Thursday, March 09, 2017

Tokyo Big 6 will have a trial Rookie League this semester

Traditionally, the Tokyo Big 6 University League has had a Rookie Tournament at the end of each semester.  For the three days following the Waseda-Keio final weekend, there would be three days of this tournament, with each day having two games.  The first day would eliminate two teams.  The second day would result in two winners and two losers; the two winners would play each other for the championship on the third day, and the two losers would play each other for 3rd place.

The rules on who could participate in the tournament was "1st and 2nd years" with no restrictions as far as I know, although in general, the purpose of the tournament was for players who wouldn't normally get playing time in league games to get a chance to play in some real games at Jingu and all, so if a team had a bunch of star freshmen, you wouldn't likely see them in the Rookie games.

On the other hand, the Rookie Tournament also gave managers the option to try interesting things -- Megumi Takemoto made her pitching debut at Jingu in the Fall 1999 Rookie Tournament as the first Japanese woman to ever take the mound in a Big 6 game.  (The first woman was American Jodi Haller who pitched an inning for Meiji in 1995.)  Two years after Takemoto's rookie debut, she would face off against Meiji's "female Matsuzaka", Chihiro Kobayashi, in a real league match.

Anyway, this year they're going to try something different and do an entire round-robin Rookie League, with 15 games total, each team playing every other team once.  These games will be played mostly on weekends before normal Big 6 games, by the same pair of teams that play the first game that day (so you can see two games of Hosei-Waseda on April 9th, for example).  The reason for this is mainly that underclassmen wouldn't really get much playing time even in the Rookie tournament, especially if they were on a team that got eliminated on the first day, so this is a way for younger players to get more playing time without sacrificing any playing time for the upperclassmen who are trying to show off in front of scouts and prospective corporate team employers.  It's almost like a farm system!

It sounds like for Todai, upperclassmen will be allowed to fill out the team.  This is because Todai doesn't have suisen, or "athletic recommendations", as a route to attending the university and participating in sports, unlike the other 5 schools.  The other 5 schools will have plenty of freshmen on their roster -- some of whom have been training with the university team since early in February.  In a lot of these cases, they are players who played at Koshien or otherwise had bright baseball careers in high school, and were allowed into the university with either a reduced entrance exam or in some cases, no entrance exam at all, especially if they came in through a feeder high school.

Keio is the weird case in that everyone who graduates from Keio HS can automatically attend Keio University, although graduating from Keio HS is no small feat.  I've also gotten the impression that it's rare for someone to not get into Hosei or Rikkio after graduating from their feeder schools (they just don't have that many).  Whereas Waseda has many feeder schools all over the country, and so there's no guarantee that attending one will get you into Waseda.

So if you saw a star player at Koshien who didn't go into the draft, and wondered what happened to them, chances are they already got themselves accepted to a top sports college before the normal applications for admission were even open.

Todai will get freshmen on their team, once people show up at the university and decide to join the baseball team and all, but it won't be in time for the rookie league.

Here's the schedule, translated:

DateStart TimeMatchesRegular Games After?
4/9 (Sun) 8:00am Hosei-Waseda H-W, M-T
4/15 (Sat) 8:00am Todai-Keio T-K, R-H
4/16 (Sun) 8:00am Rikkio-Hosei R-H, T-K
5/6 (Sat) 8:00am Hosei-Keio H-K, T-R
5/7 (Sun) 8:00am Todai-Rikkio T-R H-K
5/13 (Sat) 8:00am Keio-Meiji K-M, R-W
5/14 (Sun) 8:00am Rikkio-Waseda R-W, K-M
5/27 (Sat) 9:00am Todai-Meiji Soukeisen
5/28 (Sun) 9:00am Keio-Waseda Soukeisen
5/29 (Mon) 11:00am Waseda-Meiji Keio-Rikkio No, not even Swallows
5/30 (Tue) 11:00am Todai-Waseda Hosei-Meiji
5/31 (Wed) 11:00am Meiji-Rikkio Hosei-Todai

Note that if Soukeisen doesn't end in two days, those final games will be rescheduled around a little bit and they'll start having 2-game days whenever Soukeisen ends.

It looks like the weekends they are skipping are those with Swallows games at Jingu afterwards (at first I thought it was Golden Week, but then I looked at the Swallows schedule).  That makes sense, as sometimes even normal Big 6 games will go way over time and push back the Swallows gate opening time.  (Sometimes they let Swallows fans into the outfield while the college games are still going on!)

The timing rules for the Rookie League games is:
  • They only go 9 innings tops
  • It's ok if they end in a tie
  • Games are valid after 5 innings
  • New innings can't start after 1 hour and 50 minutes into the game, on days where there are normal Big 6 games afterwards
  • Rainouts after a game has started will not be replayed; rainouts called before the game starts will be rescheduled at the end of the season.
  • No tiebreak rules, unlike the normal rookie tournament (which had various tiebreak rules like starting extra innings with runners on base and such).
Ticket/Seating is as follows:
  • Homeplate Tickets (1500 yen), Infield Tickets (1300 yen), and Student Infield Tickets (800 yen) are sold.
  • Outfield tickets, cheering section tickets, and picnic tables are not sold or open for the Rookie games.
  • If you have special passes to normal Big 6 games, those work to get into the Rookie League games.
  • The normal league games begin immediately after the Rookie league games, so if you enter during the Rookie league game, you can just stay through to the normal league games.
I guess if you plan to sit in the outfield, you just don't come to the rookie games.  (Aside from Soukeisen, outfield seating for Big 6 games is free for women, children, and seniors, and 800 yen for everyone else.)

My only worry is about whether it'll be annoying to get good seating for the normal games without showing up at 8am, since that's awfully early.  I usually sit right behind the dugout for college games and take tons of photos, which requires showing up at least a little bit early, but not 3 hours before.  I guess we'll see.  It'll only affect one or two games for me this spring since I'll only be there for a few weekends anyway.