Thursday, April 30, 2009

4/29 Seibu vs SoftBank @ Seibu Dome: Showa Day Showdown

Hello once again everyone. Yesterday was Showa Day in Japan and the weather was great for a ballgame. So, I went to see the Saitama Seibu Lions for the first time during the regular season at Seibu Dome as they took on the SoftBank Hawks. Honestly, Seibu has been far from impressive to start the season in my opinion as they are in 4th place in the Pacific League and are playing .500 ball with an 11-11 record. But on the other hand, they aren’t that far behind the Ham, Rakuten, and Orix who are each 12-9 so one good winning streak by Seibu could turn things around in their favor. As of right now, they are on a 2 game winning streak and hopefully they can add to it in the coming days.

As I said earlier, yesterday was Showa Day here in Japan and many people had the day off and as a result, many people came to the ballpark. Almost the entire 3rd base side was full and the total crowd was 28,855. The pitching match up for the day was Kaz Ishii going for the Lions against D.J. Houlton going for the Hawks. Also, this was my first game sitting in the outfield stands and cheering for Seibu. I’ve never been able to sit in the outfield before so this was a neat experience.

A couple of SoftBank pitchers joking around before the game.

SoftBank starter Toshiya Sugiuchi jogging in the outfield before the game.

Seibu starter Kazuhisa Ishii.

Ishii again.

Leo, the Lions mascot, is KING at Seibu Dome. Seibu did the right thing by keeping Leo and Leona when they changed the team logo last off-season.

As for the game itself, both Ishii and Houlton started off great. But, D.J. Houlton ran into a brick wall named Hiram Bocachica in the 3rd inning as “Boca” smacked his first home run of the day to centerfield to make it 1-0 Seibu. Ishii, on the other hand, cruised through the first 3 innings but ran into trouble in the 4th. After allowing a walk to SoftBank leadoff hitter Yuichi Honda, Ishii then committed an error by misplaying Munenori Kawasaki’s bunt and looked really bad doing it by ending up by ending up on the ground after he tripped. He then threw a wild pitch that allowed Honda and Kawasaki to advance to third and second respectively. But somehow, he managed to escape. After his wild pitch, he managed to strike out Nobuhiko Matsunaka. Then, he got Hiroki Ohkubo to hit a grounder to Seibu third baseman Takeya “Okawari” Nakamura that he promptly threw to home to get Honda out. And after that, Yuya Hasegawa struck out swinging to end the inning and Ishii was able to get out of a huge jam. Boca struck again in the bottom of the 5th as he hit his second home run of the day to left field to make it 2-0 Seibu. Then, Ishii got into more trouble in the 6th after managing to get the first 2 outs in the inning. It started when Kawasaki doubled to left for Softbank’s first hit of the game on a ball that “Okawari” just missed catching by about an inch. Yes, Ishii managed to carry a no hitter into the 6th inning, which was amazing considering he bailed himself out in the 4th inning. But much like the 4th, he got himself into trouble again as he walk both Matsunaka and Ohkubo to load the bases. But again, Ishii managed to strike out Hasegawa to end the threat and once again get himself out of a jam despite hit chance for a no-hitter being ruined.

Seibu then went on to score 5 runs in the bottom of the 7th to break the game open, which included an RBI hit by Ginjiro (catcher) that also went for an error because of a misplay by left fielder Yuya Hasegawa and a 2 run double by Yasuyuki Kataoka and a two run homerun by Takumi Kuriyama. SoftBank only managed to score 2 runs and had only five hits in the game so it shocked me when they couldn’t capitalize on Ishii’s mistakes and potentially do some damage.

Ishii ended up ended up with the win for Seibu while Houlton took the loss. All in all, a great experience finally being able to sit in the outfield section at Seibu Dome for once. Being able to see Kaz Ishii throw a couple innings of no-hit ball was great and I wish he could've gone the distance and thrown a no-hitter. A great victory for Seibu and let's hope they can get a streak going.

Game Hero #1 Hiram Bocachica.

Game Hero #2 Kazuhisa Ishii.

The infamous Seibu bass drum. It always gives Seibu's cheer songs and extra kick.

