Sunday, November 20, 2011

Your 2011 Japan Series Champions, the Hawks

But it's 6:30am here in Seattle, so I'm going to sleep in a bit. Unlike the last time I was watching a Japan Series game in the US (the 2006 Fighters-Dragons series), you have plenty of other places to learn about what happened during the game in English these days, so you should go take a look at them.

Personally, I really wanted this series to go to seven games, so I'm happy for that, at least. I thought it was pretty silly of the Dragons to let Ochiai go as manager, in the midst of what is clearly the most successful run in franchise history. (The Dragons were in the Series in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2011, although they only won it in 2007.) His contract was up at the end of October, so the Dragons were paying him a million yen a day for the postseason.

Curiously, the last time the Hawks won the Japan Series was in 2003 against the Tigers, and in that series the home team won every game. This time, the home team lost every game until the final game, and even funnier, four games were decided by 2-1 scores (game 1, 2, 4, and 6, with the Dragons winning 3 of those), and the other 3 games were shutouts.

As a primary Pacific League fan, the Hawks are a very frustrating team to go up against in recent years, as they have a pitching staff to die for and a fairly stacked lineup as well. And it was particularly heartbreaking to see the Fighters fall behind them this year. So I suppose I was pulling for Chunichi in this series, but when things happen like Tanishige going 0-for-23, there's only so much you can do.

Kokubo as the MVP was a little bit odd (it felt like it really should have been one of the pitchers, didn't it?) but it was kind of amusing when they pointed out to him during the interview that he, at the age of 40, had ousted his manager Akiyama from the oldest Japan Series MVP, as a 37-year-old Akiyama had gotten that award in 1999 when the Hawks beat Chunichi then. (And at that time Kokubo and Matsunaka were a LOT younger! It was definitely weird watching Matsunaka hobble home and flop onto home plate for the 2nd run of the game tonight, let's just put it that way.)

Anyway, the Jingu Taikai is in a few days, and then after that is the month of fan festivals and rookie unveiling events and holiday parties, and then in January starts rookie training, and February is spring training... Japan is nice in that baseball season never *truly* ends, if you're a crazy diehard fan. Which makes it all the more sad to me that I'm not there anymore.

(2 weeks until I move to San Francisco!)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Foto: Soukeisen

Actually, this is just me being too tired to write ANYTHING about the four games I attended this weekend, where Waseda won both of the Soukeisen games (6-2 and 4-2) and Yakult won on Saturday night 3-2 but the Giants won on Sunday night 6-2.

This is my favorite photo I took all weekend:

Waseda's Shota Sugiyama slides headfirst into 3rd base for a triple. It's really rare to see a headslide from the "oh my god he's flying towards us!" perspective!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Foto: Draft Aftermath, the paper version

For amusement value, I often like to buy the daily sports papers after a big event has happened, to see their different takes on it (and occasionally to cut out articles to stick up on the wall or whatever).

Anyway, here's your spread of the "big" papers today:

Let's see, first, 4 out of 6 have Sugano on the cover. None have Fujioka.

Upper left, Sports Hochi (a Giants-based paper anyway) has "Impossible! Chosen by Nippon Ham in the lottery!"

Upper right, Sankei Sports (aka Sanspo) has "Hara is completely stunned! Nippon Ham stole Sugano!!" (where 強奪 really means more like "plunder" or "extort", a very strong version of steal)

Middle left, Sponichi has a big "SUGANO SHOCK!!" with tears in his eyes and a note about "He could enter Nihon Seimei or..."

Middle right, Nikkan has "Sugano is stunned! He may refuse to sign!"

Then in non-Sugano news, Daily Sports, a Tigers-based paper, has "Hayata Itoh is the 2nd incarnation of Shinjiro Hiyama!" in the lower left :)

Also in non-Sugano news, Tokyo Chunichi Sports has THEIR front page headline, "Morimichi got his big job done and picked Shuhei Takahashi!"

Sponichi and Nikkan have the Fighters' 7th-round pick Takumi Ohshima (from the Waseda University softball club) on their SECOND PAGE. With his softball team, being a dork with softballs and baseballs, etc. Apparently, for the record, Ohshima is some kind of ungodly good softball player who's done things like hit homeruns in 13 consecutive games, was a world-class Japanese softball team member up through high school, and basically went to a tryout earlier this month and passed -- the scouts liked his large frame and power. (It's unclear to me how good his batting will translate to baseball.) Amusingly one scout even says "Sure, he has no experience in baseball, not since elementary school, but we think he'll be an interesting project".

There's not as much on Fujioka as expected, but I kinda like it that way. Papers have photos of him with captain and 3rd-round pick Daichi Suzuki and with his parents. It's expected that he will get Number 18 as Naruse already has 17.

Can you imagine a Lotte rotation of Karakawa, Naruse, Ueno, Fujioka, and Shunsuke? That's just crazy. It's like my fantasy team or something.

Yusuke Nomura, for the record, seems pretty happy going home to Hiroshima and wants to face Tomoaki Kanemoto.

