oops. I guess Doala will have to do."


In other words, I am going through my Hokuriku trip pictures, but not particularly quickly. I took about 300 pictures at the Hideki Matsui museum. Maybe that was a mistake.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Baseball Card Post - Good Things Always Come In Threes

I went to the Mint sports card store in Jimbocho the other day to complete my "Consecutive" sets of three cards in the Chunichi team sets; I wrote down which Masa and Kosuke cards I had and intended just to get those, but after I talked to the guy who runs the shop and he told me they were having a 20% off sale on individual non-priced cards (40 yen each instead of 50 yen), I couldn't resist looking through some of the other team sets to see if they also had similar cards, and thus ended up getting a whole bunch of sets of three.

(Also, wow, looking at that website I just realized there are a whole bunch of other Mint stores in the Tokyo area that I totally have to go visit. I need to find out if any of them either will take extra cards off my hands and/or if they have trading times.)

Anyway, these are the sets I was originally aiming for. The Chunichi Dragons 2007 set has 9 cards labelled "consecutive", three for Kenshin Kawakami, three for Kosuke Fukudome, and three for Masa Yamamoto. The idea with these cards is that if you have all three for one player and put them together, it makes a 9-frame picture of their throwing or batting motion. They look really cool together, though when you only have one or two of them separately, they look sort of stupid. Even cooler is how they're reversed on the back, so the middle picture is the same, but if you have the beginning or ending of the motion, you'll have the opposite card on the back. Okay, maybe that's not that cool, but I noticed it and thought so.

Forgive the angles on these shots; I was trying not to get the flash in the way.

"Consecutive" Kosuke Fukudome - Front

"Consecutive" Kosuke Fukudome - Back

"Consecutive" Kenshin Kawakami - Front

"Consecutive" Kenshin Kawakami - Back

"Consecutive" Masa Yamamoto - Front

"Consecutive" Masa Yamamoto - Back

Something kind of cool is how since Kosuke bats left-handed and Masa throws left-handed, their cards start from the right and go to the left, but since Kenshin throws right-handed, his card starts from the left.

So, I looked through the Fighters set to see if they had anything similar, since I only bought one team pack this year and hadn't seen all that many cards in the set. Sure enough, they had a Darvish set! Only it was labelled "Clever" instead of "Consecutive". That's appropriate, I suppose:

"Clever" Yu Darvish - Front

"Clever" Yu Darvish - Back

The Fighters set also had a three-card series set for Yukio Tanaka's 2000 hits, so I just HAD to get that one. It's only 6 pictures instead of the full 9, but that's okay:

"2000 Hits" Yukio Tanaka - Front

"2000 Hits" Yukio Tanaka - Back

Another major difference with the Yukio Tanaka set is that the backs of the cards are actually completely different. In the other sets it's the same text although the layout might be slightly different. In this set, each card has something else -- one card has Yukio's career stats, one has a picture of him holding up the "2000 Hits" plaque during the game, and the other has a bunch of text about his career as "Mr. Fighters" and all. It's pretty cool.

Last, I picked out one more set, from one of my absolute favorite pitchers on the planet. These cards were 100 yen each, but I couldn't resist.

"Gorgeous" Shunsuke Watanabe - Front

"Gorgeous" Shunsuke Watanabe - Back

Yeah, they call Shunsuke's card set "Gorgeous", and it is a really nice set of cards, but I think it would have made more sense to just call it "Submarine", heh. I think it looks really neat to have his motion taken frame-by-frame like this on the cards.

Of course, I also kind of want Hisashi Yamada's reflector card from the Back to the 70's set, but that was going for like 400 yen. His normal card in that set doesn't have him in full submarine mode, so it's not as cool.

I don't think there are any more of these three-card sets that I'm interested in (looking at the set list I can't really tell what other threes there are besides the Violent Arakaki one offhand, which I didn't like) though I didn't really have time to look through all of the sets while I was there. Next time, maybe.

Anyway, to lead into a future post I want to show the last two cards I bought:

Draft Story, Yukihiro Nishizaki and Tadanori Ishii - front

Draft Story, Nishizaki and Ishii - back

The "Draft Story" cards are last year's "historic" set, much like this year's "Back to the 70's" set. They show what a player looked like and what his number was when he was drafted -- as seen in my earlier card post, they showed things like Osamu Hamanaka wearing #66, Hirokazu Ibata wearing #48, and so on.

