Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tokyo Big 6 Spring Camp / Preseason Games

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

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

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

Spring Camps:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 04, 2011

Baseball Shrine?

No, not exactly. But I recently learned about a shrine in the northern reaches of Saitama called the 箭弓稲荷神社, or Yakyu Inari Jinja.

Now, on its own, there shouldn't be anything special in particular about a shrine to the Shinto god Inari -- there are MANY Inari shrines all over the country. You can usually spot them because they have bright orange torii, and often statues of foxes.

But this one in particular, being as the name of the area is "Yakyucho" -- yes, the kanji is different, 箭弓 vs the 野球 that means baseball -- apparently, over the years, it has become a vaguely popular place for pro players to go pray for success before the season, and especially the Seibu Lions because it's in Saitama prefecture.

(Of course, I actually read about it on the Rikkio baseball team's blog -- their team is also based out of Saitama, on the Niiza campus. They posted some photos from going there and the bat-and-plate-shaped ema, or wooden prayer boards.)

But anyway, the reason this place is even cooler is that in recent years, to embrace the fact that the city's name is a homonym for the word baseball, they sell baseball bat luck charms (mamori), and bat and plate prayer boards (ema). That's REALLY neat!

There's a shrine in Kyoto called the Shiramine Jingu, which is sort of known as a soccer shrine because the god there happens to be the god of an ancient Japanese "kickball" game of sorts, so lots of pro soccer players go there to pray, and so a bunch of my JHS students went there and told me about it. But at the time we didn't know of any baseball-related shrines. So now I do!

I'll be back in Japan for a week or two in March, and I'm going to see if I can get up to this Yakyu Jinja while I'm there, because I think it'd be really cool.

And in the meantime, I recommend reading the Tokyo Big 6 2011 blogs in general. You can learn all kinds of interesting things like how Keio's captain Hayata Itoh, aka Clutchy McClutchitude, knows Pi to 115 places. Or you can read Hosei's spastic manager Yokoyama's ramblings about Facebook and Twitter (there are many). Or you can get a lesson in Toyama regional dialect from Todai's Yohei Tachi. Or... actually, I was remiss in my updating about it, but back in December, the Meiji team posted about how third-year baseball club member Tama died in a car accident. That was pretty sad.