Saturday, December 18, 2010

Junpei Morimoto to Hosei! (And some other new Big 6 faces)

I know that basically only two readers of this blog probably have any idea who Junpei Morimoto is in the first place, but he's going to Hosei next year! I was just idly reading their list of incoming freshmen for the baseball club and that name leaped off the screen for me.

Basically, he was Chukyodai Chukyo's ace pitcher this last year after Shota Dobayashi graduated. I saw him at Koshien last summer (wow... I never wrote up that game) and also at Senbatsu this spring. Shin and I were there calling him Hichori as a joke, because he was Morimoto and wearing #1.

(Of course, you might also remember him if you saw the landslide Sojitsu 21-6 Chukyodai game at Koshien this summer, where he was responsible for giving up 11 runs...)

Anyway, it's just kind of neat to me because the Chukyodai guys in Big 6 have notoriously been very interesting to follow; both Keio and Hosei have Chukyodai guys as captains (Hayata Itoh and Masashi Nanba respectively), Keio has Daisuke Takeuchi as an ace, and Hosei got Kanji Kawai as a freshman this past year, and I saw him hit a home run both at Koshien in HS and at Jingu as a college player! And Soma Uendo, while he still hasn't broken out as a player in league games, is also a really crazy guy with high aspirations. So we'll see.

Of course, I'm most likely not going to be around to see Morimoto play in college but I still think it's cool. Maybe I'll get to stalk him when I visit next fall.

Now, looking at Meiji's incoming freshmen list is even crazier, because this past week I not only went to a bounenkai with several guys on the Meiji team on Monday, but then on Tuesday I went to a bounenkai at Yuji Ohno's izakaya down in Tamachi. Yuji Ohno is a former Taiyo/Yakult/Yomiuri player, and his son is the cleanup batter for Yokohama Hayato HS, so they had a ton of Yokohama Hayato stuff up as well as all the stuff from Ohno's career. So I told him, "I saw your son's team play against Hanamaki Higashi! They lost... but the only guy I really remember is Imaoka-kun..."

Well, Imaoka-kun is going to Meiji next year, or so it seems! Wow! He was nicknamed the "Smiling Prince" for a bit there, Hohoemi Oji, though it obviously was not as big a media sensation as certain other Koshien princes.

The next most intriguing name to me on Meiji's list is Daiki Maehira, the cleanup batter from Konan HS, the team that won both spring and summer Koshien in 2010. I know a lot of the Konan boys are planning to go to college, which is great. Wonder if Maehira will develop kind of like Shashiki did (he also came to Meiji as a lefty slugging Koshien hero first baseman).

And they're also getting Junnosuke Takahashi from Nihon Bunri. I have to admit that it's interesting he's listed as a catcher; I remembered him as an infielder at Koshien in 2009 (there were two Takahashis on the team, and Yoshihito was a freshman at Tokaidai this year; Ken D was a big fan of his), as the Naoki-Naoki battery was the big story of that team.

Anyway, wow. That's really cool. Of course, who knows what'll happen to Big 6 in general next year. I had a long talk with Meiji's Kawashima-kun about it, and he was saying that pretty much all of the merchandising done in the last 3 years (calendars, baseball cards, t-shirts, etc) are all being discontinued now that Saitoh's gone, and instead, the teams have been asked to think of ways to get people to keep coming to Jingu without a big name. Which is really sad. Though, even the non-Waseda games last year drew several thousand people on the weekends, so you never know. Yusuke Nomura's a surefire draft pick next fall, as is Hayata Itoh, so one would hope people would at least come to see those guys play... and Shohei Habu and Keisuke Okazaki are sure to be hyped up next year as well.

On the other hand, hearing how stuff is already getting kind of crazy at Kamagaya because of Saitohmania, I'm somewhat glad I won't be around for that. Maybe I *should* be aiming to go to Yokohama more instead when I'm visiting next year...

EDIT> Photos to go with the stuff in this post:

Chukyodai's Junpei Morimoto at Koshien in the summer of 2009.

Ippei Imaoka, from Yokohama Hayato, at Koshien in 2009.

Kota Ohno, Yuji Ohno's son, batting cleanup for Hayato.

Year-end party with some of my Swallows cheering section friends at Yuji Ohno's restaurant (he's the guy in white on the right. I'm kind of behind him.)

"This is a really cool glass!" "They cost 600 yen each."

Yokohama Hayato stuff on the walls from their Koshien appearance.

Swallows jersey and other assorted stuff from Ohno's baseball career.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Spaceman Hichori Becomes A Baystar

Hichori Morimoto had his Baystars team introduction event today in Yokohama's Chinatown. Usually these things involve a very serious press conference like thing sitting at a desk with reporters and whatnot, but well, this is Hichori, so instead, a few thousand fans came out to see him and he dressed up as Ramenman and performed stunts for the crowd in more of a festival environment.

At the time it was going on, I was in Nippori singing baseball karaoke with one of my groups of Fighters fan friends -- we planned today as our year-end party about 2 months ago, way before we had any clue that Hichori would even remotely entertain the thought of leaving the Fighters, so our party was at Hichori's parents' yakiniku restaurant in Nippori, where we've held a bunch of our parties before too. In the past two months, the Fighters traded away our group's namesake (Toshimasa Konta, #52 -- we called our group "Team 52" this year) as well as Sunaga, also traded away Takaguchi and Yamamoto -- and Takaguchi was another one of our group's favorites. Yoshinori Tateyama, my nemesis, signed with the Texas Rangers. And then, the unthinkable happened -- Hichori went to the Baystars.

So at our dinner tonight there was definitely a feeling of "How many of your uniforms are no longer valid?" among everyone, since half our group had Konta stuff, another bunch had Takaguchi stuff, or Tsuboi stuff (he was cut and Itoi was dropped to #7), or Tsuruoka stuff (he got Tateyama's old #22), and so on. To add insult to injury, one of the guys in our group wore a Baystars Terahara jersey (he was just traded to Orix). Of course, the irony is that there was another group of baseball fans having a year end party there tonight -- an Orix ouendan. So we had some good-natured yelling and singing back and forth between our groups.

Anyway, several years ago I used to cheer for Yokohama, and the only Baystars jersey I owned was a Takuro Ishii #5 jersey, which has largely sat in my closet unused for the last two years since I got pissed off at the team and stopped going to ichi-gun games. I went and ordered a Kagami #21 jersey on Monday after the Baystars finally introduced their new players and announced numbers for them. So, I suppose now I have two jerseys. But, go figure, guess who has #5 on Yokohama now? None other than Hichori.

So I suppose it's okay to wear this jersey again after all.

Me with Hichori's dad

I got a photo with Hichori's dad, who was surprised that I already had a Baystars #5 jersey, but I pointed out that it was very old and joked that I'd erase the "T. Ishii" and superimpose "H. Morimoto" on it. He also asked if they'd see me on TV next year cheering for Hichori in the Baystars cheering section, and I said that was unlikely as I was moving back to the US next month.

(Which, by the way, if you're wondering, is why I've been too busy to blog much...)

Also, for the record, their restaurant is still filled with Fighters stuff. I asked whether they'd be getting rid of it all and the answer was something to the effect of "Well, we're not going to be putting up any more Fighters stuff, and we probably will start to put up Baystars stuff as it exists, but the stuff that's here now won't go away until it needs to."