Thursday, October 25, 2012

Draft 2012 Liveblogging!

Moving the "liveblog" to the bottom though I didn't comment THAT much -- just very tired from 1am-4am here, you know :)

I'll add in the ikusei players tomorrow morning.

Name                   Pos  HS/Univ/Company         T/B   DOB          Ht/Wt  
--------------------   ---  ---------------         ---   ----------   -------

Giants
1 Tomoyuki Sugano       P   Tokai University        R/R   10/11/1989   185/86
2 Susumi Ohrui          IF  Dohto Univ              R/R   08/31/1990   176/70
3 Harutomo Tsuji        IF  Komono HS               R/L   08/11/1994   180/80
4 Katsuhiko Kumon       P   Osaka Gas               L/L   03/04/1992   173/75
5 Masaki Sakaguchi      IF  Tokai Univ              R/R   09/29/1990   187/95

I1 Keigo Tahara         P   Yokohama HS             L/L   06/12/1994   182/88
I2 Rin Matsutomi        IF  Beppu Univ              R/R   04/26/1990   172/70

Dragons
1 Koji Fukutani         P   Keio University         R/R   01/09/1991   183/92
2 Tatsuro Hamada        P   Aikodai Meiden HS       L/L   08/04/1994   183/88
3 Takeru Furumoto       OF  Ryukoku Univ            R/L   12/04/1990   175/77
4 Shota Sugiyama        IF  Waseda Univ             R/R   02/10/1991   172/78
5 Hayato Mizowaki       IF  Kyushu Gakuin HS        R/L   05/17/1994   178/63
6 Koshi Inoue           P   City Light Okayama      R/R   08/21/1988   180/78
7 Shunta Wakamatsu      P   Yusei HS                R/R   02/28/1995   180/75      

Swallows
x Shintaro Fujinami 
1 Taichi Ishiyama       P   Yamaha                  R/R   09/01/1988   182/75
2 Yasuhiro Ogawa        P   Soka Univ               R/R   05/16/1990   170/74
3 Kengo Tagawa          P   Kochi Chuo HS           R/L   05/22/1994   187/77
4 Masaya Emura          P   Y-Tec                   L/L   07/05/1987   179/70
5 Yudai Hoshino         C   Kagawa Olive Guyners    R/R   10/19/1988   177/80
6 Ryota Yachi           IF  Kokugakuin Univ         R/R   02/03/1991   178/78
7 Tatsuya Ohba          P   Hitachi Seisakusho      R/R   03/10/1989   183/85

Carp
x Yudai Mori
x Tatsushi Masuda
1 Hiroki Takahashi      OF  Ryuukokudai Heian HS    R/R   05/11/1994   181/77
2 Seiya Suzuki          P   Nishogakusha HS         R/R   08/18/1994   180/80
3 Takashi Uemoto        IF  Meiji Univ              R/R   08/22/1990   170/70
4 Ko Shimozuru          OF  Honda                   R/R   04/23/1988   175/83
5 Yuuki Mima            P   Naruto Uzushio HS       R/R   05/26/1994   176/77

I1 Sora Tsuji           P   Gifu Johoku HS          R/R   04/24/1994   184/77
I2 Tsukasa Morishita    OF  Aikodai (Univ)          L/L   02/23/1991   176/76

Tigers
1 Shintaro Fujinami     P   Osaka Toin HS           R/R   04/12/1994   197/87
2 Fumiya Hojo           IF  Kosei Gakuin HS         R/R   07/29/1994   177/75
3 Kojiro Tanabo         P   JFE Higashinihon        R/R   12/09/1990   177/82
4 Shinya Azuhata        C   Seino Unyu              R/R   07/22/1988   181/85
5 Kazuyuki Kaneda       P   Osaka Gakuin Univ       R/R   09/18/1990   183/77
6 Ryosuke Ogata         OF  Toyo Univ               R/L   08/25/1990   176/75

Baystars
x Nao Higashihama 
1 Hiroyuki Shirasaki    IF  Komazawa University     R/R   08/20/1990   183/87
2 Kazuki Mishima        P   Hosei University        R/S   05/07/1990   176/75
3 Shoichi Inoh          P   NTT Higashinihon        R/R   05/01/1986   188/84
4 Daichi Akahori        OF  Sega Sammy              R/R   04/13/1987   188/90
5 Tateki Abe            P   NTT Nishinihon          R/R   09/03/1986   180/81
6 Toshiro Miyazaki      IF  Sega Sammy              R/R   12/12/1988   175/80

I1 Kinta Imai           P   Hiroshima Kokusai HS    R/R   06/19/1994   178/78

Fighters
1 Shohei Ohtani         P   Hanamaki Higashi HS     R/L   07/05/1994   193/85
2 Tatsuya Morimoto      IF  Takaoka Daiichi HS      R/R   06/12/1994   185/90
3 Yohei Kagiya          P   Chuo University         R/R   09/23/1990   177/80
4 Ruita Usami           IF  Hiroshima Kogyo HS      R/R   10/24/1994   177/82
5 Hayato Aragaki        P   Toshiba                 R/R   10/21/1985   183/84
6 Shogo Yagi            P   JX-ENEOS                R/L   03/29/1989   179/80
7 Hidekazu Kawano       P   Sumikin Hirohata        R/R   12/14/1987   173/75

Lions
x Nao Higashihama 
1 Tatsushi Masuda       P   NTT Nishinihon          R/R   04/23/1988   180/78
2 Makoto Aiuchi         P   Chiba Kokusai HS        R/R   07/23/1994   184/75
3 Yuji Kaneko           IF  Ritsumeikan University  R/S   04/24/1990   178/67
4 Tomomi Takahashi      P   Seino Unyu              L/L   11/16/1988   174/75
5 Isamu Satoh           P   Kohnan HS               L/L   09/18/1994   181/77

I1 Daichi Mizuguchi     IF  Kagawa Olive Guyners    R/L   06/28/1989   168/68

Hawks
1 Nao Higashihama       P   Asia University         R/R   06/20/1990   181/76 
2 Yusuke Itoh           P   Tohoku Gakuin Univ      L/L   10/20/1990   175/70
3 Tomoki Takata         IF  Asia University         R/L   05/06/1990   175/65
4 Yusuke Masago         OF  Nishijojo HS            R/R   05/04/1994   184/78
5 Taiga Kasahara        P   Fukuoka Kodai Joto HS   L/R   01/20/1995   185/77
6 Hirofumi Yamanaka     P   Honda Kumamoto          R/R   09/09/1985   175/78

I1 Takeshi Yagi         C   Gunma Diamond Pegasus   R/R   01/13/1990   184/81
I2 Yusuke Ohtaki        OF  Earth Environmental HS  R/R   04/05/1994   182/75
I3 Yuya Iida            P   Nodai Univ Okhotsk      L/L   11/27/1990   185/86
I4 Hayao Miyazaki       OF  Mie Chukyo Univ         R/L   11/27/1990   176/70

 
Eagles
1 Yudai Mori            P   Higashi Fukuoka HS      L/L   08/19/1994   184/76
2 Takahiro Norimoto     P   Mie Chukyo University   R/L   12/17/1990   178/80
3 Takahito Ohtsuka      P   Kyushu Gakuin HS        L/L   10/13/1994   174/70
4 Takahiro Shimotsuma   C   Sakata Minami HS        R/R   04/15/1994   186/85
5 Hirohito Shimai       OF  Kumamoto Golden Larks   R/R   06/19/1990   174/70
6 Takahiro Kakizawa     P   Kamimura Gakuen HS      R/L   07/30/1994   178/80