Box Scores



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Golden Week Update and beyond....And a few other things as well.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and I agree with that statement and here's why:

(Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune)

FINALLY, after all these years of being ridiculed for being a hockey fan and supporting what WAS perhaps the worst team in all of sports, The Chicago Blackhawks advanced to the second round of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs and will face the Vancouver Canucks in the next round. Now I know that Vancouver turned it on in the second half of the season and the Hawks utterly sucked against them, but let's forget about that for now and just be thankful that we are advancing for the first time since 1996. Nikolai Khabibulin a.k.a. "The Bulin Wall" (the goaltender in the picture)was freaking amazing as were the rest of the Hawks players in this series against the Calgary Flames and showed that they could battle back and are indeed hungry. So once again, congratulations to The Chicago Blackhawks and know that this Blackhawks fan is cheering for you guys on the other side of the Pacific Ocean:

NOW, with that little rant out of the way, let's get back to the topic at hand shall we?

I thought I’d write this little message to let everyone know what to expect on the blog over the next week or so. And for those of you who don’t know what Golden Week is, you can learn more about it here.

Usually, I end up going somewhere but this year since my teams are in the area this year, I’m not really going out so to speak. Here’s a tentative list of where I’ll be going. Some games are “set in stone” while others really aren’t.

Wednesday April 29th (Showa Day) Saitama Seibu vs. Softbank (Seibu Dome)

Saturday May 2nd Shonan SeaRex vs. Tokyo Yakult (2-gun Odawara Kyujyo)

Sunday May 3rd Saitama Seibu vs. Rakuten (2-gun Seibu Kyujyo #2 or 西武第二)

Now for the following games from May 4rd to May 6th, I’m not really set on where I’m going. But, it’s going to be a toss-up between the Saitama Seibu series against Rakuten at Seibu Dome and the 2-gun games between Shonan and Yomiuri at Giants Kyujyo. I’m going to at least one of the Shonan/Yomiuri games at Giants Kyujyo and maybe 2 at Seibu Dome. It also all depends on whether or not I get randomly selected for Lions fan club events during Golden Week as well.

And also, I did some research and found out that it was logistically possible to make a quick trip to Shikoku in the near future so I'll be heading down there to see 2 games between the Tokyo Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp at Bochan Stadium in Matsuyama. I'm really looking forward to this as I've never been to Shikoku before and of course, I get to go see baseball games at out of the way baseball stadiums that no one really cares about YEAH!!! The games are on the 9th and 10th of May and are a night game and a day game respectively.

So I guess I am going somewhere for Golden Week albeit a week later.

Friday, April 24, 2009

04/19 Orix vs Rakuten @ Tokyo Dome: Kishida's Revenge

What’s up everyone? On, April 19th, I went to the final game of the Orix Buffaloes“Home Series” against the Rakuten Eagles at Tokyo Dome. I must say that I felt really bad about not going to see Seibu play at the Seibu Dome this weekend but it turns out that these 2 games were far better than what Seibu had ended up doing as they got swept by Nippon Ham in their series this past weekend (which is now last weekend cause I wrote the blog the day after this game and just got around to posting it now).

The starting pitchers for the day were Darrell Rasner for Rakuten and Mamoru Kishida for Orix (who’s probably my favorite pitcher on the entire Orix pitching staff). Today, it was Orix’s turn to flex their muscles and dominate. Orix got to Rasner early in the game when in the second inning, Tuffy Rhodes hit what would be his first homer of the day to right field to make it 1-0 Orix. Then, after getting Greg Larocca to ground out and giving up a single to Mitsutaka Gotoh, Jose “Mayo” Fernandez came to the plate. Now, last season, Jose played for the Eagles and actually improved his stats from the 2007 season but still, Rakuten decided not to give him a new contract for the 2009 season citing that he committed too many errors on defense. Oh boy, did Rakuten ever regret that as “Mayo” came out with a vengeance today as he went 4 for 4 against his former team. For his first hit of the day, he took a fastball offering from Rasner in the 3rd and promptly made the score 3-0 Orix. Jose also had a timely hit to center in the 4th, a hit to left in the 5th, and a hit to center in the 6th that was misplayed for an error by Rakuten centerfielder Akihisa Makida that allowed him to go for extra bases. Rasner only lasted 3 and 1/3 innings before being chased out of the game and his replacement, Kouki Wantanabe, didn’t fare any better either by promptly getting hammered as well. The highlight of his outing in my view was giving up a 3 run home run to Alex Cabrera which went 140m and landed in the upper deck balcony seats (yes everyone, Alex still has it when it comes to his monster power) and right after that giving up yet another home run to Tuffy Rhodes which went to left center and was his second of the day. It was totally strange as the he day before, Iwakuma totally handcuffed Orix by throwing eight strong innings and even retiring eleven batters in a row but today, the bats came out swinging and Orix got their revenge. But, that is the game of baseball for you as one day you could be on your game, and the next day you could be off it.