And for fun, here's Yokohama HS's Otosaka and Kondoh.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Draft 2011 Liveblogging

Will be done here. I'm going to finish up a pre-draft photopost (ongoing college player photopost is here) in the morning and the draft itself is in the afternoon.

I'm on pins and needles as usual -- just like last year I was so worried about where Ohishi and Kagami were going to end up, this year I'm hoping Takahiro Fujioka ends up somewhere good. But there are a ton of other guys I'm worried about too, of course.

And yeah, I've been to 22394092309439 games in the last month but haven't been blogging about them here. I apologize for that, especially the lack of Tokyo Big 6 coverage in what has been one of the more interesting semesters in recent history. But well, I'm returning to the US on Nov 3rd. So, busy.

[Moving the "liveblogging" part below the draft chart. Also I made a new label for these draft tables -- "Draft Results". Then I can look back through my 6 years of draft tables without going through all of my posts with "draft notes" and photos and such under "draft".]

Name Pos HS/Univ/Company T/B DOB Ht/Wt
-------------------- --- --------------- --- ---------- -------
1 Shuhei Takahashi IF Tokaidai Kofu HS R/L 01/18/1994 185/83
2 Kentaro Nishikawa P Seiryo HS R/R 04/18/1993 184/72
3 Shinji Tajima P Tokai Gakuen Univ R/R 181/84
4 Takehiko Tsuji P Nittai Univ R/R 07/27/1989 182/86
5 Takahiro Kawasaki P Tsu Higashi HS R/R 08/02/1993 186/77
6 Sanghun Song P 信一高校 (HS in Korea) R/R 02/24/1993 190/93

1 Shuhei Takahashi
Ryuhei Kawakami OF Kosei Gakuin HS R/R 05/08/1993 181/80
2 Ryohei Kiya P Nihon Bunri Univ R/R 04/07/1989 180/85
3 Wataru Hiyane IF Nihon Seishi Ishinomaki R/R 06/20/1987 180/73
4 Yuya Ota P Nihon Seishi Ishinomaki L/L 175/73
5 Yuji Nakane P Tohoku Fukushi Univ R/R 09/07/1989 180/80
6 Masato Furuno P Mitsubishi Junko Kobe R/R 09/27/1986 178/78

I1 Takeaki Tokuyama P Ritsumeikan University R/S 07/21/1989 185/83
I2 Hugo Kanabushi P Hakuoh University L/L 05/22/1989 180/71

1 Tomoyuki Sugano
Ryuya Matsumoto P Eimei HS L/L 04/29/1993 193/78
2 Nobutaka Imamura P Osaka Gakuin Univ HS L/L 03/15/1994 180/73
3 Ryuji Ichioka P Oki Computer Gakuin R/R 01/11/1991 179/70
4 Kyosuke Takagi P Kokugakuin Univ L/L 09/05/1989 183/79
5 Go Takahashi IF Nihon Bunri HS R/R 04/30/1993 183/75
6 Yuki Egarashi P Toshiba R/R 11/14/1986 183/78
7 Seiji Tahara P Kurashiki Oceans

I1 Kazuki Mori P Shiritsu Kashiwa HS R/R 06/23/1993 185/92
I2 Mizuki Tsuchida P SIL Ehime R/R 01/01/1990 181/91
I3 Shogo Shibata P Meiji University L/L 04/13/1989 175/70
I4 Yoh Yoshikawa C Rakuhoku HS R/R 183/102
I5 Takashi Amemiya P BCL Niigata Albirex R/R 07/06/1987 174/83
I6 Takahiro Watanabe P BCL Niigata Albirex L/L 08/26/1992 173/70

1 Hayata Itoh OF Keio University R/L 05/08/1989 178/84
2 Hiroaki Saiuchi P Seiko Gakuin HS R/R 07/19/1993 182/80
3 Naoto Nishida OF Osaka Toin HS R/L 187/92
4 Kazuo Itoh P Tokyo Kokusai Univ R/R 12/13/1989 184/82
5 Ryoma Matsuda P Hasami HS R/R 02/08/1994 183/83

I1 Seiya Hirokami C Gunma Diamond Pegasus

1 Yusuke Nomura P Meiji University R/R 06/24/1989 177/75
2 Ryosuke Kikuchi IF Chukyo Gakuin Univ R/R 171/69
3 Takaya Toda P Shonan HS L/L 06/10/1993 180/66
4 Shohei Habu OF Waseda University R/L 08/16/1989 180/76

I1 Hajime Tominaga P SIL Tokushima R/R 06/20/1989 179/80
I2 Masataka Nakamura OF SIL Kagawa R/R 11/07/1983 183/90
I3 Kohei Tsukada P Waseda University R/R 08/24/1989 192/89
I4 Kazuma Mike OF Shiritsu Wakayama HS R/S 180/76