I1 Sho Miyagawa         P   Osaka Taiiku Univ       R/R   10/19/1990   184/87

Marines
x Shintaro Fujinami 
1 Takahiro Matsunaga    P   Osaka Gas               L/L   04/16/1988   175/76
2 Hiroya Kawamitsu      P   Kyushu Kyoritsu Univ    L/L   03/04/1991   186/80
3 Tatsuhiro Tamura      C   Kosei HS                R/R   05/13/1994   173/77
4 Shohei Katoh          OF  Jobu Univ               R/S   03/28/1991   183/83

Buffaloes
x Shintaro Fujinami
x Takahiro Matsunaga
1 Takahiro Matsuba      P   Osaka Taiiku Univ       L/L   08/14/1990   180/75 
2 Shunichi Satoh        P   Dohto Univ              R/R   01/08/1991   179/71
3 Torai Fushimi         C   Tokai Univ              R/R   05/12/1990   182/83
4 Kengo Takeda          OF  Jiyuugaoka HS           R/R   04/18/1994   183/73
5 Shota Morimoto        P   Fukui Miracle Elephants R/R   05/25/1992   174/70
6 Ryo Toda              P   JR Higashinihon         R/R   09/04/1988   181/75

I1 Daiki Hara           C   Shinano Grandserows     R/R   06/02/1988   174/76
I2 Hiroki Nishikawa     OF  Fukui Miracle Elephants R/L   08/15/1987   171/68


One more hour until the draft! OMG!

Since I'm not in Japan this year I'll be hoping to catch a justin.tv broadcast of the TV part, and I'll just be watching the picks come in on various news sources such as Nikkan Sports, Sponichi, Sanspo, etc.

Anyway... can't wait to see where everyone ends up!!

1am for me: It's on TV!  Why the hell is Tomoaki Kanemoto there??!  :)

Ok, stuff getting underway.   Seems like the order is CL first and by ranking, after the first round of course, so that's Yokohama -> Orix -> Hanshin -> Lotte -> Hiroshima -> Rakuten -> Yakult -> Softbank -> Chunichi -> Seibu -> Giants -> Fighters.

I'm betting 5 teams go for Fujinami...

AND THE FIRST ROUND PICKS ARE:
Yokohama: Nao Higashihama, Asia University
Orix: Shintaro Fujinami, Osaka Toin HS
Hanshin: Shintaro Fujinami
Lotte: Shintaro Fujinami
Hiroshima: Yudai Mori, Higashi Fukuoka HS
Rakuten: Yudai Mori
Yakult: Shintaro Fujinami
Softbank: Nao Higashihama
Chunichi: Koji Fukutani, Keio University
Seibu: Nao Higashihama
Giants: Tomoyuki Sugano, Tokai University (really a ronin this year)
Fighters: Shohei Ohtani, Hanamaki Higashi HS (sigh)

I'm so happy that Fukutani-kun went in the first round. I doubt I'll see him much with Chunichi but he has a great opportunity there, he's from Aichi, and he's just an awesome smart nice guy and I'm so happy for him!!

Not sure what I think of the Ohtani thing, before anyone asks me. The Fighters do some pretty crazy things in the drafts recently. If they can get him to stay, great, if not, oh well, we do a pretty great job of developing our pitchers anyway. Picking Ohtani and losing him to the MLB is not significantly different than picking Fujinami and losing the lottery for him.

So yeah, 4 for Fujinami, 3 for Higashihama, 2 for Mori... lotteries now:

1:21am: Looks like Nao Higashihama is going to the Softbank Hawks... Sadaharu Oh did the lottery pick for them and actually beat the super-lucky Nabe-Q from Seibu.  wow.

1:25am: and Shintaro Fujinami is going to the Hanshin Tigers?!  WTF :P

1:28am: Yudai Mori, who has the Marinerds Cute Seal of Approval, is going to...  Rakuten apparently.  Wheeee.

Okay, so what are the rest of you guys doing in the first round since you didn't get your first pick?

Yokohama:Hiroyuki Shirasaki, Komazawa University
Orix:Takahiro Matsunaga, Osaka Gas
Lotte:Takahiro Matsunaga
Hiroshima:Tatsushi Masuda, NTT Nishinihon
Yakult: Taichi Ishiyama, Yamaha
Seibu:Tatsushi Masuda

Wow so ANOTHER lottery...

1:36am: Lotte gets Matsunaga.
1:38am:Seibu gets Masuda.

So now it's just down to Orix and Hiroshima to settle out their first round... will someone freaking draft Mishima already?  :)

Orix: Takahiro Matsuba, Osaka Taiiku Univ
Hiroshima: Hiroki Takahashi, Ryuukokudai Heian HS

I guess that's it for the first round, whee.

Okay, here are the ACTUAL first round results:

Yokohama: Hiroyuki Shirasaki, IF, Komazawa University
Orix: Takahiro Matsuba, LHP, Osaka Taiiku Univ
Hanshin: Shintaro Fujinami, RHP, Osaka Toin HS
Lotte: Takahiro Matsunaga, LHP, Osaka Gas
Hiroshima: Hiroki Takahashi, OF, Ryuukokudai Heian HS
Rakuten: Yudai Mori, LHP, Higashi Fukuoka
Yakult: Taichi Ishiyama, RHP, Yamaha
Softbank: Nao Higashihama, RHP, Asia University
Chunichi: Koji Fukutani, RHP, Keio University
Seibu: Tatsushi Masuda, RHP, NTT Nishinihon
Giants: Tomoyuki Sugano, RHP, Tokai University
Fighters: Shohei Ohtani, RHP, Hanamaki Higashi HS

It's now 1:46am so I guess it's time for the next round soon?

OH YAY KAZUKI MISHIMA GOT PICKED BY THE BAYSTARS AS THE FIRST PICK OF THE 2ND ROUND!!!  JUST LIKE KAGAMI 2 YEARS AGO.  Also they can play together again, that'll be so funny if I go to visit both of them!! :)


I think I'm mostly giving up on liveblogging and just going to fill in names as they come in because I'm already getting tired... :(

OH but hey, Yohei Kagiya to the Fighters! AWESOME! That means I will meet him next year for sure :)

Takashi Uemoto to Hiroshima, thank god for that :)

I kinda want to note that I think this is the first NPB draft that has both players born after I graduated high school AND players I have actually been out drinking with. Pretty crazy, huh?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012 Draft!

Hi everyone.  I AM planning to liveblog the draft this year, just as I have every year since 2006 or so. Yeah, I'm back in the US, but I'm planning to be up until at least 3am my time, which means I can catch the 5pm start of the draft in Japan which is 1am here, and hopefully most of it will be done by the time I crash.

I don't think I'm going to get out a pre-draft photo post this time around, since I've been completely swamped at work since coming back here.

Here are the lists of HS and College boys who are entering the draft:

High School Candidates
College Candidates


There are also several industrial league guys who are expected to go fairly high, like pitchers Motoshi Ohshiro from JX-ENEOS (I don't get this one as he's a little lefty, but at Kamagaya the rumors were high), Tatsushi Masuda from NTT Nishinihon, Takahiro Matsunaga from Osaka Gas, catcher Shinya Azuhata from Seino (which is totally fine with me as he'll open playing time for my Shuhei Ikenaga, heh heh).

I don't have a ton of insight into a lot of the high school players beyond things other sites have already said.  The giant 197-cm Shintaro Fujinami from Osaka Toin will certainly be a contested commodity, and it's unclear whether Shohei Ohtani from Hanamaki Higashi will really go to the MLB or not.  LHP Tatsuro Hamada from Aikodai Meiden seems to be high on several lists, infielder Fumiya Hojo from Kosei has been a big deal these last two years.