Anyway, as for what the real STORY is here, I'll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with Yukihiro Nishizaki, for once, I just thought the card looked cool. Take a look at the Ishii card? Do you kind of wonder who this "Tadanori Ishii" guy is? Doesn't he look an awful lot like some other guy we know on the Bay Stars now, named "Takuro Ishii"?

Yeah. Somehow, despite actually being a fairly big Takuro fan, I never knew that he changed his name when he changed positions from being a pitcher to an infielder. Go figure. I know he's got a lot of stories in his past, just from his wikipedia page and from japanbaseballdaily, but now I'm really curious and want to find out more. He's already in the Meikyukai and might end up in the Hall of Fame someday too, so it's well worth the research :)

Monday, January 07, 2008

NPB Roundup - It's Always Training Time

This past weekend I went stomping around Hokuriku with my friends. While in Kanazawa I picked up a team yearbook for the champion Ishikawa Million Stars (and made plans to come back and visit people and go to a game this summer!), and then I also went down to Komatsu to see the Hideki Matsui Baseball Museum, where I took about 300 pictures and haven't had time to go through them yet, so I'll hopefully get around to posting them later this week. Hard to believe my winter vacation is over already.

Some stuff has happened in the last week. Notably, I'm really sad that Nick Swisher got traded to the White Sox and thus won't be visiting with the A's when they play in Tokyo in March. I'm also sad that Kazumi Saitoh is having shoulder surgery, and thus won't be playing when the Hawks come to Kanto for some weekends early in the season. I'm happy that Chunichi managed to re-sign Iwase and Tyrone. I'm a bit perplexed that the Royals signed Hideo Nomo to a minor-league contract, but I hope it works out for all involved.

The Carp took Masato Akamatsu from the Tigers as compensation for the Arai signing, which is pretty awesome. Akamatsu wears high socks and steals a bazillion bases, which should go really nicely with Eishin Soyogi, assuming Akamatsu can get on base to begin with.

In the meantime, players have officially started their personal training. Personal training usually starts about a month before Spring Camp starts, which is on February 1st. News Zero showed a bunch of Giants doing various training (including Hisanori Takahashi being incredibly bad at racquetball), but the interesting story to me was how a bunch of the young Osaka Toin hotshots got together at a batting cage and had a bazillion media folks watching every swing. For some reason it just didn't occur to me that Tsuyoshi Nishioka was a sempai to both Chunichi's Ryosuke Hirata and the Fighters' new kid Sho Nakata.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Baseball Card Fukubukuro, Part 2

I have two baseball card posts to make, but this is the one I meant to make several days ago and didn't.

See, I have a new bad habit now. Rather than spending too much on random packs of cards, now I've been spending too much on random BAGS of random packs of cards. These are called "Fukubukuro", which means "lucky bag". At the Mint card shop, they basically say "Pay 1000 yen, get 3000 yen worth of random card packs". Which is true, but since you can't pick them, it can get interesting. So you get TWO levels of "open it and see what you got!!", first for the packs in the fukubukuro and then for the cards in the packs. Fun!

My first time, the bag had some Dragons and Hawks packs and some Draft Story packs. My second time, the bag had three Seibu Lions packs, one Hanshin Tigers, one Hiroshima Carp, and three Touch the Game 2006 packs. My third time... it had the exact same thing as the second time, since I got it a week later and the bag was the same color. I'm holding off for a few weeks before buying another one I think.

Second Fukubukuro, pre-pack opening. Whee.

At least I'm spending less overall -- I only buy cards once per week and if I only buy one fukubukuro, that's 1000 yen. Could be worse.

Anyway, my first Carp pack was vaguely exciting, with a Shinji Sasaoka reflector card and an Eishin Soyogi team card, and a Maeda Spotlight; it might have been one of the best packs in my first Fukubukuro. My second one wasn't quite as exciting but still wasn't too bad -- a Koichi Ogata title holder card, a Shigenobu Shima reflector card, and a card for Jeff Livesey-coach, which isn't quite as cool as a Marty Brown card, but not terrible either. I'm really not that excited about the Carp as a team in general, which is why it's just not all that exciting to open the packs. But, I do think it's a nice set. I did want a Saitoh Yuuki card :)

Hiroshima Carp - two packs

The Tigers packs really annoyed me. You know, I didn't think it was possible to get doubles of a card IN THE SAME PACK, but apparently... no, okay, so what happened is that I got a Naohisa Sugiyama normal card AND a Sugiyama reflector card in the sae pack. It's not a double exactly, but seriously, the most exciting card in that first pack was the "Good luck Kei Igawa!!" card. The second pack was much better, with an Okada-kantoku, and a "Kyuji Special" card of Kyuji Fujikawa, and a Makoto Imaoka reflector car, and normal cards of ex-Fighter Itsuki Shoda, and of ex-Pirate Ryan Vogelsong.