1 Takahiro Fujioka
Ryuya Matsumoto

Yujo Kitakata P Karatsu Shogyo HS R/R 01/25/1994 180/80
2 Shuto Takajo C Kyushu Kokusai HS R/R 05/03/1993 176/79
3 Yuki Watanabe IF Kanzei HS R/R 04/09/1993 180/74
4 Masayuki Kuwahara IF Fukuchiyama Seibi HS R/R 171/73
5 Tomo Otosaka OF Yokohama HS R/L 01/06/1994 183/75
6 Mikihisa Travis Samura P Urasoe Shogyo HS R/R 10/09/1993 191/80
7 Hyuma Matsui IF Mitsubishi Hiroshima R/R 03/17/1991 180/80
8 Komura Toru P Chigasaki Nishihama HS L/L 177/76
9 Takuro Itoh P Teikyo HS R/R 04/02/1993 185/86

I1 Kosuke Tomita P SIL Kagawa R/R 04/24/1988 186/88
I2 Masashi Nishimori C SIL Kagawa R/R 12/29/1987 182/80

1 Shota Takeda P Miyazaki Nichidai HS R/R 04/03/1993 187/77
2 Shoji Yoshimoto P Adachi Gakuen HS R/R 06/26/1993 186/75
3 Masayoshi Tsukada IF Hakuoh Univ R/L 07/23/1989 180/79
4 Naoki Shirane P Kaisei HS (Shimane) R/R 04/28/1993 185/98
5 Shinya Kayama P JX-ENEOS L/L 11/23/1989 172/62

I1 Go Kamamoto OF Sairyo HS R/L 09/03/1993 180/80
I2 Kyohei Kamezawa IF SIL Kagawa R/L 10/15/1988 174/73
I3 Shota Miura P Iwate University R/R 11/10/1989 177/67
I4 Takashi Shimizu P Gunma Diamond Pegasus L/L 05/15/1984 177/76
I5 Shinya Arasaki IF Nihon Bunri University R/L 171/73
I6 Akihiro Sasanuma C All Ashikaga Club R/R 07/17/1987 183/81
I7 Kazuya Iida C SIL Kochi R/R 03/10/1986 182/83

1 Tomoyuki Sugano P Tokai University R/R 10/11/1989 185/86
2 Go Matsumoto IF Teikyo HS R/R 08/11/1993 180/80
3 Shingo Ishikawa OF E. Osaka Kashiwara HS R/R 04/27/1993 178/73
4 Kensuke Kondoh C Yokohama HS R/L 08/09/1993 172/83
5 Toshiharu Moriuchi P JR Higashinihon Tohoku R/R 01/02/1985 180/80
6 Naoyuki Uwasawa P Senshudai Matsudo HS R/R 02/26/1994 187/85
7 Takumi Ohshima C Waseda Univ Softball R/L 02/14/1990 180/97

1 Ken Togame P JR Higashinihon R/R 11/07/1987 183/82
2 Hirotaka Koishi P NTT Higashinihon L/L 04/13/1987 177/85
3 Hitoto Komazuki C Tonan HS R/R 04/21/1993 176/86
4 Kyohei Nagae IF Kaisei HS (Mie) R/L 05/07/1993 173/75
5 Shotaro Tashiro OF Hachinohe University L/L 12/13/1989 177/72

I1 Komei Fujisawa C Matsumoto University R/L 11/11/1989 180/80

1 Shuhei Takahashi
Ryoichi Adachi IF Toshiba R/R 01/07/1988 178/74
2 Takuya Shimada IF JR Higashinihon R/R 01/22/1987 178/76
3 Tatsuya Satoh P Honda R/R 07/26/1986 178/75
4 Tomoyuki Kaida P Nihon Seimei L/L 09/02/1987 178/78
5 Ryuji Shoji C J-Project R/R 02/01/1987 176/81
6 Yuki Tsutsumi IF Saga Ryukoku HS R/L 09/21/1993 172/70
7 Shuhei Kojima IF Sumitomo Metals Kashima R/L 06/05/1987 177/75
8 Takayoshi Kawabata OF JR Higashinihon R/R 02/04/1985 176/80

I1 Daiki Inakura OF Kofuku HS R/R 05/11/1993 180/85
I2 Shoki Kakihara IF Tosu HS R/R 175/75

1 Takahiro Fujioka
Yoshitaka Mutoh P JR Hokkaido R/R 07/22/1987 177/72
2 Yoshinao Kamata P Kanazawa HS R/R 10/26/1993 177/75
3 Takumi Miyoshi P Kyushu Kokusai HS R/R 06/07/1993 173/74
4 Takero Okajima C Hakuoh Univ R/L 09/07/1989 174/68
5 Rintaro Kitagawa OF Meitoku Gijuku HS R/L 06/21/1993 185/82
6 Hiroaki Shimauchi OF Meiji University L/L 02/02/1990 180/75

I1 Takahiro Jinbo OF Hokkaido Transys R/R 12/09/1986 174/76

1 Takahiro Fujioka P Toyo University L/L 07/17/1989 183/85
2 Yuhei Nakaushiro P Kinki University L/L 09/17/1989 182/72
3 Daichi Suzuki IF Toyo University R/L 08/18/1989 176/76
4 Naoya Masuda P Kansai Kokusai Univ R/R 10/25/1989 176/80


I've got the TV on but the show isn't on yet. Hmm.

