Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Fighters Spring Training 2017 Part Two - A Cold Day in Peoria

Today was actually a pretty fun day overall, but it was tainted by one or two awful people who kind of ruined all the fun for us.

Weather today was supposed to be sunny and in the 70's, but it was cloudy and never got out of the low 60's, so most of my photos I took today aren't that great.  I went back to my hotel to get a jacket during lunch, even.

Also, there were Padres players working out on some of the nearer fields!  I had no idea they'd be there, although I also had no idea who any of them were anyway.

Camp menu for the day (honestly they look almost identical every day aside from which players are in which practice groups):

I ran into a group of fans who I'd met at Kamagaya a few years ago -- they remembered me because I caught one of the postgame photo shoot passes that day and gave it to them so I could go stalk rookies outside the clubhouse instead.  I also accidentally made friends with a woman who I thought was one of my Twitter friends.  She wasn't then, but she is now!  They were having a lovely little mini-picnic with Japanese food prepared by one of the locals and invited me and Dani to partake, which was nice.

My real goal for the morning was to get photos with the non-Japanese players.  Specifically, I hadn't met Edwin Escobar before, and I knew that once those guys finished their morning routines that we weren't going to see them again for the rest of the day.  But Chris Martin and Luis Mendoza are such super nice guys anyway (Edwin was nice too!) that I ended up getting photos with all three!  Dani was wearing her Ikemendoza t-shirt, and Luis was like "Cool shirt!" so she got him to sign it.

I wasn't able to actually watch the bullpen session though because they have it blocked off from sight.  The place is full of media and team staff, but fans are stuck on the other side of an opaque gate.  I snuck one or two shots in while a security guard pretended he didn't see me sneaking up to the side, but that was about it.  Matt had been telling me to watch Edwin's bullpen session, and of course I couldn't see it.

An absolutely crazy thing that happened during the morning was that Dan Evans was around in camp again (we've been Twitter friends for years and met during last year's camp), and the folks from HTB wanted to interview them.  However, since the non-Japanese players had left, none of the interpreters were around.  So they asked *me* to interpret for him.  Yikes!  Their interview was very very Ohtani and WBC centric though, and Dan was very specific that he was there to see *every* player, that he tries to understand who everyone is in the NPB and KBO.  He also said that he expects Japan to do just fine in the WBC.  The only part that was super hard to translate was that he said he has a lot of respect for Japanese baseball and for the Fighters as a team, and that he thinks their biggest strength is their fresh way of thinking.  I know what he means -- bringing the team to Arizona, signing people like Toru Murata, etc.  But it's sort of a tough concept to explain in Japanese, and I felt very awkward.

On the other hand, a little while later, Dan introduced me to Ryohei Endoh, who I've wanted to meet absolutely forever.  He was Todai's ace in the late 1990's, and he was the 4th player to ever go pro out of Todai, being drafted by the Fighters in 1999.  He's basically a legend to anyone who cares about their team at all.  He's been working for the Fighters front office ever since he retired as a player.  Of course, I don't think I said anything remotely intelligent to him, but I did gush about how I cheer for Todai and all.

The fields cleared out pretty quickly this time at lunch, so we headed out, but at the kiosk we ran into my friend Dave who I hadn't seen in person in around 10 years, and we also ran into Dan Evans again, with one of his students from his baseball course, and ended up talking to them for a while.

I came back in the afternoon, but it was still cloudy and cold.  We watched batting/running practice for a while (they were practicing hit-and-run and sac fly plays) and chilled out.  I did get a photo with Naoto Inada, since he was hanging out inbetween his TV shoots.  (We saw Inada, Tateyama, and Nishizaki all filming for various TV programs.)  It was exciting to meet him since he was such a funny part of the 2006 championship team.

Anyway, things started winding down with fielding practice, so we (at this point me, Dani, and Dave) headed out to the clubhouse to go stalk players.  My goal for the afternoon was to get as many signatures on my shinkansen jersey as possible, and also to hopefully meet rookie Ishii, and maybe ask Arihara for a photo again, and anyone else I hadn't gotten yet.