Jose "Mayo" Fernandez crossing the plate after his 2 run homer in the bottom of the 3rd.

Mr. Buffaloes crossing the plate after hitting his first homer of the day.

Former New York Yankee Darrell Rasner. This was not one of his best days to put it nicely.

The offense however, was not what impressed me the most about this game though. Not taking anything away from Orix’s bats, this game was pitcher Mamoru Kishida’s moment to shine and boy did he ever. I’ve always thought very highly of Kishida for some strange reason and maybe it’s because every time I’ve seen him pitch, he’s done really well. It’s like Kishida was hell bent on toping Hisashi Iwakuma’s performance the day before and went out with a purpose. Kishida ended up going the distance while pitching the first complete game shutout of his young career. I was really surprised when I saw him come out to throw in the top of the 9th and I was even more surprised that Ohishi-kantoku let him. Kishida only needed 109 pitches to get through 33 batters and scattered 8 hits while striking out 6 and only issuing one free pass.

Orix starter and new "Eagles Killer" Mamoru Kishida. Please Kishida, live up to your new nickname.

Kishida warming up before the game.

Honestly, I’m not that big of a fan of Rakuten or Orix but after these 2 games, but maybe I should try to get to more games of each respective team. It was also pretty neat that the games were the exact opposite of each other as the day before, as each respective team dominated each other. These 2 games were well worth the 4500-yen ticket price for each of the games and I left each game more than satisfied. It’s always nice to see great pitching and also see Tuffy and Alex smash home runs. All in all, a great weekend series at Tokyo Dome and honestly, I can’t say that I’ve been to that many great games at that stadium. But again, both of these games were a blast and well worth the money. So hopefully, I’ll get the chance to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while now and that’s go to a Fighters home game at Tokyo Dome. It's looking up folks.

Also too if I didn’t mention it before, with each game that I report, I’ll be linking game stats for each game so that you can see for yourself how each player did. I’ll post links in English (usually from the NPB Site) and Japanese (usually from one of the team’s sites) as well.



Former Yomiuri Giant and Chiba Lotte Marine Makoto Kosaka.

The final score for the day.

"Hero Interview" with Kishida and Fernandez. I'm really not a big fan of these.

Orix bowing to the fans and thanking them after the game.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

04/18 Orix vs Rakuten @ Tokyo Dome: Iwakuma corrals the Buffaloes

Hello once again everyone. It's Sunday April 19th and I just got back from the final game of the most amazing two game series I have ever seen. But before I go on about that, as usual I have to give you all a little back story to these games. Seriously everyone, words alone can not describe how freaking awesome both of these games were.

Ok, so in Japanese Baseball, teams sometime play what are known as 地方ゲーム or local (regional) games. These games are usually played at rural out of the way baseball stadiums in which most people probably have never heard of or even care about. But sometimes teams play these games in the major stadiums as well. The purpose of these games are twofold I feel. First, it gives the local people in these areas a chance to see games that they would not normally see and second it promotes the game of baseball in the rural areas of Japan. So, being the eccentric baseball fan that I am, I go to these games whenever I can.

Also for these games, I managed sit in the "Excite Seats" or field level seats. Now, this will probably be the only chance I will ever get to sit in these seats so that made the games even more enjoyable. These seats are practically impossible to get as they are only available to Giants fan club members. Stupid Giants, I really wish they would just go away but then, who would I take my baseball frustrations on? Hanshin perhaps? I dunno really.

The "Excite Seats" at Tokyo Dome. You can clearly see that the last two rows are raised a bit. I was sitting in the first row (Yeah!!!) and therefore got to kick the playing surface. How does it feel you may ask? It's squishy and perhaps that's the reason that whenever there's a hit, all the black stuff comes up out of the surface.

Rakuten taking batting practice.