Hanshin Tigers - two packs

The next big set of crap I had to look at was the Seibu Lions team sets. Nevermind that I don't particularly like the Lions to begin with, this set kind of made me sad. I think the "Shining" cards are nice, and the Lion Heart ones are kind of cool, but I got a bazillion doubles in just 6 packs, which is not reassuring. Also, I did not get a normal Hideaki Wakui card, which also made me sad.

First pack, best cards: Kataoka reflector, normal Hiroyuki Nakajima
Second pack, best cards: Toru Hosokawa, Kazuhiro Wada, team check list
Third pack, best cards: Lion Hearts for Fukuchi and Liefer, mascot card
Fourth pack, best cards: normal Kataoka card
Fifth pack, best cards: normal Gissel, Onodera; Lion Hearts of Wakui
Sixth pack, best card: Nakajima Lion Heart card -- already a double. Oi.

Just really not that exciting. I did get a Ginjiro Sumitani card in there somewhere too, and doubles of the team checklist and several of the Lion Hearts, but eh.

Seibu Lions - six packs

Last to open from the Fukubukuro packs was the "Touch the Game" cards. These are super-expensive and I don't entirely understand why they're supposed to be so good. They're really thick cards and they have pretty pictures, I guess, and most of the players on them are superstars, basically. I'm not angry that I have them but I doubt I would ever buy these packs on my own, which is part of what makes the Fukubukuro so cool -- getting to experience these other cards. And every pack DID have plenty of exciting players in it, so that was nice at least.

First pack: Darvish portrait, Masahide Kobayashi card
Second pack: Dragonbutts. Nakata portrait, cards of Asakura and Kawakami
Third pack: Pitcherlicious. Iwase, Wakui, Uehara
Fourth pack: Fun. Hichori, Fukumori, Kroon, Ramirez
Fifth pack: Yagi, Shinjo, and Yoshinobu Takahashi
Sixth pack: Hair. Daisuke Miura, and a Kenta Kurihara portrait

Touch the Game - six packs

I'm including these here because I also bought three packs of the Rookie Edition lately. I really just want to collect one from each team since they have the "new player picture" on the back. Though the cards are really cute too, so it's not all bad. They have the incoming players, and then some 2006 rookies as well, in action. Plus I got another Naomichi Donoue card, which is always exciting. I'm only missing one team now, and that's Rakuten. I wonder if the entire set is rarer because of Masahiro Tanaka?

Rookie edition - some loose cards, some booked cards

My next card post is going to talk about the neat series of cards I got yesterday at Mint, as well as a rant about the Back to the 70's card set, perhaps.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

PSA: Matsuzaka vs. Kin-chan

Seen on a poster in Yokohama yesterday:

Charity Dream Match! Kin-chan vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka!

Yeah, so Kinichi Hagimoto's Ibaraki Golden Golds will be playing an exhibition game against Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Yokohama Samurai baseball club. I assume Matsuzaka will be at least throwing out a ceremonial first pitch, though I'm not sure whether he'll actually pitch in the game itself. It seems to imply he's leading the team, not playing on it (much like Kin-chan, who is like 66 years old and a baseball-team-owning comedian, not a baseball player).

It's at Yokohama Stadium on January 19th at 1:30pm (doors are at noon). Tickets are 3500 yen for reserved infield, 2500 yen for unreserved seats for adults, 1500 yen for unreserved seats for children, and take 500 off the price of each if you buy it before the day of the game.

Honestly, if it wasn't on a SATURDAY afternoon when I have work, I'd totally be there. I even saw the poster and was like "WHOA! GOLDEN GOLDS! MATSUZAKA! I'M SO THERE! WAIT! NO I'M NOT!" So apparently my quest to actually go to a Golden Golds game and cheer for Ayumi is put on hold for a bit longer... if any of you can actually go to this game, I'd love to hear about it afterwards, seriously!