The college list is, of course, hard for me to be completely unbiased when talking about.  I could write an entire post about how Kazuki Mishima has grown over these last 4 years at Hosei and how he is the undisputed MVP for them winning the Big 6 championship this semester, but since he's also been my "birthday buddy" these last few years and we always chat and joke together outside Jingu after games, I really, really, really want him to get drafted and have a great and successful career.  I could also talk about how Hiroshi Taki decided NOT to enter the draft this year and go to Toyota instead, and how he managed to finish college with 106 career hits, but... yeah.

And of course I'm also biased when talking about the Keio boys; I knew Koji Fukutani was something special when I first saw him in the rookie tournament his freshman year, and I was lucky enough to talk to him several times during the run where Keio was just crushing everyone.  He's tall, built well, throws fast, throws hard, strikes out a ton of guys, and even better, he got into Keio on the actual entrance exam and THEN excelled in sports (AND is an engineering major, the only active baseball club member to do so).  I doubt Daisuke or Agata will get drafted, but they have still had respectable careers as well.

I doubt any of the Rikkio boys will get drafted. Shota Sugiyama from Waseda will probly get taken but I see his upside as Shinichi Takeuchi and his downside as out of baseball in 3-4 years. I guess we'll see. And Meiji's Takashi Uemoto better get drafted, I'm not sure he'll graduate :) He's a really fun guy and his brother plays for Hanshin, but he's never really had a spectacular season at bat during college so it's a little bit worrisome.

In the Tohto league I've become a Chuo fan over the last year or two, and I've grown increasingly fond of Yohei Kagiya.  He may not blow anyone away with his height or power, since he is neither tall nor overpowering, but he throws strikes consistently enough and attacks batters in the zone, which is more than I can say for a lot of other pitchers; I charted him a few times over the last year and he throws a lot more first-pitch strikes than many other college pitchers in Japan.  Nao Higashihama from Asia-dai has been a #1 draft pick since he entered college, pretty much, so it won't be too surprising to see him go somewhere fast.  Hiroyuki Shirasaki from Komazawa, I was surprised to see him on so many lists but watching him in Japan this year, he's a tall boy and he really has filled out a lot as a cleanup batter.  Tomoki Takata from Asia-dai is also a solid shortstop (and he threw me a ball at the US-Japan games, so he gets my vote).

Players in other leagues that I have some interest in include Torai Fushimi, the adorable catcher from Tokai University, who is also pretty solid and was chosen to Japan's national team as a sophomore (though he ducked out on going to North Carolina last summer because he had a bad spring semester).  And Ritsumeikan's switch-hitting shortstop Yuji Kaneko should hopefully get drafted as well, I was pretty impressed with him last summer as well.

Anyway, I'll see you all back here in about 24 hours!  Exciting!  God help me if any of the boys I've fallen for these last 4 years end up with teams I hate, by which I mostly mean Yomiuri...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Daily Reporter at Kamagaya -- Sept 26

I was actually somewhat specifically asked to blog about this experience, so I'm writing an entry.  I guess maybe there are still readers of this blog who don't know me in other channels, but I'm back in Japan for a month (have been from Sept 5 to Oct 8, basically).  I've already gone to around 25 games here, and have a few more to go.

Anyway, so I went to Kamagaya yesterday afternoon.  My intention for the day was to do absolutely nothing special -- I wasn't going to bring my huge camera and take photos, I wasn't even wearing a Fighters jersey (just a t-shirt), I wasn't going to spend time after the game getting photos or autographs, I was just going to go by myself and do nothing but watch the damn game for a change.

I should know by now that this sort of thing never works out, and adventure happens to me whether I like it or not.

Basically, the guy who used to be one of the interpreters for the team, Mr. Araki, works in the Kamagaya office now, which partially means he helps run all of the daily "events" at Kamagaya.  During the weekend these events can get pretty crazy -- like this upcoming weekend is the Hokkaido Festival, and holiday weekends also tend to have big things where they'll have food tents and rides for kids and a stage set up with singers and dancers and "talk shows" with the players, and autograph tables, and all kinds of crazy things.  During the weekdays, the events tend to be a lot more low-key, like a "special dessert" that might be on sale only in the 5th inning, or the pre-game ceremonial first pitch, or dancing on the field in the 7th inning, etc.

Anyway, one thing that I always saw at Kamagaya but never understood fully was a bunch of people who'd get introduced on the field before the game, just random fans.  And then another thing is that there's this huge book of daily reports from the Fighters Kamagaya games that sits on a table in the concourse, and you can look through it and see what people wrote about the games for the past 2 years or so.  Some are detailed, some are just a drawing and a sentence or two, it depends.

So Araki came up to me and said (in English) "Hey, long time no see.  Would you like to be a daily reporter today?  You get to go on the field before the game and be introduced, and then you write a report about the game that we put in our book.  Maybe you can write about it on your blog."

Well, I was super-nervous but it sure sounded like a new and interesting experience, so I said sure, and about 15 minutes later my name got called out with 5 other people and I reported to the stadium clubhouse entrance thingy.  We got a brief explanation of the Daily Report form and then were escorted into the stadium -- my first time there!  (I'd been on the field before once or twice for various post-game events, but we always entered from the outside of the stadium.)  We went through the lobby (where I saw former Fighter Komai and some other guys working on something) and down a hallway, past a bunch of rooms that had various people in them that looked like media or players getting set up to chart stuff, etc, and waited outside the Fighters dugout:



They told us a little bit about what would happen on the field... now the silly thing is, they specifically asked me if I could speak Japanese, and of course I'd been talking in Japanese up to that point.  But they thought it'd be funny if we did both languages... the suggestion was to do like a comedy routine where I'd say something in English, the announcer would look confused and call for the interpreter and then I'd just repeat myself in Japanese. 

But what actually happened is more like, we went out there, and when the guy got to me he just said in English "Oh hello how are you" and I'm thinking "wait WTF", so I just said something in English like "Hi I'm Deanna, I'm happy to be a daily reporter, I love the Fighters and Kamagaya!" and then he said "oh okay!!" and went on to the next person.

Then a friend of mine from the stands yelled down in Japanese "Oi Deanna, why didn't you say that in Japanese?" and I yelled back "He didn't ASK me in Japanese!" and then the announcer was like "Wait, you speak Japanese?  Then in Japanese please!" and so I repeated myself, kinda, like "let's have a great game today, go Fighters!"

And as a joke he asked the next guy to give his answer in English. 

The other funny thing is that the last guy in the group is actually one of my Kamagaya friends (and is one of the ouendan leaders), but he was wearing a Searex t-shirt, so they were giving him crap about that.

Anyway, that was quite a crazy experience, it was really weird looking out into the stands and realizing how many people I recognized out there -- it sounds crazy but in the last 5 years I've met a LOT of the Kanto-area Fighters fan regulars!

I made Araki-san take photos while I was on the field, so here, you can see that I'm not making this crazy thing up:

Here we are on the field, getting ready to be introduced as daily reporters.


I am looking around at all the people in the stands and definitely being like "WTF am I doing here!"


And here I am being interviewed myself.  How bizarre!  Apparently Nakahara-san didn't get the memo about the comedy thing but it sounds like it was still funny to everyone, so that's good.

Anyway, so after that we were led off the field, back through the clubhouse, back outdoors, and given clipboards with the Daily Report thingies on them, and then went back to our seats!  Lots of my friends were like "OMG I SAW YOU!  SO FUNNY!"