Well, here's a nice blank grid to fill in as things go!

4:53pm The show is starting!!!

5pm They're announcing the teams and representatives, who are coming into the room in waiver order, so, I'm going to get prepared with the waiver order for the first round:

5:10pm: They showed Fujioka and Sugano in their college's press rooms, and Nomura with Shimauchi and Shibata and the rest of the Meiji club in their dorm. It's very quiet as people submit their first round picks...

Marines: Takahiro Fujioka
Baystars: Takahiro Fujioka
Eagles: Takahiro Fujioka
Carp: Yusuke Nomura
Buffaloes: Shuhei Takahashi
Tigers: Hayata Itoh
Lions: Ken Togame
Giants: Tomoyuki Sugano
Fighters: Tomoyuki Sugano
Swallows: Shuhei Takahashi
Hawks: Shota Takeda
Dragons: Shuhei Takahashi

So Nomura goes home to Hiroshima unchallenged, Itoh is going to Hanshin (oi), Togame as a sleeper pic to Seibu, and Takeda to the Hawks as expected. And WTF on challenging Sugano.

5:20 Lottery #1 is for Fujioka and... he's going to CHIBA MARINE!

I'm actually happy for him. He can get to ichi-gun quicker in a currently weak team like this, AND it means that the Marines now have BOTH of my absolute favorite Toyodai pitchers EVER (the other being Ueno). Also it's great for him in that he's from Gunma and his family can come see him play.

5:22 Lottery #2 is for Takahashi Shuhei... and .... and he's going to Chunichi after the Chunichi rep Takagi actually seemed to screw up the draw.


Hara looks pissed. I wonder if Sugano will actually sign or will pull some kinda stunt. Jason Coskrey just invoked the word "Chono"...

Well, anyway, it's time for the backup first round picks...

Baystars: Ryuya Matsumoto, P
Eagles: Yoshitaka Mutoh, P
Buffaloes: Ryoichi Adachi, IF
Giants: Ryuya Matsumoto, P
Swallows: Ryuhei Kawakami, OF

5:35 second lottery... and Matsumoto is going to the Giants.

For the record, I LOVE the Adachi pick.

Baystars finally get a first-round pick with Kitakata from Karatsu Sho HS. Yay for Saga-ken players!!!

Okay, shortly stuff will go into waiver order for the rest of the picks.

Your overall first round picks:
Marines: Takahiro Fujioka, LHP, Toyo University
Baystars: Yujo Kitakata, RHP, Karatsu Shogyo HS
Eagles: Yoshitaka Mutoh, RHP, JR Hokkaido
Carp: Yusuke Nomura, RHP, Meiji University
Buffaloes: Ryoichi Adachi, IF, Toshiba
Tigers: Hayata Itoh, OF, Keio University
Lions: Ken Togame, RHP, JR Higashinihon
Giants: Ryuya Matsumoto, LHP, Eimei HS
Fighters: Tomoyuki Sugano, RHP, Tokai University
Swallows: Ryuhei Kawakami, OF, Kosei Gakuin HS
Hawks: Shota Takeda, RHP, Miyazaki Nichidai HS
Dragons: Shuhei Takahashi, IF, Tokaidai Kofu HS

5:45pm It's off TV here and I'm basically kinda thumbing through the draft magazines to dig up info while looking at the Sportsnavi and such to see what the picks are... hm, sounds like Kozo has a feed as well.

It was nice to see Fujioka's interview, he seems nervous but happy. Sugano... I couldn't really read what he was saying.

6pm NAKAUSHIRO TO LOTTE!!!! TAKAJO TO YOKOHAMA!!!! that's so cool! Nakaushiro is also super-interesting and Takajo was my favorite catcher not named Suzuki in this last Koshien :)

6:13pm Teikyo connection with the Fighters continues as we get captain Go Matsumoto. He's a great raw pick, kinda like Sugiya, very talented shortstop, I saw him at Koshien as a freshman. Great pick.

I am also, btw, a fan of the Rakuten picking Kamata in the second round, glad Saiuchi has gone already too. A little surprised Matsumoto went before Itoh Takuro to be honest -- wonder what's up there. We'll see :)

6:15 Third round starts. Softbank took Yoshimoto in the second round, I guess they are going for a monopoly on "Nantoka no Darvish" HS pitchers this year.

6:28 Still entering data but OMG Miyoshi goes to Rakuten? Glad to see both him and Takajo get picked, though. Awesome.


It's 7:50pm and the main draft is over. I guess ikusei is starting. Interesting to see which guys DIDN'T get drafted, in some ways, I suppose.

Shogo Shibata, the nice boy with Behcet's disease, got chosen in the Ikusei rounds, by the Giants. Not sure how I feel about that.