Buffaloes Mascot Neppie posing for pictures and getting the crowd riled up before the game. Hey, at least it's not Giabbit. Anyone but Giabbit...

Orix infielders Alex Cabrera and Mitsutaka Gotoh warming up before the game.

Sometimes before a Japanese baseball game, teams receive flowers from certain people from a company or a town or whomever if a company or whomever sponsors a game. Today's special presents were 2 giant plastic Dydo water bottles. Dydo is a drink company here in Japan. Often times, I can't figure out what this place (Japan) is all about.

Rakuten infielders Norihiro Nakamura and Takeshi Yamazaki (and I use the term infielder loosely here because he is the everyday DH) warming up before the game.

The starters for the day were Hisashi Iwakuma for Rakuten and Kazuki Kondoh for Orix. The story of the day was obviously Hisashi Iwakuma and his total dominance of the Orix lineup but what didn't get a lot of coverage in my opinion was the fact that Kondoh didn't really pitch that bad either. He only gave up 2 hits in his first 5 innings of work one of which was a timely hit by Norihiro Nakamura in the 1st inning. His only other mistake in my opinion was in the 6th inning when he gave up a two run homerun to Rakuten third baseman Daisuke Kusano. Other than that, this was a classic case of a pitcher getting zero run support from his team and it costing him the match. Kondoh ended the day by going 7 and 1/3 innings while giving up 4 runs and striking out 2 and walking 4 although he did throw 118 pitches which was a little disturbing to me. Rakuten broke the game open in the 8th by adding 4 more runs on 5 hits and Marcus Gwyn pitched a scoreless ninth to end the game for Orix.

But again, the story of the day was Hisashi Iwakuma. Honestly, I'm still speechless as I finish typing this on early Wednesday morning. He retired 18 batters in a row from the 3rd to the 6th inning and only needed 97 pitches to get through his 8 innings of work. I'm still wondering why he didn't win the WBC MVP award instead of Matsuzaka, seriously. He ended the day by going 8 innings striking out 5 and giving up no runs. He didn't walk anybody either so that's bonus points in my book.

Overall, a great game by Rakuten by getting to Orix's pitchers. Needless to say, this game didn't disappoint and was worth going to. It's always fun to go to games of other teams as you never know what to expect.

Orix infleider Osamu Hamanaka playing catch during the intermission with the outfielders while Cabrera and Kondoh warmup in the background.

Orix Starter Kazuki Kondoh.

Rakuten Starter and WBC Hero Hisashi Iwakuma.

Iwakuma shot #2. Throwing to first base with Naoyuki Ohmura on first.

Iwakuma shot #3. Winding up for the pitch.

"New" Orix outfielder Naoyuki Ohmura whom Orix "traded" for in the off-season. They practically fleeced Softbank in a one-sided trade in my opinion. Ohmura also played for Orix (Kintetsu) earlier in his career as well.


Kondoh shot #2. Rakuten third baseman Daisuke Kusano is on first.

Mr. Buffaloes reacting after grounding out in the bottom of the 4th.

EDIT: I almost forgot, here's the box scores in both English and Japanese for this game. So, if you follow a certain player on either of these teams you can just click the link and get whatever you need. Stats are courtesy of the Rakuten Eagles Website in Japanese and the official NPB site for English.



Friday, April 17, 2009

04/12 Let's Go Shonan SeaRex: A glimpse into the "Futures"

Hello once again everyone. I decided to branch out so to speak and go to my very first Eastern League Challenge Match at BayStars Kyujyo in Yokosuka, Kanagawa on Sunday April 12th, 2009. Now, what is an Eastern League Challenge Match you might ask? Well, simply put, it’s a minor league game with a bunch of special rules. You have one minor league squad which in this case was the Shonan SeaRex facing off against a team of assorted players from all the various teams in the Eastern League. So, no teams from the Western League i.e. Chunichi, Orix, Hiroshima, Softbank, and Hanshin participate in these special matches. It seems that all the Eastern League teams have these matches a few times a year, which is good for the young talent. Also, for this game, I was joined by Administrator Michael Westbay. It's always a pleasure to catch a game with Westbay-san as our conversations usually spill over into other things besides baseball. And plus, it's great to talk about the BayStars in English with someone else and that's what we did and at great length too. And also, some of the photos from the game were taken by Westbay-san and he has given me permission to use them, so thank you Michael and I hope to see you again at the ballpark in the near future.