Oh yeah, also, before the game started I went and got a photo with Cubby.  I'd been told that the person inside the Cubby outfit has changed, and there's a new uniform too:

 

So yeah, there was a game.  Because I was a Daily Reporter, I took very careful notes all game!  (Just joking, I kept my normal scorecard, which was more than enough.)

Takayuki Makka started for the Baystars (you may or may not remember that he has my undying support since another craziest day ever of mine) and Tomoya Yagi started for the Fighters (you may remember him being our Rookie of the Year in 2006 and never being quite so awesome ever again.  Sigh, I still have home for him though.)  So two lefties, exciting.

Only thing is, Makka had a really tough time in the first inning, and so after getting two quick outs, he gave up two hits in a row to Shingo Ishikawa and Atsushi Ugumori, walked Takahiro Imanami to lead the bases, and then gave up a grand slam to Masaya Ozaki.  Don't get me wrong, I love my ni-gun Fighters, but I'm not sure the last time I ever saw anyone hit a grand slam in Kamagaya.  So this brought the Fighters out to a quick 4-0 lead.

Though Makka did go 5 innings and only give up those runs in the first inning.  In the meantime, Yagi didn't make it through 5; he came out in the top of the 5th, after giving up a run in the second inning (and then the Baystars ran themselves out of it) and then giving up 4 hits into the 5th inning... so when he left it was 4-3 and two runs had just come in on a Hyuma single that took an awkward bounce up the middle, and then runners were at the corners.  Masao Kida replaced Yagi, gave up a hit to Noriharu Yamasaki, and that made it 4-4.


Makka pitching to Masaya Ozaki.


Yes, Masao Kida turned 44 a week or two ago and actually IS still playing baseball, he hasn't retired.  My friend and I were just talking about that a few days ago.

So then both teams put out a whole bunch of relievers for the next few innings.  The Fighters put out Takahiro Matsuka (yay!!! Todai!!) and Ryuji Wakatake (booo!) and Yutaka Ohtsuka (yay!!! Soka!!) and the three of them kept the next 3 innings scoreless.  The Baystars put out Atori Ohta (yay!!!  Teikyo!!!) and Takehiro Fukuda and Shigeki Ushida (yay Meiji?) and they kept the next 3 innings scoreless.

Then we got Masahiro Inui pitching the 9th.  Look, I know Inui is doing very well on the farm even if he hasn't done a lot with the top team yet.  And I was a fan of his when he was a sophomore at Toyo University. It's just that ever since I saw Takahiro Fujioka pitch instead of him one fateful day in April 2009, I haven't been able to see Inui as anywhere near as awesome since because Fujioka is just that much better.

So when Inui pretty much immediately gave up a home run to Yuki Takamori (who I am also a big fan of), making it 5-4, I wasn't all that surprised.  He hasn't been great whenever I'm watching for quite some time now.

Tangent time!

In the 4th inning or so, my friends were all going back to get lottery cards for an end-of-game event.  Again, these are the things I think I've been aware of but just had never seen or never had anyone tell me what was going on when they happened.  So I went back and got a ticket too, and my friends explained, "At the end of the 8th inning they'll call out 5 or 6 numbers from the 100, and those people get to go on the field at the end of the game and have their photo taken with the game hero, if the Fighters win.  If the Fighters don't win, you can still go on the field but you get your photo with Cubby." 

Well, get this, it was apparently my doubly-lucky day, since my ticket number ALSO got called.

But at the time the game was tied, so everyone was joking how "you'll get to meet Cubby on the field later!"

Then Takamori hit that home run and they were like "Yeah... have fun with Cubby!"



Lottery ticket for the picture-taking at the end of the game.

Anyway.

So with that in mind, the Fighers came up in their half of the 9th, and of all of the people to pitch for the Baystars, they bring out former Fighter Masanori Hayashi, who gets a flyout from Ozaki, a strikeout from Sekiguchi, and then with a very full count and many foul balls, Yuji Arahari walked.  Konta pinch-ran for him, and then, out of absolutely nowhere, Suguru Ichikawa smacked a TRIPLE down the right-field line, scoring Konta and tying the game 5-5.  Go Matsumoto hit a pop fly out, but the game was going into extra innings!

Suddenly I had a lot more to write and no room left on my Daily Report form, oops :)

Ryo Sakakibara handled the Baystars in the top of the 10th and then the Stars sent Shintaro Ejiri to the mound for the bottom of the 10th.  Everyone loves Ejiri, he was with the Fighters for years, I was a huge fan of his then too, so we're all like "well, we want to win but does Ejiri have to lose?"

Unfortunately, yes, that's how it worked.  Murata led off with a double, moved to third on a groundout by Takumi Ohshima (whee!) and they intentionally walked a pinch-hitting Kenji Satoh, to change pitchers to Shoma Satoh.  Shoma pitched to Takahiro Imanami, who hit a single up the middle and Murata scored and that was it!  6-5!!

Apparently Imanami's parents were at the game, or at least several people told me that.


Final score.


Here I am posing with my Daily Report thingy.


And here's my Daily Report.  Fortunately, since I was a Junior High School teacher at some point, and had seen this at Kamagaya before too, I was vaguely familiar with what you were supposed to do for them.  I decided to go all out and write mine in both Japanese and English, which meant a bunch of people were staring over my shoulder like "OMG YOU CAN WRITE KANJI" and "Wow, you really took good notes today huh?"

So as I mentioned before, I won this lottery thing to go on the field.  I went down to the area by the door again and... ran into my friend Tomoko, who had another friend of hers there with her who was a big Imanami fan, and she's like "Deanna, you got a winning ticket?  Can my friend go with you?  He really wants to meet Imanami.  He made this banner and brought it today."  What was I supposed to say, no?  It's really awkward when people put me in those situations, but since I know I owe a lot to my friends here I generally go along with these kinds of things.  You know, like they do a lot of things for me like saving seats or taking photos or trading pinbadges or whatever, we all kind of look out for each other, that's how the whole group dynamic works here in Japan.  (Honestly, had it just been someone I actually knew, I would have been absolutely totally fine with it with no reservations whatsoever, but this was some random dude I had never ever seen before who had never spoken to me... and since almost everyone at Kamagaya has spoken to me at SOME point, I felt kind of weird.  It would have been a lot better if Tomoko came with us, but she wouldn't for some reason.)


On the other hand, I WAS GOING BACK ON THE FIELD!  WHEEE!  So I tried not to feel weird about the situation and just went with the other people, back through the clubhouse again, and back onto the field for the second time in a day.

We had to wait for the team meeting to be over first, so a bunch of us just went around the area behind home plate where we were waiting, taking pictures of ourselves with various things:


Tomoko's friend's Imanami banner that he made and brought that day, pretty lucky that Imanami was the game hero, right?


One of the other guys wanted to pose with the sweepermobile and I was like "OMG ME TOO!!!"  I tried to figure out how to drive it -- that looks hard, there are like 3 separate brushes on the back.


Anyway, after a while, Imanami came out, we lined up in our 6 groups/pairs, and each group took a photo with him as their group, and then all of us together took a photo with him (and the banner).  The only catch is, we weren't allowed to use our own cameras, the Fighters staff take the photo with their camera, and then they'll print out one print for you, that you can pick up at a later game.  Well, I won't *be* here for the final games this weekend, or even in Japan that much longer, so I just told the Imanami fan that he could have the photo print since it meant so much to him.

Plus, really, the nice thing was mostly just getting to say hi to Imanami, congratulate him on a good game, shake his hand, you know?  The entire experience is worth a lot more to me than the photo -- besides, I actually got a photo with Imanami once before, about four years ago, and I have met him and said hello to him after many games at Kamagaya, and even had him sign my uniform, so it's really not that big a deal to me.  Don't get me wrong, I like Imanami and hope he does well with the team someday, but since I'm also a big Haruki Nishikawa fan I'm not sure where Imanami fits in.