Lots of interesting Ikusei picks honestly. I've seen a lot of the indie league guys play, actually. Have a photo with Seiya Hirogami.. just posted one of Iida catching for Irabu... heard about Takashi Shimizu pitching his no-hitter... so wacky.

Everyone is wondering what's up with this Waseda Softball guy for the Fighters... apparently he was a world-class softball player, but how does that project to baseball? There's got to be some bizarre story here.

Draft 2011 -- Photopost preview

Well, even though I wasn't in Japan for most of this year, myself and my camera have gone to an awful lot of amateur baseball games over the years anyway, especially local college games, so here's a few of the guys who submitted letters for this year's draft. (I'll be updating this as the afternoon goes on to take my mind off being nervous. And then I'll move the liveblogging post to the top.)

Tokyo Big 6

Hayata Itoh, Keio University, OF

I used to write a ton about Itoh and nicknamed him "Clutchy McClutchitude" because he always came through for the team in big situations. He's often compared to Atsunori Inaba because he's an outfielder from Chukyodai Chukyo who bats lefty for power and average, has a good arm and speed and so on.

He's a pretty smart guy overall, and he knows Pi to 115 places. And in the spring he missed the batting Triple Crown by ONE HIT. But this semester he's been kind of erratic, and I'm really not sure what's up with that. A few weeks ago there was a game where a whole bunch of close umpiring calls went against Keio, culminating in a guy getting tagged out by being punched in the head basically, and Itoh and Etoh-kantoku both were really angry about it, to the point that Itoh wasn't even bowing to the umpires before each at-bat like he used to, and didn't have the team line up and bow to the stands, and that one day, snuck out of Jingu so he wouldn't have to face fans or press! (Seriously.)

Anyway, he's a veritable superstar and should do pretty well in the pros. He hits for power and average and has a really sweet swing. Over his college career he's also really filled out a lot more and really looks like, well, a baseball player. I don't think he'll be a cleanup batter in the pros, and I'm not even sure he'll have as good a rookie year as, say, Shota Ishimine, but he'll do fine. (I'd love to eat those words, but the fact is, if he DOES get drafted by a team like Hanshin, he's unlikely to get a lot of playing time his first year, you know?)

The swing.

At the USA-Japan tournament.

This is one of my favorite photos I ever took of him -- he's standing at 3rd base during Soukeisen talking trash with Waseda's Ayuki Matsumoto (the Baystars' Keijiro's little brother)

Yusuke Nomura, Meiji Univ, RHP

I've also talked about Nomura a lot, being as the first time I ever saw him pitch was in Koshien 2007. He was the Koryo HS ace and was considered fairly unstoppable, until he ran up against the Miracle Saga Kita team and ran out of steam in the 8th inning and Hiroshi Soejima hit that grand slam and well, that's history.

Nomura has had a fairly awesome college career in Big 6 though; he pitched 34 scoreless innings as a freshman to get the ERA title then and also got the ERA title last spring. He just got his 30th win last weekend and he passed 300 strikeouts during the 2011 spring semester. Almost all of the pitchers who accomplished that in Big 6 have gone pro and most have had successful careers. I suspect Nomura will too -- he's been very solid his entire time, never misses a game, never gets injured, always strikes out a ton of guys and never walks anyone. He's not huge and he's not going to ever throw 150+, but his control is great and he's got a very stoic manner on the mound.

As you can see, he's VERY consistent in his form. I have so many photos of him that look exactly the same that it's hard to choose one. The top is from the fall 2011 semester and the bottom is from the Japan-US tournament.

Here's how I'll always remember him, actually -- he has this habit while standing on the sidelines of tossing a ball up and down in the air, almost like juggling, so here he is on the mound doing the same thing.

Just for fun:

Nomura during his sophomore year. Clearly younger, but not much else has changed about him. He's simply consistent.

Shogo Shibata, Meiji University, LHP

Shogo has an amazing story -- he suffers from Behçet's disease, an incurable immunodeficiency, which he was diagnosed with when he was in junior high school. But he entered Aikodai Meiden HS anyway (you may recognize that as Ichiro's alma mater) and worked as hard as he could given the disease he was facing, and his 3rd year he pitched at Koshien. Then he entered Meiji University, and has been trying his best, but of course has also been in the shadow of many other pitchers there, what with being the same year as Nomura.

(There was a TV special about him when he was in high school. You can watch it on Youtube starting here).

I don't think Shogo will get drafted unless some team does it for the story, like Chunichi, but he IS a decent lefty pitcher and a really nice guy too. There was an article about him in Shube this past week how he basically is entering the draft because he wants to follow his dream and refuses to ever run away from things no matter how unlikely or difficult they are.

