Thursday, March 24, 2011

Photopost: Senbatsu, Day 2!

Got to Koshien a little too late -- 8:30am. Ended up in the 2nd row instead of the first row, behind the 1st base dugout. Doh. But I have a new lens that I bought last night (still the same cheap 70-300 zoom, but at least it doesn't have chips and scratches and dirt like my old one did).

They've really sped up the pacing, so you barely have time to do anything between games anymore. I did manage to buy souvenirs and donate money to earthquake relief before the first game, but between games, all I had time to do was go to the bathroom, pretty much. It's like, they sing the winner's school song, then it's OFF the field for you, ON for the next two teams, very short pre-game warmup, and next game!

First game was Tenri, a Nara powerhouse, vs. Odate Homei, an Akita newcomer. Homei, as a matter of fact, were pictured with their baseball team posing in a huge snowfall, in the Senbatsu magazine. So, it was an expectation that Tenri would win. And they did. The funny thing in that game was that Tenri's #11 pitcher, the lefty Nakatani, was pretty good, while their #1 "ace" righty Nishiguchi was terrible (he threw the last 2 innings when it pretty much didn't matter).

The second game was Yokohama vs. Hasami. Tatsuya Yamauchi started for Yokohama. He's a lefty freshman-upcoming-sophomore (this time of year is so annoying to refer to years by). I saw him pitch last summer, and was psyched to see him again since it sounded like he'd just gotten better in the fall and spring. Except, apparently, not so much... he gave up 2 runs in the first inning, both oshidashi runs where he walked in or hit by pitch in the run. And Yokohama never really recovered from that. Hasami's starter was a tall sturdy boy named Ryoma Matsuda who also batted cleanup (this is usually a BAD sign), and he basically pitched a whole game and somehow Yokohama's batters just never managed to capitalize on the chances they had. (I think Matsuda's strategy was to walk captain/cleanup batter Kensuke Kondoh, that worked out well for him.) So, if you consider that Tenri never wins when I see them the first upset of the day, then Yokohama losing to Hasami was certainly the second.

What was crazy about Game 2 for me was that I inadvertantly ended up sitting with Yokohama right-fielder Tomo Otosaka's family. If you don't know who Otosaka is, this is him...

Yeah, a half-Japanese kid -- father's American. I actually am not sure what his English name romanizes as (乙坂・ルーセロ・智・ニコラス - "Nicholas Lucero"?). They've been calling him "Yokohama's Ichiro" because he steals ninety bazillion bases. (It's true. He stole two in today's game even.) I'd seen him in Kagayake Koshien no Hoshi magazine, and from afar at last summer's Kanagawa taikai, but that was it.

Anyway, his entire (Japanese) family had come down from Fukui Prefecture, so his grandma was next to me, a high-school-aged cousin was next to her, and an aunt was next to her, and various other family members were in other nearby rows. They were all at Koshien for the first time ever, but BOY were they psyched. I think the cousin girl didn't even really understand the game very well, but she kept yelling "TOMO-CHAN! GANBATTE!!!" at the top of her lungs.

I kinda regret not asking more questions about him while they were there, but I'm never quite sure how much is or isn't rude to ask. Cousin said something like "Tomo's dad is from Kansas. I heard he might be here today but we don't really know." And Grandma showed me a family photo from a while back, and also pointed out where some other family members were sitting ("there's my son over there, he's a high school teacher...") and so on. She told me how Tomo's older brother is studying abroad in England right now and wants to be an interpreter. And I guess she felt bad that I wasn't eating anything, because she even gave me an onigiri (rice ball with nori) when the rest of them were eating lunch!

And despite Yokohama losing the game, Otosaka's family was remarkably chipper. I think they were mostly just very psyched to be at Koshien and to have a relative of theirs on the field. They were like "oh well, that's too bad that first pitcher gave up so many walks and runs. Everyone tried their best, it's too bad they lost. We're gonna go try to catch up with Tomo-chan." I joked, "See you at summer Koshien!" and they laughed.

Game 3 was Kanazawa vs. Kakogawa. Kanazawa had a boy I'd heard of quite a bit already named Yoshinao Kamata, who could supposedly hit 150km/h on the radar gun. Well... he CAN infact do that! His pitching speed was basically pro speed, like in the mid-140's on just about every pitch. He struck out a bazillion guys over the first few innings. And then... well... Kakogawa's pitcher Inoue, while not as fast and not as much flair, managed to outpitch him, because, quite frankly, I don't think Kanazawa's team can actually hit or field. So once Kakogawa had a few points on them, it just kinda fell apart from there. I think Kanazawa was the favored team in this match because of the flashier, more famous pitcher, but well, this is a team sport, see, and one guy can't do it all. Still, I was totally in love with Kamata for the first few innings, and I expect to see great things out of him in the future, assuming he can get onto a good college/shakaijin team. Kanazawa always has these awesome pitchers and this crappy team behind them for some reason.

Anyway, if you want full logs/commentary for these games, you should look at Edwin's Koshien blog, because he wrote them all up (I even had to look at his writeups a few times to figure out things like WTF WAS WITH THE KAKOGAWA BASERUNNING IN THE 7TH AND 8TH INNINGS). Me, I was sitting behind the dugout with a camera, so clearly what I've got to offer you all is photos.

I didn't have time to really tailor this set; I took over 1000 photos today so I just kinda picked out ones I like. They're Game-2-heavy because Yokohama is Yokohama. They've been churning out pro players left and right since the Matsuzaka heyday, after all.

