Despite that a typhoon was on its way to swallow Tokyo, I spent the afternoon at Fighters Town Kamagaya for my last minor-league game there this year , since I didn't have class until 6pm today. The Fighters won 2-1 against the Swallows on a sayonara single by Suguru Ichikawa, which wouldn't have been necessary if Kanamori had held his 1-0 lead in the top of the 9th. Wilson Valdez, of all people, scored that tying run for Yakult, too.
It rained for pretty much the entire game from the 3rd inning onwards, but the game actually went pretty fast, ending by 3:30pm. Yakult starter Takaichi pitched the entire game, too.
Before the game I showed up and found some of my Fighters friends out by the big building that I believe is the training facility and clubhouse and maybe even dormitory for all I know. They were there to say hi to players as they went between the stadium and the facility, and well, I am really shy, but Mariko, who is probably the biggest Youhei Kaneko fan (and DEFINITELY the biggest Kazunori Yamamoto fan) on the planet, encouraged me to get my photo taken with some players. So I did.
Ryota Imanari, catcher, #62. He'll be 21 in two weeks. He's goofy and funny and a freaking awesome baseball player, and from Saitama no less. I love this kid. I'm seriously considering getting Imanari #62 letters put on one of my jerseys.
The crazy part is, the first time we took the picture it came out all blurry. So Mariko flagged him down like "Ryota! Come back, the picture didn't come out!!" He came back to pose for a second one (how nice is THAT? can you imagine a baseball player in America EVER doing that?), and I apologized to him, babbling in Japanese. I told him I came down from Saitama and he was like "Really? I'm also from Saitama! Where?" and I said Kawaguchi, he said "I went to HS in Urawa!" and I'm like "DUDE I KNOW! I'M A FAN OF URAWA GAKUIN BASEBALL! YOU ARE AWESOME!" and he's like "WTF!" and we took the picture again and I said "thank you so much -- good luck!!" The thing is, he didn't act like "Why on earth is this gaijin babbling at me?" but was more like "Cool! Thanks!"
Teppei Komai, also catcher, #56. He's 26 and I doubt he has much of a future with the team to be honest, but he also seemed like a nice guy.
Takahiro Imanami, infielder, #45, 24 years old. Came to the Fighters from Meiji University two years ago, and supposedly he NEVER smiles for photos. Wears high socks and is a decent second baseman, but is doomed to be perennially blocked by Kensuke Tanaka.
Also, I am taller than him. Seriously.
Suguru Ichikawa, infielder, #50. 22 years old (same birthday as my best friend, June 7th). Ichikawa will have a nice future with the team, ala Koyano, I think, someday. He's currently the Eastern League batting champion, and not only that, he was REALLY nice. He smiled and said "yeah! of course! let's take a photo!" when I shyly asked, and he made a totally dorky grinning face that cracked everyone up. I have never seen this guy NOT smiling now that I think about it. And he's freaking TALL! I didn't realize he's like 186cm! Also, he ended up being the game hero.
Shintaro Ejiri, pitcher, #27. Ejiri is one of the few guys left who was actually on the Fighters when I started following them. ALSO, until Shugo Fujii joined the team -- and Fujii is 5 days younger than me -- Ejiri was closest to my age, as he is one week older than me. He was injured this year and is still rehabbing with the farm team. Also a nice guy and very tall, yikes.
Akiyoshi Toyoshima, left-handed pitcher, #67... umm... Hossha-kun is seriously 18 years old. No, really. He's the only player on the team right now that was born in the 1990's, I believe. But he is super-popular and all of these crazy fangirl women were totally gushing over him, which is bizarre when you realize he's like half their age.
These pictures are not of me but:
This is one of my friends -- before the game they had fans go out and double with the players on the field, and this lady is a HUGE HONKING SUGURU ICHIKAWA FAN OH MY GOD SHE LOVES HIM TO DEATH. So when it was her turn in line and she got to go out to stand with him before the game she literally almost fainted. No joke. She got out there and the two of them were just laughing a ton. Or more like, she was nearly having a heart attack from happiness and he was amused to have one of his biggest fangirls out there with him.
This is not of fangirls at all, but rather, I noticed Aaron Guiel sitting off to the side of the dugout behind a fence and couldn't help but think it looked like he was trapped in a Gaijin Cage or something. Poor guy.
I took a lot of photos at this game, but I have this bizarre feeling I might wait until after the season to do anything with them, at this point.