Hiroaki Shimauchi, Meiji University, OF

I haven't talked about Shimauchi much. This has been a gross mistake on my part. He has very quietly managed to have 3 amazing semesters playing for Meiji as a lefty-batting lefty-throwing outfielder from Seiryo HS, who sometimes even gets compared to being a "smaller Matsui". He put up a 1.064 OPS in the fall 2010 semester but didn't play during opening weekend and so didn't qualify for the batting leaders. He put up a .954 OPS in the spring 2011 semester, good enough for 4th, and his .385 BA was good enough for 3rd. He put up a .959 OPS this semester, with a league-leading 16 walks (the only way anyone's catching that during Soukeisen is if they walk EVERY TIME THEY COME TO THE PLATE pretty much) and a home run. (Oh, and 2 strikeouts against those 16 walks.)

It kinda sucks that I never actually got to know Shimauchi, since I did get to know a bunch of the other 4th-year Meiji players, and he seems like a nice guy. I gave him a bunch of photos last week and got him to sign one and told him good luck in the draft and all, and he seemed surprised but happy. We'll see what happens.

Keisuke Okazaki, Rikkio University, IF

I honestly don't know what's going to happen to Okazaki in this draft. I could see reasons for him getting drafted: he's been a consistently good batter in his last 2 years of Big 6, including leading the league in OPS by far this semester with an 1.184 as well as being the batting champion at .424. He was Rikkio's captain this year and they've actually done better this year than they had in a while. He played 2nd base for a long time, though has been mostly at 1st this year. He's from PL Gakuen HS and was on that same team as Kenta Maeda, they were both regulars from their freshman year. He has some power and he has a decent glove.

On the other hand, I've met Okazaki several times, and we even got a photo together in the US, and he is barely bigger than me, and I mean both heightwise and weightwise. (I'm 5'7".) In Japan that doesn't actually matter as much as it would in the US, but I don't think Okazaki runs enough to make up for his small frame. And of course, there have been lots of Big 6 batting champs who haven't made it to the pros, or did make it and haven't been all that great there.

On the other other hand, I never expected Fumiya Araki to get drafted last year, and look how that worked out! So who knows.

(I am mostly showing off my mad photo-taking luck here.)

Shohei Habu, Waseda University, OF

A teammate of Nomura's during that Koshien 2007, Habu has been a consistently decent player over his years at Waseda, though he hasn't been stellar this year per se. Still, he's a Waseda outfielder who bats lefty and can run, so there may be teams interested in him. Or not.

Tohto League

Daichi Suzuki, Toyo University, SS

Toyo captain, national team captain as well. Decent shortstop, decent lefty batter. My impression of him personality-wise is that he's kind of a jackass, but that's not really fair. He comes from Toin Gakuen HS, which is a nice academic and baseball pedigree to have.

Takahiro Fujioka, Toyo University, LHP

My favorite player going into the draft. He's tall, left-handed, throws 150 km/h (for reals, not this Jingu gun stuff), strikes out a ton of batters, throws a ton of complete games, goes to the mound with a smile on his face no matter what the situation, and has a great personality in general. In short, he's like a left-handed Kagami, but actually probably better in that his mechanics are less likely to get him injured and his manager isn't an idiot in overusing him.

(I have a few more photos of him in a preseason game post from the Hosei grounds, where I met him for the first time, and the US-Japan tourney. I also have a whole ton of photos of him from earlier, back to April 2009, that I never posted. Whoops.)

Takuya Uchiyama, Toyo University, RHP

Kyosuke Takagi, Kokugakuin University, LHP

Other Leagues

Tomoyuki Sugano, Tokai University, RHP

Widely regarded as the best pitcher in this draft, Sugano is the nephew of Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, and there's a good chance that ONLY the Giants will take him, like with Sawamura last year. Lame, but at least it means Fujioka won't go to the Giants.

Pre-season game at Meiji university's grounds (this is when I met him and got a photo together)

2010 All-Japan national collegiate tournament.

2011 US-Japan tournament in North Carolina.

Shotaro Tashiro, Hachinohe University, OF

Kinda another Shogo Akiyama type, though probably a little more on the speed and less on the boom. These are from the same 2010 All-Japan tournament. I have a lot of photos of him, though I'm not sure why. Something must have struck me as intriguing about him at the time, maybe it's the way he puts his arms together when he bats? I just don't remember at this point.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Photopost: Lions vs. Fighters ni-gun - Ohishi Theater Returns!

It's been so long since I got to do a good Tatsuya Ohishi fangirling post! Hooray!

Last Wednesday, I had planned to go to Seibu for both the minor-league Lions-Fighters game during the day, and the major-league Lions-Fighters game at night. Mostly, this was because I had a hunch that Ohishi would start for Seibu in the ni-gun game, and also, it'd be a nice way to spend a day out in Seibuland. The weather had other plans, though, and a typhoon completely cancelled every game in the area that day. The top team game still hasn't been rescheduled, but the ni-gun game got rescheduled for the 28th.

I decided to go for the rescheduled game anyway, because it'd be the last Seibu minor-league game of the year, and I still hadn't been out to a game at Seibu #2 stadium. Plus, I was at Kamagaya on Monday and it rained the whole time, so it'd be nice to see the Fighters without the rain.

