Friday, June 26, 2009

From the Vault: Nippon Ham vs. Shonan Searex @ Fighters Stadium 05/16/09

Hello again everyone. With the rainy weather continuing here in
Japan and me feeling a lot better these days, I’m getting caught up with things here on the old blog. Honestly though, with me trying to get back into shape and staying at school until 5pm or later every night, it’s hard to put forth the energy to write about Pro Yakyu. I’m trying to create a schedule for my activities everyday but it just doesn’t seem to be working. But nonetheless, I’m going to keep at it and hopefully I’ll be able to get these posts up at decent times rather than a few weeks after the fact. But also, I guess the purpose of my blog was to get the word out about Japanese Baseball so I guess it’s the experience that counts in the end. So with all that being said, I’ve decided to create a new “series” of sorts called “From the Vault”. These will be the games that I either: A. Never got around to posting or B. Just plain forgot to write about. I think these game reports will also have more of a commentary feel to them, as I will talk more about my opinions on things related to the teams rather than focusing on the actual games themselves.

Ok, with my opening out of the way, let’s get down to business. On Saturday May 16th, I took a “little” trip to Kamagaya, Chiba to attend my first Nippon Ham Fighters 2-gun or minor league game. Now in my opinion, Fighters Stadium is one of the best stadiums for a minor league game but it is also very inconvenient because of its location. But still, you can’t help but admire what the Fighters have done in terms of making Kamagaya into its own little separate brand. I think that my minor league team the Shonan SeaRex and the Fighters have many things in common in this aspect. Both teams have their own mascot, their own ouendan (cheer groups) for home games and merchandise and they play in an actual stadium and not some baseball ground like other teams do. But unlike Shonan, I get the impression and the feeling that the Fighters 2-gun fans are more dedicated to their team. Now don’t get me wrong, I know and often sit next to people who only go to Shonan games, but usually the people I see at the games are the same people I see at BayStars games and they only go if there’s something important happening or if the BayStars are out of town. Yes, geography has something to do with it (the Fighters are based in Hokkaido and their farm team is based in Chiba), but you can’t help but notice again, how great of a job the Fighters have done in making their 2-gun team into a separate brand of sorts. Cubby (their mascot) is on posters and buses and just about everywhere in the Kamagaya/Funabashi area and quite honestly, it’s really cool. Plus, those green Kamagaya jerseys are some of my favorite Japanese baseball jerseys and again are really cool.

Fighters Stadium mascot Cubby. Seriously, I've never seen a mascot actually partake in the actual performance of ouenka before. This was very cool to see.

As for the game itself, I was quite disappointed in the way that Shonan played. They didn’t hit and were completely sloppy on defense. The starters for each team were Kentaro Kurihara for Shonan and Mitsuo Yoshikawa for the Fighters. Yoshikawa only went five innings despite pitching pretty good and only giving up one run which was a solo homer to Shonan shortstop Takayuki Kajitani. Kentaro Kurihara on the other hand was lousy giving up 7 runs and nine hits through 5 1/3 innings. But to his credit, not all of those runs were his fault and some of them were also due to Shonan’s lousy defense (Keijiro Matsumoto and Shingo Nonaka in particular). So actually, only about 4 runs or so were his fault due to bad pitching but regardless, the Fighters took advantage of Shonan’s faults and made them pay for it in what was a totally one sided game for them.

Nippon Ham starter Mitsuo Yoshikawa.

Shonan starter Kentaro Kurihara.

Also too, before the game, Nippon Ham wunderkind Sho Nakata received his April farm league MVP award and another award too I think (I forgot what it was though). This would be the last time to date that I would see Nakata at a 2-gun game as he was called up to the main squad a few weeks later and has been there ever since (as of 6/24/09 he has been demoted to 2-gun again). I can now say that I saw Nakata when he was just starting out and when he becomes this big star that everyone sees him becoming, I can brag about seeing him in 2-gun when he was just starting.

Sho Nakata receiving his April MVP award for 2-gun.

Nakata bowing to the fans on the first base side after receiving his award.

Nakata hitting a single that bounced off the outfield wall.

Oh yeah, and after the game I received some more Shonan autographs of the following players:

Takayuki Kajitani

Atsushi Kita

Shoma Sato

Hiroaki Ohnishi

A really nice haul for the game (especially Ohnishi) that added to the collection nicely.

Hiroaki Ohnishi warming up before the game.

Ohnishi after the game heading to his car. Great matching hat and shirt ensemble too "Hiro".

As always, here’s the box score for the game:



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