So, very very crazy day.  I got to go through the Fighters stadium building twice, I got to write a report thingy, I got to talk to someone at Kamagaya in actual English for a change, I got to see a lot of my friends, and then, even crazier, when I got on the bus to Nishi-funabashi afterwards, I ran into two MORE friends of mine from my normal Fighters cheering group, who had been sitting in the back and never came over to say hi, so we rode all the way back to town together. 

Unfortunately, when I went to the Tigers-Swallows game that evening, Ryota Imanari wasn't starting for the Tigers as he had been on Tuesday night.  Alas.  The Swallows beat the crap out of the Tigers and it was an all-around good evening with my Jingu friends too.

I should probably write some more about other games I've been to on this trip -- I wonder if maybe I'll have some time to write about them when I get back to the US instead, and whether I'll remember all the details by then.  At least I can post photos, maybe.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Photopost: Rainiers vs. Sky Sox - Cheney Field Trip!

Last weekend I was up in Seattle for the Microsoft Puzzle Safari, but I also had a side goal of trying to go stalk Brian Sweeney.  I'd noticed a few months ago that he and Luis Jimenez were on the Rainiers, and this particular weekend both the Rainiers and Mariners were in town, so I figured that one way or another I should be able to catch them.

(Brian and Luis both played for the Fighters when I lived in Japan, see.  Brian was there for several years, even, through two Japan Series runs, and I used to talk to him fairly often, and once his family even joined me and my friends in the outfield cheering section.  Brian is without a doubt the nicest guy I've ever met in baseball.  Luis was only around for half a season, but he was also really nice when I met him.)

Anyway, the last time I went to a game in Tacoma was at least 5 years ago, maybe 6.  I used to try to make it to a few games a year in both Tacoma (Rainiers, AAA) and Everett (Aquasox, short A) when I lived in Seattle, so I could see what the newest and oldest minor-leaguers in the Mariners system were up to.  At the time, Cheney Stadium was a fairly typical minor-league park: slightly run-down, full of a 1960's flair of sorts, kinda campy, but the kind of place you go to because watching minor-league ball is fun and cheap.  And who can beat Dollar Dog Thursdays and deals like that?

Well, about two years ago they renovated the crap out of the place, quite literally.  I showed up and even from the highway, I could tell that it had completely changed.  There's a whole new front facade, mostly because there's a whole structure full of luxury suites and apparently a restaurant seating area and all kinds of new stuff.  To be honest, I'd bought a ticket a few days before coming to Seattle, because it looked like the Sunday game was almost sold out at that point!  It's crazy, but between season tickets, the renovated stadium, fan-friendly events including an autograph booth before the game, and the way they're promoting, the Rainiers seem to be doing pretty good business for themselves.



However, thanks to all the new stuff, I wasn't entirely sure how the lines and entrances and such worked now.  My seat was on the 3rd base side, so I lined up at the 3rd base gate, around noon, for a 1:35 game, where the gates apparently would open at 12:30.  It was slightly rainy, and I was getting concerned by the fact that people kept lining up on the 1st base side, but not so much on the 3rd base side.  So finally I turned around and asked the older guy standing behind me in line, "Hey, what's the deal with the gates?  Am I in the wrong place?"

"Yeah," he told me, "This side is for season ticket holders.  The middle part there's for the dugout club and suites and all.  The other side is for general admission."

"Oh crap," I said, "I haven't been here in about 6 years, and there wasn't a system like that back then as far as I remember."

"Well, that's okay," he said and winked, "You're with us, right?"

He turned out to be a season ticket holder for many years with his kids, so when I started babbling about coming to watch Felix, and Hunter Brown and all, he started telling me about all the renovations to the stadium and so on.

Anyway, eventually we got into the stadium.  And my seat, which was in the front row of section D, a single seat available there, turned out to be between two season ticket holders.  (No wonder.  But the number of season ticket holders seems pretty impressive nonetheless.)  I went down to the dugout in the hopes of catching Luis or Brian, and I basically stayed there for an entire hour until game time.

See, it was Sunday, so there was no batting practice.  Some players were coming out to stretch or run or throw in the field, but it wasn't mandatory.  A little boy down the row from me got several of the players to sign his ball, and then the guy standing next to me asked, "Do you have any idea what Stephen Pryor looks like?"

"Not really, why?" I replied.

"Well," he explained, "I was at the combined no-hitter game, and then went to the game where they gave out posters commemorating the game.  And then a week or so ago Tom Wilhelmsen was doing a signing at Fred Meyer, so I went there and got him to sign the poster.  And I saw Stephen Pryor got sent down to AAA so I thought maybe I could catch him here.  And then after that... well, maybe if I'm lucky sometime I can catch the other guys in the bullpen.  I'm pretty sure I can recognize Brandon League, and maybe if he saw what I was doing he'd help me get Furbush and Luetge.  The problem is going to be Kevin Millwood."

"Yeah," I agreed, "Millwood's tough.  I mean, I still remember seeing him throw a no-hitter for the Phillies like ten years ago too.  Guys like that are hard to catch... but I don't think it's impossible, there's always spring training, or minor-league rehabs, or maybe he'll be a coach someday?  Alternately you could try going to one of the early opening days for season ticket holders, if you know anyone who's a season ticket holder?  I got half the bullpen to sign a poster for me at one of those several years ago..."

Anyway, I explained to him that I was there waiting for Brian or Luis, and we stood around by the dugout talking for a while.  I looked at his poster and kinda tried to memorize Pryor's face; I was pretty sure I hadn't seen him go by.  A photographer came by and saw this guy holding the poster and said he'd see if he could pass the message on to Pryor, and sure enough, around maybe 10 minutes before game time, Pryor came out and signed it for him! That was pretty cool.



I waited around some more, feeling kinda confused, like "Why haven't they come out yet?"  Other players came out; the starter Andrew Carraway walked by us, a bunch of infielders like Carlos Triunfel and Nick Franklin and Mike Carp went to warm up.  For the record, Carp didn't even turn his head at all when the little boy down the row for me asked for a signature, but Triunfel and Franklin both said they'd sign on their way back in, and did.  I prefer photos to signatures, honestly, and I had the sense to ask Nick Franklin if I could get a photo with him, which he was fine with and even smiled for.  What a nice guy!  I guess this is what happens when players are coming up through the system rather than going down.  Also, no, I didn't see Danny Hultzen anywhere.

Anyway, I finally did get to talk to Brian for all of 2 minutes before the game started.  It was a little weird because I wanted to tell him how I'd been following his games this year, and hope he'll get called up to Seattle at some point, and how the Rainiers came to Sacramento a few weeks ago and he was the starting pitcher on a Sunday afternoon then but it was 106 degrees out and I was kind of sick at the time.  And so many other things, like how I'm just happy he's still in baseball since so many guys come back from Japan and have nowhere to go, and I wondered how his family was doing and all.  But, our conversation was more like "OMG HOW ARE YOU I HAVEN'T SEEN YOU IN FOREVER!"  At least I showed off how this time I wore a Fighters shirt -- last time I saw Brian was 2 years ago and I had a Marines shirt, and promised to wear a Fighters shirt next time I saw him.  Pretty crazy, really.  He said he'd be pitching on Tuesday, unfortunately, so I wouldn't get to see him pitch this time.

I got to talk to Luis a little bit too, congratulate him on being part of the Triple-A All-Star team, things like that.  At least Luis was in the starting lineup as DH, so I'd get to see him play.