The Futures Team players themselves are mostly 育成選手 or developmental players but not all of them are. The developmental players have a triple digit number on their backs and can be usually seen playing in minor league or 2-gun games. This is their official team number and not their number on the Futures Team too by the way. They are on the roster but are not allowed to play in any major league or 1-gun games. Recently too, teams have began to recruit talent from overseas and sign them to these developmental contracts so that the players can take what they learn about baseball here in Japan back to their home countries which in turn will help promote the game of baseball in their home countries. Some examples of this are players such as Wei Chen (SeaRex #113) and Jin Chao Wang (SeaRex #114) who are from China and are on my team the Shonan SeaRex or people like Rafael Fernandez who is from Brazil and plays for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows (Swallows #115). Again, I don’t know much more about these players other than that there is a special draft along with the regular one in which teams can choose players and that there are cases in which these developmental players “graduate” to the top team and become contributors as was the case with Norihiro Nakamura and the Chunichi Dragons a few years back. Again, my knowledge about these players, the draft, and everything about this subject is limited, so if I made a mistake in reporting anything, please correct me and feel free to add whatever else you know about instructional players in the comments section below.

Yomiuri Giants catcher Takahiro Ijuin showing off his Futures uniform for me after I asked him to pose for a picture. Not really though, he was just going to buy a drink from the vending machine.

Yomiuri Giants pitchers Takanobu Tsujiuchi purposely looking down after buying a drink from the vending machine.

As I said earlier, the game itself was played at BayStars Kyujyo, which is part of a training complex for the Yokohama BayStars located in the Southeastern part of Kanagawa Prefecture in Yokosuka. For those that don’t know, Yokosuka houses a large number of military personnel from both the United States and Japan. The training complex is located right next to a Japanese Defense Force base next to the sea so there was a nice breeze at times throughout the game. The starting pitchers for the day were Shoma Satoh for Shonan and Da-Wei Zhu of the Saitama Seibu Lions for the Futures squad. Once again, please note that not all of the players on the Futures team were instructional players as Da-Wei Zhu is one of the exceptions. Now, from my understanding of the rules, the Futures team is supposed to be made up of players from every other team in the Eastern League. So, I was quite surprised to see that the entire starting lineup was almost entirly made up of Chiba Lotte and Yomiuri players with each team having 4 starting members in the lineup. The lone exceptions in the starting lineup were Shogo Saitoh and Da-Wei Zhu of the Saitama Seibu Lions. I only saw 1 Nippon Ham player at the game and that was pitcher Toshinori Asanuma and I don’t recall there being any Yakult Swallows or Rakuten Eagles players at the game either. So, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but feel that this was an exhibition match for Yomiuri and Chiba.

The field and training complex building in the background.

Futures pitcher Da-Wei Zhu went 4 innings, striking out 2 while giving up 1 hit and a walk. This was my first time seeing Zhu in action and I hope that if a slot opens up in the Seibu bullpen, that he will be considered. As a matter of fact, the entire pitching staff only allowed a total of 4 hits throughout the entire game and did a great job of holding runners when Shonan did actually put people on base.

Satoh too, pitched a great game early on in my opinion as he dominated the Futures team by striking out 5 and allowing only 2 hits in his first 4 innings of work. His only downfall however was his bout of “ippatsu byou” in the bottom of the 5th inning when he gave up a home run to Saitama Seibu outfielder Shogo Saitoh with Ryuji Otani (Chiba Lotte #125) on second to make it a 2-0 game. Seriously, can any pitcher within the BayStars organization not give up a home run in a single game or better yet go consecutive starts without giving up a home run? Or if they don’t give up any home runs, how about not giving up more than 3 runs in a game let’s say. I say let’s try to keep it low in terms of scoring. But, these days, that's asking too much from the pitching staff I guess (at least at the top level).