I got to the stadium around 12:40pm. Seibu #2 is very close to the Seibu Dump; from the train station, instead of just turning left and seeing the dome, you go straight, up a hill and across a parking lot, up some more stairs, and there's the field. It's really barebones, but suffices for a minor-league park I guess. They have a clubhouse building behind it and then the player dormitory and indoor practice building by the outfield. Seating for fans is pretty much a row of benches along the 1st-base side in the outfield, a row of benches behind the 3rd base (home) dugout, and a lot of ground to sit on. I happened to be lucky and ask if a spot of concrete right by the dugout was taken, and it wasn't, so I sat behind a fence about 4 feet from the dugout for the whole game. It was an excellent spot to take photos as well as an excellent spot to listen in on players' conversations, AND as it turned out to talk to players, and as well, it meant the starting pitcher was throwing right in front of me between innings.

And guess who the starting pitcher for the Lions was? None other than Tatsuya Ohishi!!!!!

(If you are not a longtime reader of this blog you may not know that I had this ridiculous crush on him for his 4 years at Waseda despite that I hate Waseda. He was just lights-out as a closer, and his interviews and such were also interesting, and crazy stuff kept surrounding him, like when he was a shortstop at Soukeisen.)

Of course, this meant that I was sitting right by the Lions dugout. Cheering for a Lions starter. Against the Fighters, who have been my team for the last 8+ years.

Whatever, these things happen. I only ran into a few Fighters friends of mine, after the game, and they saw my Tokyo Big 6 shirt and were like "Ahhh, of course, you were here to see Ohishi... he was good, wasn't he?"

Anyway, it was a kind of crazy game. Ohishi started for Seibu, and the Fighters starter was Kenji Tsuchiya, a lefty from Yokohama HS who's been with the team a few years.


Fighters          Seibu
-------- -----
Nishikawa, dh Ishikawa, cf
Murata, cf Hayashizaki, ss
Sekiguchi, rf Hirao, dh
Watanabe, c T. Gotoh, 1b
Ichikawa, 3b T. Satoh, lf
Taniguchi, lf Onizaki, 3b
Arahari, 2b Misawa, 2b
Asanuma, 1b Takeno, c
Nakashima, ss Hoshi, rf

Tsuchiya, p Ohishi, p

(It's kinda crazy how the Fighters really don't have a minor-league 2B right now since Kensuke is injured and Imanami and Sugiya are up with the top team, so they've been putting all their extraneous catchers in there, like Masaya Ozaki, Ryota Imanari, and now Yuji Arahari as well.)

The Fighters got in on Ohishi first, in the 2nd inning. Ryuichi Watanabe led off with a single, Suguru Ichikawa followed that with another single, and then Yuta Taniguchi hit a double to left that scored the other two, 2-0. The Fighters put two more on that inning but left them there. They added a run in the 5th inning when Kazuya Murata led off with a triple, and then Yuta Sekiguchi brought him in on a squeeze bunt play to make it 3-0.

Tsuchiya sailed through the first 6 innings for the most part; the most he allowed was 2 runners in the 1st, and in reality it shouldn't have even been that if Arahari hadn't dropped a throw in from the outfield on a catch.

But then in the bottom of the 7th he got into a bit of a jam as he walked a pinch-hitting Kosuke Noda. It was Noda's retirement game, and so his whole family was out there cheering for him as well as a bunch of other people, so his at-bat took something like 10 pitches to get through. It probably seemed harmless enough, but then with 2 outs Mitsugu Ishikawa singled to center, moving Noda to 2nd, and then Ryo Hayashizaki doubled to left and that scored the other two, making it 3-2. Tsuchiya came out of the game and Yodai Enoshita came in to strike out the next batter (who happened to be Ryan Mulhern. More on that in a second).

Enoshita, who is generally awesome, was not awesome enough to keep Shogo Saitoh from hitting a triple in the bottom of the 8th, and then Masanori Hayashi allowed him to score on an infield single that Takuya Nakashima was amazing to get to but couldn't throw in time. 3-3.

So, it was tied in the 8th and stayed that way for the rest of the game. Amazingly, Ohishi pitched the first 9 innings. I don't think I ever saw him throw a complete game EVER in college -- he was generally a reliever and pretty good at that. But here he was, going the distance, 130 pitches for 9 innings on the Fighters, 3 runs, 6 hits, 6 strikeouts. Hironori Matsunaga took the 10th inning and former Keio guy Shuichiro Osada took the 11th.

On the Fighters side of things, after Hayashi was Kikuchi, and after Kikuchi was Masahiro Inui! Inui was lucky enough to end the game on a lineout by Ishikawa -- I was kind of wondering what'd happen if he faced Hayashizaki next. The two were teammates pretty much not only through college at Toyo University, but they were ALSO teammates on the Toyodai Himeji HS team that went to Koshien in the summer of 2006! I'm not sure if they've faced each other this summer, but it must lead to some funny conversations afterwards.

But yeah, it was a 3-3 tie game. Probably for the best for me, really -- I didn't have to see my Fighters lose and I didn't have to see my Ohishi lose.