And I got a photo with both of them.  It was kind of frantic, but it's so cool that they're both on the same team! I showed the photo to a bunch of my Fighters friends back in Japan, and they're all basically like "OMG SWEENEY AND HIME-CHAN! PLEASE CHEER FOR THEM FOR US!" Everyone was really excited to hear that they were still playing baseball and doing well and looking happy.



On my way to my seat, I passed by the guy who'd gotten the Pryor autograph, and he was like "I saw Brian and Luis come out and talk to you!  Awesome that you got to see them!"  So that was good.

I spent the first 2 innings in my actual seat, and then joined up with my friend Jeff (no, not the LL one) for the rest of the game.  We'd actually made plans to meet up at the game, but I was coming down from Seattle and he was coming from further out in Tacoma, so it just worked out this way.  Jeff and I used to go to Rainiers games waaaaay back in the day, and he hadn't been back there since the last time we went to a game together either (since I went to Japan for a few years and he moved to California for a few years).  So we got to sit together and reminisce and watch the game and all.

I also spent a half inning wandering through the stadium just taking photos of the various things there like the Tacoma Hall of Fame, the concession stands, the concourse, and so on.  It was nice to really appreciate how the stadium had been completely remodelled.  The concessions are really crazy, though I ended up just getting a hot dog because I was in a hurry.

Oh, and I did watch a game.  Rob Scahill started for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, and Andrew Carraway for the Rainiers.  It was a fairly close game all the way, with each team scoring a point here or there, but no huge innings.  The Rainiers went up 1-0 in the 2nd when Nick Franklin walked and was singled around by Catricala and Triunfel.  Then the Sky Sox tied it up 1-1 in the top of the 4th as Andrew Brown singled, moved up on Matt McBride's single, moved to third on a bunt by Charlie Blackmon, and scored on a sac fly by Brendan Harris.  But Nick Franklin walked again in the bottom of the 4th, stole second on Vinnie Catricala's at bat, moved up on Catricala's fly to center, and then scored during a wild pitch to Carlos Triunfel, 2-1.  The Rainiers made it 3-1 in the bottom of the 5th when Darren Ford reached on a throwing error by short, stole second on Trayvon Robinson's at-bat and moved up on his groundout.  Then he scored when Luis Jimenez hit a single to left!  Yay!  The Sky Sox made it 3-2 in their half of the 6th, with McBride walking, moving up when Harris walked, then scoring on a hit by Chad Tracy.

I had to leave by around 5pm in order to get to the airport in time for my flight back to San Francisco, but everything seemed fine going into the 9th, at 4:15 or so.  Scott Patterson came out to pitch the top of the 9th, and the very first pitch he threw was sent over the left-field wall by Tommy Field, to make it 3-3.  Oops.

Sky Sox made it 4-3 in their top of the 10th on a double by Blackmon and another by Tracy.  But then the Rainiers tied it up 4-4 on a Luis Rodriguez pinch-hit homer over the right-field wall in the bottom of the 10th.

Normally I *hate* to leave a game early -- I'm always showing up to the park way before the game and leaving way after -- but missing my flight would really suck, so I packed up after the bottom of the 10th and left.  I stopped in the Rainiers Team Store on my way out of the stadium, to get a shirt, and while I was buying it, we saw on the TV screens in the shop that Charlie Blackmon had just hit a 3-run homer to make it 7-4 Sky Sox, which is what the final score was.

I shouldn't feel too bad, I guess -- I did watch 10 innings and 3.5 hours of the game, after all.

Anyway, here's my photo set from the day, of Cheney Stadium and many Rainiers. And as usual, a sampling in my post...



Nick Franklin!  1st-round pick in 2009 and already up with the Rainiers.


Tacoma Baseball Hall of Fame, featuring plaques for Gaylord Perry and such, and of course Ben Cheney, the businessman who brought baseball to Tacoma in the first place.


Look at this crazy treehouse... I mean grandstand full of suites and restaurants all.  Hard to believe this is Cheney Stadium.


Rainiers starter Andrew Carraway.


Mike Carp (check out that tattoo)


Sky Sox starter Rob Scahill.


Renovated scoreboard looks good, and looks better with Hime-chan on it!


Luis Jimenez at bat!


Nick Franklin slides into third base!


Score when I left the game.

I have no idea whether I'll make it to another Rainiers game at all this year -- maybe when they come to Fresno, we'll see.  The Mariners don't come back to Oakland until the end of September, and I may be in Japan then.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Photopost etc: Eri Yoshida pitches in San Rafael!

When I was about 5 years old, someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said I wanted to be a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. My mom told me that girls couldn't become baseball players, and I cried for like a week.

Well, last Friday, July 6th, I went up to San Rafael again to watch the Pacifics. The difference this time was that it was actually to watch the Maui Na Koa Ikaika team... because Eri Yoshida was starting for them! I figured I just HAD to go up there if she would be pitching so close to home, after reading about her for so long.

I thought the game was at 7pm, left work right after our company meeting, hit the road around 5:45pm, got to San Rafael around 6:20pm... and was very surprised that the stadium wasn't particularly crowded. Then I found out that the game was at 7:30. However, this worked in my favor because I got a GREAT seat, I was in the "Dugout Club" again at a table RIGHT against the field. To my left was a lady who modelled in Japan like 30 years ago and the rest of my table was a Japanese family, the father was from Nagoya, the mother from Shizuoka, and the kids born and grew up in California. But they spent the whole game speaking Japanese anyway, which was amusing because it took them a bit to realize I was fluent and could understand/speak with them. (I started explaining the intricacies of independent league baseball in Japanese...) The mother kept up a stream of very motherly babbling the entire game, including "Why are there no cheering sections or big scoreboards here?" about the atmosphere, and "She looks like a junior high school student!" about Eri Yoshida herself.

I spent the pre-game wandering around the stadium a bit, to get food and look around and take photos. I noticed Tsuboi wasn't in the lineup again, and asked a staff guy, who thought he'd been released! OH NO! But then I ran into the team trainer, a Japanese guy who kinda serves as a translator for Tsuboi as well, while he was talking to someone in Japanese, so I just sort of butted in on their conversation for a second to ask what was up with Tsuboi, and he's like "Oh yeah, you were here a few weeks ago in a Fighters hat, right? Tsuboi injured his shoulder... we'll see what happens but..." The three of us talked about Eri Yoshida a bit, and THEN Trainer-san told me something VERY interesting, namely "There's another Japanese pitcher on the Maui team here, this is his first day, he's a lefty, former pro yakyu guy with the Seibu Lions... they're supposed to have him pitch after Eri-chan because so many Japanese people are here tonight..." and my brain suddenly clicks and I'm like "WAIT A MINUTE, IS IT YOSHIHIRO DOI?!" and he's like "Maybe?" I'd heard that Doi was looking to catch on with another team over here after getting cut from the Orioles, so it certainly would make sense.

(Also, from blog reader Ken: Tsuboi out for 10-14 days with a sprained shoulder, apparently. Since the team had a week off, I guess it works out well for him, and I hope he gets back into the lineup soon since I'd like to see him play again.)

Anyway, eventually the game happened. And around 1500 people were there. For a stadium that seats 800 people officially. They had bleachers set up behind the dugout area, and standing-room only arrangements. The local papers apparently wrote about Eri Yoshida so a bazillion people came out to see her pitch. By the time I went to take photos of her warming up in the bullpen, it was almost impossible to actually walk back there, because there were so many people in a space not intended for so many people.