But of course there was yet another insane line of people trying to get Ohtani's autograph outside the Peoria clubhouse.  There were so many people, and even the media was into it; I got to talking with two guys from Nikkan Sports and from Doshin Sports, like "I'm not in the Ohtani line, I'm going to take pictures of the craziness with you guys."  I made a point of staying over to the other side of the area.

Something funny: I was trying to get my jersey signed, and at one point Konsuke, Morimoto, and Taishi Ohta came by on their way to the hotel, and I asked if they'd sign.  Tatsuya was like yeah, but Konsuke was like no, we're too busy, come on.  Taishi said sure, but on the way back.  On their way back, I asked again, Konsuke ignored me, Tatsuya apologized and promised he'd get me later.

Taishi asked me, "What the crap is with this huge line of people here anyway?"

I'm like "They're here to get Ohtani's autograph."

"Really?  That's all just for Ohtani?  What are you doing over here then?"

"Well, I'm here to meet the whole team, not just Ohtani, so that's why I'm over here."

He laughed and motioned me to give him the jersey, and he signed it.  I think Good Guy Taishi Ohta is winning over a lot of us who were pissed off about Shingo Ishikawa getting traded.

Lots of other guys came out in the meantime.  Tatsuta, Katoh.  Hakumura.  Even Uehara and Yagi signed my jersey, and then Kumon, Kagiya and Arihara (and Arihara actually took a photo with me!!!1!!1)

(Though a sad thing is that my friend dropped my IXY point-and-shoot camera after I got a photo with Kumon and now the lens is totally stuck, so the rest of my photos were with my phone.)

Yoshida and Iguchi came out together, and Shota Ohno came out separately and a bit further away from where everyone was, but a few people stopped him and then a line formed.  I hadn't spoken to Ohno yet so I got him to sign my jersey and I thanked him for coming to the US again this year too.

Oh yeah, it was Naoyuki Uwasawa's birthday.  So I gave him the card I got him, and Dani gave him a present, and many other people gave him presents too, and one set of people had a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY banner so they put that out and everyone sang happy birthday to him!  That was kind of crazy.

Dani and I ran over to talk to Enoshita.  He speaks pretty good English (his wife is a nisei from California I believe) and it was funny because he said to Dani how "Hey, I remember you, you came to Nago?" and all, and then I was like "Wait, you don't remember me?  I used to annoy you at Kamagaya all the damn time," and he said "Oh... like 3 or 4 years ago?" "Yeah." "Oh, okay, sure."  Dani mentioned later that she used to tweet at Enoshita a lot back in the day so that's probably also why he remembered her better.

Got Taniguchi and then also our rookie Ishii!  Yay!

At this point I was basically standing at the back of the Ohtani line, and that's about when Ohtani and his entourage came out, at 5:30 or so.  Dani and Dave came over and brought my backpack and jacket over too so that I didn't have to leave them sitting at the other side of the parking lot.  Probably a good thing given that the non-Japanese people were likely to just take off afterwards and also likely to steal something like that.

As mentioned in Saturday's entry, protocol this year has been that that Ohtani will sign for everyone in line. I'm not sure how they handled this on Saturday, but, today a bunch of the autograph hound dudebros were getting one thing signed and then trying to get back in line to get a second thing signed. So a group of Japanese women were pissed off about this and basically ran to where we were at the back of the line, made a group together behind us, and said "We're the end of the line. Anyone behind us is trying to get seconds."

So this one guy -- the one who left his folding chair out on Saturday and came back to get it today, even -- he first tried to cut back in line, and when people were like "No cutting, you already got an autograph," he tried to give a second ball to somebody who was still in line. And the group of Japanese women were like "What the hell are you doing?" And even I was like "Dude, do you not understand how this works? He only signs for everyone because we're in an orderly line without people pulling this kind of shit.  He used to be on a signing limit, and you guys are lucky that limit has become 'everyone in the line' because he's injured right now."

