Hello again everyone. I hope everyone is doing great after a Japan victory at the WBC. I know I am and am looking forward to another great year of JAPANESE BASEBALL. Hopefully, people here in Japan will wake up and realize that maybe baseball in this country really isn't that bad and more people will come to the stadiums this season to support the teams and players. But, that's a rant for another time as I have a very interesting story on hand that I need to blog about.
So, last Sunday, I decided to skip the game at Yokohama Stadium and I ended up giving my ticket away to a friend whom I met at Yokosuka Stadium the previous day. I decided to make the trek to Hiratsuka in Kanagawa for the finale of the opening series between the Shonan Searex and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Eastern League. Now, what is it about this place that has me spooked you might ask?
Well, Hiratsuka Kyujyo (Ballpark) is used mainly as an alternate home stadium for Shonan as they have a handful of home games here throughout the year. For 10 years from 1986 till 1996, it was their home stadium until they moved to Yokosuka in 1997. The Yokohama BayStars also host one regular season home game every year at Hiratsuka Kyujyo to give the local people a chance to see a game at the top league level as well as one preseason game as well. Before this, I've only been to this stadium once for a BayStars game against Chunichi 2 years ago. The weather was really bad and I got really sick afterwards so can you guess what happened this time around as well? The weather was really bad and I got really sick again. I have this really bad cold and killer sore throat that is drving me up the wall, but this is the price I have to pay for being a baseball fan and watching a game in the cold.
Which brings me to the summary of the day. I got to the stadium around 9am. My friend the "Searex Ojisan" was already in front of the gate waiting to get in and I said hello and chatted with him for a little bit. I met this guy last year at Lotte Urawa Kyujyo in Saitama during a weekday game and got to know him a little bit. He follows Searex almost everywhere and is a "godfather" of sorts. Almost everyone knows who he is and he knows the team from head to toe and can just rattle off stats like nobody's business. He also knows all of the cheer songs for Searex as well. Yes, the Shonan Searex have their own cheer group (they usually only play at games in Kanagawa and don't follow the team everywhere)and cheer songs for the players. It's almost like a seperate team from the Baystars to be quite honest with you. Now, I'm not talking about random fans getting together and doing cheers from the big league squad, this is a registered cheer group who can be found here (web page is in Japanese only of course): Official Searex Ouendan Site. Now, other teams may have their own cheer groups as well but I'm not to sure.
The game was played despite the fact that the winds were consistent and very strong and it was very rainy.
The starting pitchers for the day were Yuji Yoshimi for Shonan (didn’t I just see Yoshimi last week at Yokohama Stadium) and Kenji Tsuchiya for Nippon Ham.
Yoshimi got into a bit of trouble in the first as Kazuya Murata singled to center and right after, Ryuichi Wantanabe doubled to deep left to score Murata and put Nippon Ham on the board first. Sho Nakata then singled to center which allowed Wantanabe to go to third. And while the next batter Suguru Ichikawa was batting, Yoshimi threw a wild pitch and Wantanabe came in to score from third making it 2-0 Nippon Ham.
After this, Yoshimi settled down and pitched 5 more effective innings and ended up pitching 6 innings total for the day. Meanwhile, Nippon Ham starter, Kenji Tsuchiya looked flawless as Shonan could only manage 3 hits through 6 innings. I honestly thought that he had a shot at winning the game but Tsuchiya’s last inning of work in the 7th would ultimately prove to be his undoing.
But before I get to the 7th inning, I have to point out that by this time, I had left the ballpark because I couldn’t handle the cold weather any longer was coughing nonstop. So what follows is what I could piece together from the official stats on both teams websites (huge props to both their respective pages to btw).
In the top of the 7th, Nippon Ham managed to score again after the last couple of innings were just “blah” so to speak. Yoshihiro Sato doubled to right to start things off. Then, after Sato advanced to third on a Takahiro Imanami groundout, Takuya Nakashima hit a sacrifice fly to left to give Nippon Ham a 3-0 lead.
But, Shonan decided they could no longer take this weather and being held down and exploded in the bottom of the 7th. Right fielder Yoshiyuki Kuwahara (Kuwa-Chan) walked to start off the inning for Shonan. After Wang, Jing-Chao struck out looking Shigenori Kuremoto popped out to second, Takayuki Kajitani singled to right. Atsushi Kita then singled to left to bring Kuwahara in to score which made it 3-1. After that, Tatsuya Shimozono hit a 3 run home run to right making it 4-3 Shonan and that ended up being the final score and also gave Shonan a 3 game sweep of the Fighters in their first series in the Eastern League this year.
SeaRex pitcher Naoya Okamoto picked up the win in relief and Kenji Tsuchiya was tagged with the loss for the Fighters. Yasuhiro Oyamada also picked up his first save of the season for SeaRex as well. The game itself was great despite the weather and both teams played well. Nippon Ham had 2 errors in this game which wasn’t as much as the previous game on Saturday but still, defense is something they need to work on a little bit more on in my view.
My next 2 games will be at the Seibu Dome on Saturday March 28th and Sunday March 29th which will see the Saitama Seibu Lions the Tokyo Yakult Swallows do battle. But, due to my stupidity (and not reading the website and information when I should have), I bought tickets for the right field area. From this season, Seibu’s side is now the third base side and not the first base side anymore. Just a little reminder to those of you going to the Seibu Dome this year and wanting to cheer for Seibu. So, I will be cheering for the Swallows for 2 games this weekend but more importantly, I will be evaluating the Lions for the upcoming season as I will be seeing a lot more of them this year. The Lions have been not so good in the pre season so far going only 4-8-1. But to be fair, they have been on the road exclusively for all their games and have been missing Nakajima and Kataoka and Wakui who were off at the WBC for the past few weeks. So, I’m expecting big things this weekend from Nabe-Q and the guys as the regular season approaches quickly.
Hiratsuka Stadium. The infield kinda reminds you of a few other more famous ones here in Japan eh?
Hiratsuka Kyujyo Scoreboard
Nippon Ham's Ouendan for the day. Seriously, these 2 guys made it seem like there were at least 20 people near them.
Searex Starter Yuji Yoshimi
Nippon Ham Starter Kenji Tsuchiya
The official mascot of the Shonan SeaRex: Recks