Game 1

Tenri's Nakatani, the lefty pitcher. He was pretty good.

Komei's starter Saitoh, a little lefty kid.

I just like this photo of Tatsuki Kameda jumping.

Tenri's "ace" Nishiguchi. I am not sure why he is wearing #1 when he doesn't seem like that great a pitcher, although he LOOKS like he should be.

Game 2

Naoki Date

Hasami captain Yudai Yamaguchi

Hasami pitcher Ryoma Matsuda batting

...and Matsuda pitching

Yokohama lefty Tatsuya Yamauchi, who had a rough first inning

Yokohama captain and cleanup and catcher Kensuke Kondoh, who was pretty solid (here he is tagging out yet another runner at the plate)

Yokohama's righty pitcher Yuya Yanagi

View of the final score from behind the Yokohama dugout.

Game 3

Kanazawa's fireballer Yoshinao Kamata

I didn't catch him getting 150 km/h, but here's a 149

Kakogawa's starter Maito Inoue, who had a much more solid team behind him

"Guys, uh, look, you know that, uh, baseball thing? You're supposed to hit it with a bat when you're at the plate. And get it with your glove and throw it to the proper place when you're in the field. Uhh... guys?"


Nate said...

Due to my university back in America freaking out with everything, I'm temporarily staying in Osaka at a dorm in Kansai Gaidai.

The more interesting news of this is that I met an American guy here who is a huge Hanshin Tigers fan and he said a bunch of them are going to Koshien tomorrow and invited me along. I don't know much about high school baseball, but I have literally nothing to do here, and since I have no idea when I'd be in Kansai again, I'd figure it would be a good chance to go.

Deanna said...

You should go! It doesn't matter how much you know about high school baseball, you can still enjoy it. It's a little sad that there are no brass bands this year but you'll still get to see lots of kids playing their heart out at baseball. Plus we are now in the 2nd-3rd rounds of the tournament so some of the weaker schools have been weeded out.

Wednesday features some very good schools. Jonan vs. Kagoshima Jitsugyo should be an interesting game because Jonan took everyone by surprise by actually winning, and Kajitsu is a very strong baseball school. Tokaidai Sagami vs. Ogaki Nichidai also features two powerhouses.

Thursday features Nichidai Sanko with my beloved Yoshinaga-kun :)

shin said...

Hi, I'm a fan of your blog. Watching TV, I was really surprised when I recognized a girl behind the 1st base dugout. I was like, "wow, that must be the baseball-blog girl!"
Hats off to your love towards Japanese high school baseball.
BTW, my favorite player of this tournament is Kassai of Ogaki Nichidai. Though he wasn't that good last year, he came back with some kind of stability this year, I think.
I am sorry that you have to leave Japan 11 or 12 of April, which means you cannot go see any 1-gun game.
Have fun and take care.

Bro Rob R said...

I am actually Tomo Otosaka's father. You sat next to my sister in-law, her daughter, her father and Tomo's Grandmother. My wife and I sat in the parents/team cheering section so you didn't see us. ....and yes we are still together.
Tomo is Captain of the team this year and we are in the Summer Tournament before Koshien.

Deanna said...

Wow -- thanks for writing in. And thanks for the correction, I'm sorry about the misunderstanding. I felt like such an idiot afterwards for not asking more questions, but at the same time, I didn't want to be rude!

(A lot of the information about him out there in Japanese is pretty ambiguous, which is what I was going on when I tried to look it all up later...)

Anyway, Tomo's a great player. He was one of the players I'd been looking forward to seeing on Yokohama's team. I'm not in Japan now so I won't be there at summer Koshien if (when!) Yokohama goes back, but if you want, I can send you a whole bunch of the photos I took during Senbatsu.

I guess they're in Best 4 now? Looking at the teams in Kanagawa I feel that Yokohama's probably the best out of what's remaining, yeah. I'd like to see Yamauchi (the lefty pitcher) get a chance to redeem himself too.

Bro Rob R said...

Yamauchi is have a better season this year.
We have two more games to decide if we can go to Koshien over the summer.
Today's game against Tachibana was close. 0-0 until the 5th and then 3-3 until the 8th inning. In the 8th Tomo bunted and ran to 1st before the pitcher could throw him out. Another bunt got him to 2nd and then Saito hit a ball up the center and Tomo ran from 2nd to home scoring the winning run. 4-3.
I would be happy if Yokohama can just make it to Koshien again this summer. I think they have worked hard for it.
Yokohama High School starting members all live in a school dorm for players. They practice, eat, sleep, clean and cook together. Tomo has done this for the last 3 years and it has been pretty tough at times and all the members have made sacrifices.

Anonymous said...

Hi I just randomly passed by. It seems you really love Koukouyakyu :) Cheers! xx

Bro Rob R said...

Tomo just got selected for the Yokohama Baystars!

Deanna said...

I saw! I just translated the entire draft as it was happening.

I wondered how you feel about Tomo getting drafted? Will he sign, or did you want him to go to university first? I saw that Kondoh also got drafted, by the Fighters -- that should be interesting.

Either way, I think it'd be very exciting for Tomo to play in Yokohama -- and I'm sure I'll see you at a ni-gun game sometime in the future (but dunno when as I'm going back to the US next week)

Deanna said...

And, of course, congratulations :)