Shonan starter Shoma Satoh (Photo courtesy of Michael Westbay at

Former BayStars pitcher now Shonan pitching coach Takeo Kawamura looking on from the dugout. I'm going to assume that this picture was taken after Satoh gave up that home run. (Photo courtesy of Michael Westbay at

Futures starter Da-Wei Zhu. (Photo courtesy of Michael Westbay at

But anyways, after another quick inning by Shonan, pitcher Naoki Mitsuhashi came in to replace Satoh and when I heard his name over the loudspeaker, I knew we were in for trouble. Now, I don’t have anything against Mitsuhashi, in fact I like him a lot. But, it seems like every time I see him pitch at the ballpark, he seems to leave his control at home so to speak and give up a lot of runs. While he didn’t give up a lot today, he still managed to give up one. After 2 quick groundouts to start off the bottom of the 6th inning by Yuto Ikuyama (Chiba Lotte #130) and Masashi Yoshida (Chiba Lotte #133), centerfielder Kenji Sato singled to right and after that, Kazunao Yamamoto (Yomiuri #105) doubled to deep left to make it 3-0 Futures.

From there, the next few innings went quickly and then we came to the top of the 9th or Shonan's last chance to get some runs. It was weird that Shonan was the home team but yet they were batting at the top half of each inning rather than at the bottom. So, after Yuki Takamori flied out to right to start the inning, pinch hitter and local SeaRex rockstar, Yosuke Shimokubo, doubled to center and then Toshiyuki Kitagawa singled to center to put runners on 1st and 3rd. After that, pinch hitter Tatsuya Shimozono hit a sacrifice fly to left to make it 3-1 Futures but that's all Shonan could do as the next pinch hitter, Toshiki Kurobane stuck out to end the game for Shonan even though the Futures team batted in the bottom of the 9th.

Overall, the Futures team showed great promise by just doing the little things to keep Shonan off the bases. Hopefully, these players will someday grow into great baseball players and then I can tell people about how I saw them when they were just starting out. Minor League games are truly great folks as you can kick back and relax and enjoy a game of baseball and escape everything else. And finally before I forget, you can find out more information about the Futures team and Eastern League Challenge Matches here.

Guess who decided to show up at the training complex with the team? Yup, you guessed it, none other than Shuichi Murata himself. Hopefully, he can get back to full strength soon cause God only knows the BayStars need his offense more than ever now.

Futures outfielder Shogo Saitoh after hitting his 2 run home run. (Photo courtesy of Michael Westbay at

Yosuke Shimokubo rounding first base in the top of the 9th inning. (Photo courtesy of Michael Westbay at

Shonan first baseman Yuki Takamori tossing the ball to pitcher Noaki Mitsuhashi to get Futures second baseman Masashi Yoshida out at first. (Photo courtesy of Michael Westbay at

The final score of the day. (Photo courtesy of Michael Westbay at

Thursday, April 16, 2009

04/05 Opening Weekend in Nagoya: Finale

Hello again all. I’m running a little behind with things on the blog here so I'm hoping to get caught up within the next few days. On Sunday April 5th , I found myself back at Nagoya Kyujyo to see the Dragons play in another exhibition game. This time the Toyama Thunderbirds from the BC League were in town and they squared off in what would be a completely one sided match up for Chunichi. Despite that, it was a great experience and it gave me my first glimpse of the BCL League live and up close. The starting pitchers were Yamato Osanai for the Thunderbirds and Kazuyuki Akasaka for Chunichi. Oh, and before I forget, you can check out the Toyama Thunderbirds of the BCL League at their homepage here.

Honestly, I'm not going to say much about the game itself as this game was brutal as Chunichi called it a day in the second inning which also saw 13 hitters come to the plate as well. Chunichi had 8 runs on 8 hits in the bottom of the second alone and it just went on and on from there. Chunichi scored in every which way possible from errors to home runs. Honestly, it looked like Toyama starter Yamato Osanai was throwing batting practice to Chunichi for the entire time that he pitched.

I mean seriously, I felt really bad for the Thunderbirds and their fans because apparently, the team offered some sort of tour package for the fans as there were two buses from Toyama parked outside of the stadium (one for the players and the other for fans). I can say that I share the Thunderbird's' pain because the day and my entire opening series weekend wouldn't get any better by the time this day was over. You know, coming all this way to see your team play and hopefully win but instead having to watch them be humiliated. But despite all of this, the Toyama fans never stopped cheering for the team even as the lead got bigger and bigger and that's what impressed me the most. The atmosphere of the game was pretty much the same as the previous day against Toyota. You could relax and stretch out a little more. There were however, more people there than the previous day because it was a Sunday and Sunday is the one day of the week where people don’t usually work here in Japan and possibly too because the weather was bright and sunny and it was an all around great day for a baseball game.