Of course, the sad part is, she had a kind of bad outing - only 3 innings, 5 walks, 1 strikeout (and the 3rd strike was dropped so the runner advanced, I was all like "what do you call that in Japanese, nige... nige... furinige?") and a hit batter, so she was taken out in the 4th inning after walking in a run. Bizarrely it seems she was only charged with 1 earned run out of the 5 she gave up. After she came out, Steve Boggs hit a 3-run homer that cleared all of her runners.

Still, it was pretty cool to watch a 20-YEAR-OLD JAPANESE GIRL throwing pitches and having BIG AMERICAN DUDES SWING AND MISS.

The other cool thing is that Yoshihiro Doi DID pitch 2 innings! He gave up a run but he also got a strikeout or two and looked pretty good. After he finished his innings and walked by us to go to the bullpen, I called out to him in Japanese, "Hey Doi, good job, nice pitching!" (お疲れ様!) and he looked over surprised but then smiled like "Huh? Oh, thanks!" (ああ、どうも!) And the people around me were all like "Holy shit! Do you know him?" and so I explained how I'd seen him pitch for years in Japan and this was his first game for Maui and so on.

The Pacifics won the game 7-3. Box score here.

After the game I went over with the Japanese family I'd been sitting with, to try to get a photo/signature from Eri Yoshida. Despite having a somewhat bad start, she stayed after the game and signed for pretty much everybody who asked! It was really nice of her. Although I really wanted to talk to her a lot more and tell her how much I admire her, since I wanted to be a major league pitcher when I was a little kid, there were so many people around that I just got a photo and an autograph and wished her a hearty ganbare and moved on.

However, while she was being mobbed, nobody was talking to Doi, so I came over and chatted with him for about 10 minutes. I asked him about how he'd ended up there, and yeah, he'd signed a few weeks ago but had to wait for paperwork to start actually playing, and was a little nervous because he hadn't pitched in front of live batting for a few months. (I told him he did fine, of course. He told me my Japanese was really good and asked why I was able to speak so well.) I explained that I was a Fighters fan but of course had seen him pitch with Seibu many many times, and that I used to live in Saitama, so we got into a long conversation about Saitama. Bizarrely, I used to live really close to where he grew up, when I lived in Kawaguchi. We were talking about riding our bicycles over the Warabi track crossing, which is a somewhat obnoxious high bridge; he used to ride that every day to go to Kasukabe Kyoei HS; I used to ride it once or twice a month to go watch baseball at Lotte Urawa or Yakult Toda stadiums. Again, I was having such a strange moment of "I can't believe I'm standing here talking to Yoshihiro Doi about living in Saitama." I'm pretty sure this qualifies as a "only happens to Deanna" kind of moment.

Also, blog reader Eric came up and said hi as well, while we were in the group of people waiting to talk to Eri Yoshida. Since I'm kind of "retired" from this blogging stuff and not in a country where a white girl stands out as much anymore, I'm not used to getting recognized, so that was kind of cool.

The only downside was, getting the game timing wrong and some crazy roadwork on the way home meant that I nearly had a big Zipcar failure. I think it all worked out okay, though, and now I've got a better idea to overestimate on future runs up to San Rafael.

Anyway, click here for my entire photo set from the day, or here are a few highlights:


Eri Yoshida warming up in the bullpen.


Eri Yoshida warming up in the bullpen.


Eri Yoshida on the mound.  Look at the knuckles!


Eri on the mound with 2B Gered Mochizuki in the background.


Pacifics starter Brian Gump. Brian also blogs about baseball and has some amusing things to say about his time with the Pacifics.



Eri coming off the mound with catcher Logan Kanamu.



Doi on the mound for the Ikaika.


How cool is this!! Despite it being an away game and her having a somewhat bad outing, Eri Yoshida stayed after the game and signed autographs and took photos with people for quite a while! So I was lucky enough to get a photo with her. She complimented my t-shirt :)


I also asked Doi if I could get a photo with him since we were talking for a while, but I'd only brought the one shikishi.  Honestly, I like photos more than autographs anyway :)


So anyway, I'm about a week behind on blogging games, but yesterday I saw the Tacoma Rainiers vs. the Colorado Springs Sky Sox when I was back up in the Seattle area, and I got to catch up with Brian Sweeney and Luis Jimenez a bit, so hopefully I'll write something about that game and put up pictures before too long :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

4th of July in Oakland: The You, Ess, and A's

This story actually starts towards the end of June. It was a grumpy morning for me, I was running late for work, was feeling pretty tired, really just wanted to go back to sleep. I walked into the BART station near my house, absentmindedly ran my Clipper card over the machine, and suddenly noticed that there was a BIG ELEPHANT IN AN OAKLAND A'S JERSEY STANDING IN FRONT OF ME!

This is one of the A's promotions with BART -- they have their mascot Stomper riding around on the trains sometimes, and even better, occasionally you'll catch the street crew in stations giving away free A's tickets and BART tickets! This had happened to one of my coworkers who lives in Oakland a few weeks ago as well, but since I live in San Francisco, which is decidedly Hipster Giants Fan Land, I figured there was no way I'd ever get that lucky. Apparently I was wrong!

You may be wondering, what did I have to do to get free A's tickets?

I had to get my picture taken with Stomper.

That was it. Really. And if you know me at all, you know I LOVE getting my photo with mascots and baseball people, and have been known to chase down mascots in Japan with my friends.  Think about this one: first, I don't have to chase down Stomper for a photo.  Second, they WANT me to get a photo with Stomper.  Third, they're going to give me free tickets to a baseball game for getting my photo with Stomper.  Does it get better than that?



Actually, it does, because the tickets they gave me were for the 4th of July game! I'd already been thinking of going on the 3rd or 4th, vaguely in the hope of seeing Bobby, but even so, just to watch baseball on July 4th. And it ALSO gets better because they gave me two $5 BART tickets, which would pay for me to get to the game! And the tickets were for 200-level seats behind the bullpens, not something crappy in the middle of the outfield! How lucky is that?

(The retarded thing is, I swear to god, there were people just saying "no thanks" and walking past the A's crew and going down to the platform. WTF? How do you turn down BART tickets and baseball tickets? San Francisco is dumb.  I walked off saying "You guys made my day!" and went to work with a big smile on my face instead of a big frown.)

Anyway, as for the day of the game itself, I went with one of my coworkers who lives in Oakland, and we had a pretty good time.  I mentioned that I knew Bobby Valentine from my days in Japan, and hoped to say hi to him, and I even wore my Bobby 2010 t-shirt from the Keep Bobby in Chiba campaign back during the 2009 season when the Lotte front office was stupid and decided to fire him.  UNFORTUNATELY, the downside of us having seats in the 200-level for a day game with no batting practice and a crowd-drawing team like the Red Sox was that the ushers and staff were being particularly careful about letting people who didn't have appropriate tickets down to the front of the field, and I made a few attempts to get down to the dugout but completely failed.  Here, however, is proof that I really did make the attempt:



And I saw a guy in the stands holding up a "In Bobby V We Trust" sign during the game, too:



Anyway, disappointment about not seeing Bobby aside, and given that I actually root for the A's in general, it was really a pretty good game.  Aaron Cook, who's mostly spent his career in the Rockies system, started for the Red Sox, and AJ Griffin, who's barely older than my interns at work, started for the A's.

Because it was the 4th of July, they were theoretically giving out some kind of red, white, and blue A's hats, although we not only were too late to receive one, we didn't even SEE anyone wearing one anywhere.  But, they had a whole bunch of pregame ceremonies involving the Marines and various other military things, including a bunch of fighter jets flying over the stadium after the singing of the National Anthem.