Also, since I was sitting by the Lions dugout, somewhere around the 9th or 10th inning Ryan Mulhern, who'd looked over a few times at me before, came over like "hey, so are you American? can you speak English?" and we got to talking for a while. That was pretty interesting. He said something about working on his swing and trying to figure out what was weird about his hands; I noted that he has his index finger sticking out weird but I couldn't tell anything else. But I said I'd show him the photos I took of his AB if he wanted.

Well, after the game I stuck around for a while because I really wanted to meet Ohishi. Instead, I ended up meeting a bunch of Fighters players, and I got my photo with Enoshita and Nishikawa (!!), and eventually when it started getting dark, I was thinking to leave, and Mulhern came out again, signed stuff for a bunch of fans, and he ended up getting Ohishi to sign a shikishi for me, like "Your boy's doing his laundry, so he's not coming out." I'm happy about it, but I hope I'm not getting a reputation as a whiny gaijin (like the entire Kagami incident). Plus this means I still need to stalk Ohishi next year -- I want to meet him someday! But Waseda players never EVER interacted with fans outside Jingu during the Yuki Saitoh regime.

Anyway, I rode the Seibu train with Mulhern part of the way home. That was interesting and awesome -- but I felt kind of stupid because I really wasn't up on my Lions stuff and barely knew what he was up to in the organization at all, whereas a year or two ago I would have totally been like "Dude, can I interview you for my blog?" Overall it sounds like he's enjoying his time here and he has a really good attitude about the country, wanting to get out and see things, and interact with fans, and just do his best to help the team and all that stuff. (Plus it certainly sounds like Japan is a great step up from Mexico, to be sure.) Hopefully the team will pick up his option next year!

Alright, enough babbling out of me. Photos!

First, the man, the myth, the legend, the Tatsuya Ohishi. Fear him.

Pre-game bullpen. Bit of a true "on the farm" feeling going on here with that warehouse-looking dormitory in the background.

On the mound.

Warming up between innings. Oh, that smile :)

Some other Lions players...

Showin' some love for Yuji Onizaki, who just got traded to the Lions mid-season from the Swallows.

Hidekazu Hoshi. He was sitting like 5 feet from me for most of the game, when he wasn't in the field.

Ryan Mulhern during his at-bat in the 6th inning. I can't really tell what's up with his hands...

Kosuke Noda's last at-bat in a Lions uniform, and his cheering section.

Yoshihito "Pride of Saitama" Ishii. No, just kidding, but I do cheer for Urawa Gakuin guys in general...

Hironori Matsunaga.

Shuichiro "Pride of Keio" Osada. Probably a misnomer, I think more people can remember Tomoaki Satoh :)

And Fighters players!

Fighters starter Kenji Tsuchiya.

Yodai Enoshita. (Yes, he really looks that scary mid-throw, but other than that he's adorable)

Masanori Hayashi.

Kazumasa Kikuchi.

Masahiro Inui!

Super high-tech bullpens at this stadium...

Ryuichi Watanabe hitting a single.

And as a catcher.

Suguru Ichikawa hitting a single, striking out, and in the field playing 3rd base.

Taniguchi at 3rd, waiting to run home... where he was left both in the 2nd and 4th inning. Aww.

Kazuya Murata almost getting an inside-the-park homer but stopping at 3rd.

Misc stuff, Stadium, players, etc.

Final score, tied 3-3 in 11.

View along the pathway by the right field fence.

My view during the game (I was on a concrete bunker about 2 feet back from this fence, but I was also about 4-5 feet away from the dugout). You can see the Dome in the background.

And another shot of the dome in the background from the #2 stadium outfield.

GG Satoh signing for people. I got him to sign a shikishi too :) He wouldn't take photos with anyone, just signed stuff... most people were okay with that but one lady was really really insistent, eventually she got her friend to take a photo of her in front of GG while GG was signing for other people. Kinda funny.

I didn't ask Yodai Enoshita to sign anything, I just wanted a photo together. This is mostly to make Dani jealous if she's reading this. :)

Haruki Nishikawa!!!! I saw him play at Koshien and thought he was really awesome, and I'm happy I finally got to get a photo with him! He's super-popular, you can tell by the amount of random gift bags he's holding, stuff that his fans gave him.

With Ryan Mulhern on the Seibu train. He had just been talking about how he likes signing for fans and getting photos with them all, so I asked if I could also get a photo, even though it was not a baseball setting.

What a crazy day, really. And this was coming off of me thinking that I really ought to just stop talking to baseball players altogether after a few awkward moments at college games earlier in the week. Go figure.

(Yeah, I really don't have time to write up all the games I go to, because I'm too busy going to games every day. It's a catch-22, I suppose... BTW, if anyone's in either Sapporo, Nagoya, Osaka, or Hiroshima, and reading this blog, I'm hoping to head to games in your cities over the next few weeks. I'll be in Japan through the end of October. Hooray! Well, and of course I'll be at a ton of games in the Tokyo area too.)