Chunichi starter Kazuyuki Akasaka warming up before the game.

Toyama Thunderbirds starter Yamato Osanai.

Toyama Thunderbirds DH Yasushi (Ota).

Toyama third baseman Masayuki Ueda with one of the umpires in the background. Yep, There were only two official NPB umpires at the game (one behind the plate and one at second) so they had 2 trainers or some people from Chunichi man first and third. They actually did a great job.

Chunichi outfielder and DH for the day, Lee, Byung-Gyu at the plate.

And speaking of Lee, today's signature of the day is none other than Lee Byung-Gyu himself. Because as you know, I try to make it a point not to leave a minor league game empty handed.

Toyama right fielder and superstar Daishi (Nagamori). And why is he a superstar you might ask? Well...

Because he has his own banner of course.

Toyama's other banner for outfielder Naoya Fujioka.

The final score of the day. It wasn't pretty as you can see.

The Toyama Thunderbirds thanking their fans after the game.

After the game at Nagoya Kyujyo, I went to the Nagoya Dome for the third and final game of the opening series between the BayStars and the Dragons. The stating pitchers were Futoshi Kobayashi for the BayStars and Wei-Yin Chen for the Dragons. Much like the previous game, Chunichi called it a day early on as they got to Kobayashi early in the game, scoring 4 runs in the first inning. The inning started off with Masahiro Araki fouling out to right. Then, Hirokazu Ibata walked and Masahiko Morino promptly doubled to move Ibata to third. After yet another walk to Tony Blanco and Kazuhiro Wada striking out, new Chunichi superstar Kei Nomoto walked to give Chunichi a 1-0 lead. It wouldn't stop there as Atsushi Fuji would single to short to make it 2-0 and then former Yokohama catcher Motonobu Tanishige would double to center to make it 4-0 Chunichi. Kobayashi would settle down after this and pitch another 3 and 2/3 innings allowing only 1 hit in that time frame until the bottom of the 5th when Tony Blanco would reach base and then proceed to second on an error by Kobayashi and then Wada singled to left to make it 5-0 Chunichi.

Wei-Yin Chen on the other hand, was far worse in my opinion as he walked 5 batters through 6 innings while striking out 4 and allowing 3 hits (ironically, his first hit came off of the bat of Kobayashi as he doubled to deep right in his first at bat). But somehow, Yokohama could not capitalize on Chen's mistakes and score runs. It really was bad baseball by Yokohama as not only could they not score runs but also they had 3 errors in this game to go on top of that and that made me lower my head in shame as I seem to be doing all the time nowadays when I go and see the Stars in action.

The night wasn't over for Chunichi however, as Atsushi Fuji would hit his second home run of the season off of Yokohama reliever Hiroki Sanada in the bottom of the 6th to make it 6-0 Chunichi and that's where the score would end up. If it's not “ippatsu byou” with Yokohama's pitchers, it's always something be it loss of control, too many walks, or hit batters or whatever. But in the end, Wei-Yin Chen would pick up the victory for the Dragons and Kobayashi would take the loss for the Stars. It's also interesting to note that, Yokohama has lost their last seven opening series games as they were swept at the Kyocera Dome by Hanshin in 2008 and lost the final game of the 2007 opening series against Yomiuri at Yokohama.

But, good news Stars fans, as of this writing (09/04/15) the BayStars have won 3 of their last four games so it seems that they may be turning things around despite the fact that it's 2 weeks into the new season. So, that's something to cheer about for Stars fans as the season is still young and there's a lot of time to fix things.

Overall, the trip to Nagoya was fun and I had a great time. This was my second time going on the road to see an opening series and this time around it was much better because I got to see not only my favorite team play but also, I got to see a BC League and an Industrial League play for the first time. I really want to go to a game in each respective league this year and perhaps I will get the chance to do so.

Until then everyone, I'll leave you with a picture of a famous local dish from Nagoya and Aichi Prefecture called “Kishimen” which is a thin noodle that resembles the more thicker udon in taste and texture. I always call it udon's “little brother” just for a laugh.

The world famous "Kishimen". If you ever get a chance to go to Nagoya, please eat it. It's quite tasty.