And then things got underway.  Brandon Moss hit a home run right over the "400" sign in dead center in the 2nd inning to put the A's up 1-0, and then in the 4th, David Ortiz tied things up for the Red Sox by hitting a home run of his own into the corner of the right-field stands, slightly over from the A's mini-ouendan cheering section, making it 1-1.

I haven't really been paying close attention to the MLB like I used to back in the old days, so my brain started to wonder "How many career home runs is that for Big Papi now?" and before I could even look it up on my phone, someone a few rows behind us said "Hey, that was his 400th career home run!"

And sure enough, the A's announcer even called that out the next time Ortiz was up to bat, and there was a stadium-wide round of applause for him:



(Honestly, in a semi-related point, I was kinda shocked to hear what stupid shit Manny Ramirez has been up to since last I lived in the USA -- but at the same time, I'm kinda sad I never got out to a Sacramento River Cats game to see him while he was playing there this year.  Apparently he was released a few weeks ago, at his own request.)

The Red Sox did go up 2-1 in the top of the 6th after Ortiz walked, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who I pointed out as "the most annoying name to stitch on a uniform") reached on a fielding error by Jemile Weeks and Adrian Gonzalez singled in Ortiz.

But the A's tied it up in their half of the 6th when Brandon Moss hit a "double" that was really a sun ball that got lost by 3 guys in left field and just dropped, and then Brandon Inge hit a real double to bring him in ("Inge-sanity!"), and then Coco Crisp hit a triple to right to lead off the bottom of the 7th and was brought in by a single by Jemile Weeks, and that made it 3-2 and the A's won the game. Box score here.

There were a surprising number of people carrying brooms around the stadium:





But well, that's about what you can expect.

Personally, I was glad the game ended by 4pm because it was pretty hot and sunny out there.  On the other hand, because BART was running on a Sunday schedule it took forever to get on a train!  They actually have police holding up people at the staircase to the station and only let people through in waves, so that the platforms don't become crowded enough to be dangerous.  I was surprised, since in Japan, teams would often run extra trains after games to disperse the fans (well, Seibu and Hanshin and teams that owned their own train lines at least.  Nevermind...)

Still, it was a good time at the park.  If I'm lucky I can try to see Bobby around Labor Day, I guess.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Photopost: Tomochika Tsuboi and the San Rafael Pacifics

So a week or two ago (June 23rd to be precise), Edwin was in town for a J-Pop concert, and I thought it'd be fun for us to go do some kind of baseball game. The most interesting option that weekend was not, in my opinion, the Giants-A's game, or any of the possible semi-local minor-league stuff, but instead, I got a Zipcar and did the 30-minute drive up to San Rafael to check out the San Rafael Pacifics, a team in the independent North American Baseball League.

The REAL reason for this, though, was that I'd heard from Patrick and others that former Fighter Tomochika Tsuboi was playing for the Pacifics and I HAD to check it out. Tsuboi fandom goes back for me longer than just about any Japanese baseball player, and infact was the first Japanese player t-shirt I ever owned. He was batting second and playing right field for the Fighters in the first game I ever saw in Japan, and even finished that year out at .330, second to Ogasawara.

So you better believe that if Tsuboi was playing this close to home, I HAD to check it out at some point.

Having absolutely no idea what to expect, we showed up, found parking, and sprung for the "Dugout Club" seats for $22 (you can kinda see the chart here). See, the seating is mostly just an infield bleachers around home plate, the dugouts are below that, and so this "Dugout Club" is actually along the baseline from the dugout out to the base. The nice thing about it is that there are all of these tables there, so we essentially got there, found a table right along the field, and then put down our stuff, cameras, scorecards, signboards... yes, I even brought along my Tsuboi sign that I made like 4 years ago in Japan.

After the players finished their warmups and were walking back to the dugout, I held up the sign and yelled "TSUBOI-SAN!!!"  He looked over and started laughing and called over to me in Japanese, basically, "Why on earth do you have that??" and I called back, "Because I'm a Fighters fan!!"

Yeah.

The staff had told me before the game that it was okay to go on the field AFTER the game and talk to players, so I figured I'd just leave it until then.

Edwin, taking advantage of the not-gouging food prices, had pizza and chili, and I had a hot dog, and the table really was pretty awesome for that.  We had wristbands that let us go in and out of the dugout club area, and the food trailer was literally behind us.  Only problem is that bathrooms were outside the stadium and were actually just port-a-potties.  It reminded me of minor-league parks in Japan, except those generally have nicer bathrooms.

As for the game itself, it was the San Rafael Pacifics vs. the Hawaii Stars.  Tsuboi was once again batting second and playing left field!  The starter for the Pacifics was a righty named Matt Durkin, who's from San Jose and spent some time in the Mets organization, and the starter for the stars was a sidearming lefty named Dallas Mahan who's basically an indie league journeyman (literally something like 10 years in the indies after spending a short time in the Mariners organization, he's almost as old as me!)

Everything was fairly normal for a minor-league atmosphere for the first few innings -- decent play but nothing spectacular, a few miscues here and there, a lot of gimmicks like a burrito-eating contest and a dizzy bat race against the team mascot, Sir Francis the Drake, a large green duck wearing bloomers and a cape.

Then the bottom of the 6th hit, and the Pacifics just ripped open the Stars, basically.  Mahan got taken out of the game with the score at 3-2 Pacifics and a runner on second... and Steve Detwiler immediately hit a home run off reliever Cortney Arruda to make it 5-2, and then a few walks and ANOTHER homer by Johnny Woodard later it was 8-2, and then 5 hits and a hit-by-pitch later it was 11-2, which is what the final score eventually was, after a 9-run inning.  You can see a boxscore here.

And sure enough after the game we went on the field, and I got to talk to Tsuboi for around 10 minutes!  He doesn't speak English, apparently, so he was actually pretty happy to just chat with me for a while in Japanese.  But he said that he's having a really fun time in the USA playing baseball anyway, just that it's a little bit of a pain that there's not very much in Japanese out in San Rafael and all.  I asked if he'd been to things like the San Francisco Japantown (he asked where I live and I said SF, and he's like "So around 40 minutes by car?") and he said yeah, but it's far.

Amusingly I was wearing my really old Fighters #7 t-shirt, he asked "who's that?  Itoi?" and I'm like "No, dude, it's YOU!" and took off my jacket so he could see.  I told him I'd been a Fighters fan for almost 10 years, and that I first saw him so long ago, and we reminisced about it ("Yeah... Ide, Tsuboi, Ogasawara, remember those days?")  I helped Edwin talk a bit too, mostly a little about Koshien and all, and PL Gakuen, and watching the games over the internet and the time differences and all.  Mostly, though, I kind of can't believe that I WAS TALKING TO TSUBOI!  I mean, he was a veritable All-Star back in his day!  And I used to cheer for him with the Fighters for years! He even went through my Fighters cheerboard book like "Hichori... Kensuke... Inaba... natsukashii!"

Pretty awesome.  I told him I'd try to come back sometime again.  Edwin and I both got signatures and pictures with him, he really was super-nice to us.

Here's a few photos from the day:


Starting lineup for the Pacifics, posted outside the stadium.


Me with Sir Francis the Drake.


The team lining up for the national anthem.


Pacifics starter Matt Durkin.


Tsuboi running in from left field.


Stars starter Dallas Mahan.


Tsuboi at bat.


Tsuboi at first base.


And here's an awesome picture of me with Tsuboi!  How cool is that?

You can see the whole photo set here.

Bizarrely, I should be going back up to San Rafael tonight (July 6) -- guess who's coming to pitch?  None other than Eri Yoshida and the Maui Na Koa Ikaika!  That should be pretty awesome too!  Wonder if I'll get to meet her or not.