The guy said "Oh, I'm just asking this guy for an autograph here. See? Why are you so angry about that? Mr. [friend], will you sign my ball?"

I'm like "Yeah right. You're so full of shit."

He's like "You just don't understand a joke."  Then to his friend, "C'mon, sign this."

His friend takes his pen and slowly and deliberately writes on the cardboard ball box,


and he and his cronies crack up and high-five and stuff.

Meanwhile I swear to fucking god Ohtani is still making his way through this line and signing for these assholes anyway.

Fortunately, I've become buddies with Ohtani's security guards (no, seriously, I got to talking with one of them before I even knew that was his assignment, last year at camp) so when they got up to me I told the guard, "Some guys are causing trouble by getting back in line once they get one signature. Those Japanese ladies here are the end of the line, and anyone behind them is cheating."

He was like "I thought some of these people looked familiar. Thanks for telling me."

The Japanese women also were saying in Japanese, "Ohtani-kun, these people already got your signature, please don't sign anymore, we'll see you tomorrow".

And they cut off the signing there.

Those guys were really angry at us, but seriously, WTF? They're the ones invading our little family just so they can get something signed and put it on Ebay for $300 or whatever. They don't even say "please" or "thank you" or anything when he signs for them, and they don't care about anyone else except for him. It's awful. The only good part is getting to hang out with the rest of the team AFTER they all leave (which they do immediately after Ohtani stops signing).

We stayed out there a bit longer and I got Takanashi, Konsuke, Shimizu, and even Sugiya to sign.  I wanted a photo with Sugiya but he said he was too busy.

A crew from NHK was doing a special about Ohtani and so they filmed Dave (who gave them good answers) and then gave up on filming me (because I was like "Ohtani is great, but I mean, one man does not a team make, everyone else is important too, you know...")

The three of us decided to go get dinner, although as we were preparing to leave, Tatsuya Morimoto finally came back out, like "ok, now I can sign for you," so he did.  And we chatted with him a bit.  He was asking Dani why she has purple hair and things (though he said he thought it was cute).  But he also said he was super duper tired and we were like "dude, go back to the hotel and sleep!" and so he was like "okay!  I sleep!  SEE YOU TOMORROW!"

Anyway, again, if you read this far, here, have a few more photos from the day.

Padres players warming up on one of the other practice fields.

At first we thought Tateyama was coming over towards us but it turned out he was just getting a good angle to do his TV broadcast from.

Edwin Escobar

I'm still amazed anyone lets the players drive, but here is Taniguchi driving and everyone else holding on for dear life.

During batting/fielding, this sign was up -- each player gets 5 hits.  They had to hit to the opposite field, then they had to do a hit-and-run, then a sac fly, then free shots (swing away!)

Good Guy Taishi Ohta

Grumpyface Haruki Nishikawa

The Elusive Daiki Asama

Nishizaki-san was also very busy reporting from camp

Shinji Takahashi is like "Why are you taking my photo?"

It was Uwasawa's birthday, and some people brought a big Happy Birthday banner and we all sang for him!

My friend Dave gets interviewed by the NHK crew doing a special on Ohtani.

And of course because you clearly haven't been subjected to enough two-shots of me, here's some more!

Todai legendary pitcher and Fighters front office man Ryohei Endoh.  I've wanted to meet him forever.

Chris Martin

Luis Mendoza

The new guy Edwin Escobar!

Naoto Inada, still makes us all laugh

Matt Winters was so super-helpful to me in camp this year again

Kohei Arihara (still hates me)

Yodai Enoshita!  His English has gotten so much better over the years, I can talk to him for real now.

Katsuhiko Kumon (the pitcher we got in return for Yoshikawa from the Giants)

Kazunari Ishii, the only rookie in camp!  (And former Waseda captain.)

You know, I think maybe people were right about getting the uniform signed with the wide side of the marker instead of the thin side... :(

...because as you can see these are awfully faint.  Though it looks fine in person.

No comments: