Sunday, June 7, 2009

Home Sweet Home in Ogano, Chichibu: 2-gun Saitama Seibu vs. Tokyo Yakult

Hello again everyone. I'm slowly trying to get my backlog of posts done but until they get posted, here's something special I did today. Now as many of you know, I used to live near Yokohama City in Kanagawa Prefecture for nearly 3 years and I used to frequent Yokohama BayStars games quite often (almost everyday to be exact). But last year I moved out to Chichibu City in Saitama to continue working as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). So, you can imagine my surprise that Seibu actually hosted a game out near where I live and that meant I ONLY had to take a 30 minute bus ride over a mountain to go see a game Woo Hoo!!! Ogano town is actually in the western part of the Chichibu District of Saitama which basically means it's even deeper in the mountains than Chichibu City is and is further away from civilization. But, the area has it's charm and I do enjoy going there.

And also, because this was a local game in my area, baseball clubs from all over Chichibu came to watch the game and I spent almost the entire game in the outfield with one of my school’s baseball club. It was very fun and I got to know the kids a little better after it was all said and done. In addition, I recently purchased a Cannon PowerShot SX10 IS and used it to take pictures at a game for the first time so you may notice that the quality of my pictures has gotten better. I was quite pleased with how the pictures came out and I’m glad I just decided to get a new camera to replace my crappy point and shoot with it’s fuzzy pictures. But, enough with all that and let’s get to the game shall we?

The weather was gorgeous for the game on Sunday and Seibu did quite well in terms of attendance drawing almost 2,000 people to the game with the actual total being 1,861. Before the game too, Seibu held a サイン会 or autograph session in which the first 100 people to line up in front of the autograph tent got the chance to receive a signature from a player after paying a 200 yen fee. After paying, you received a numbered ticket with the letter A, B, C, D, or E on it and whoever sat in that particular chair that’s whose autograph you got. I was fortunate enough to get pitcher Koji Onuma’s autograph because he wasn’t signing at all. It appears that Seibu does this regularly before each local 2-gun game they play as they did it in Kumagaya and Omiya as well. Also too, I spent the morning with a student of mine autograph hunting before the game and got really sunburned in the process. But, the effort paid off as I made off with quite a number of autographs that day. Here’s a list of players that I got to sign (excluding Onuma) in no particular order:

Tomohito Yoneno (Yakult)

Masayoshi Miwa (Yakult)

Takayuki Shimizu

Taketoshi Gotoh (who is a really nice guy too btw)

Hideto Asamura

Takuya Hara

I was really angry that I just barely missed getting Shogo Akada’s autograph but despite that, I did quite well I feel as I did get Shimizu’s autograph which I really wanted to begin with.

But I do have a gripe with Seibu though about something. Now I’m not condoning anyone for their personal habits but smoking in an exposed tent in front of little children is a bad thing. It’s no secret that ballplayers smoke but if your going to do it, please do it in an enclosed area. Maybe they just didn’t do a good job of covering the tent up or whatever but that really got to me as these children look up to the players as role models and often imitate what they see. I experience this sort of thing everyday and it’s something I don’t really like to see.

Tokyo Yakult starter Shun Takaichi.

Seibu Starter Ryohei Fujiwara thinking before the game.

The starting pitchers for the game were Shun Takaichi for Yakult and Ryohei Fujiwara for Seibu. Right out of the gate, Fujiwara was bad, as he had zero control as he couldn’t find the strike zone and walked 2 batters in the first inning alone. Yakult struck first on a bases loaded sac fly by Takayuki Saito to make it 1-0 Yakult in the first. Yakult added another run in the top of the 2nd when 3rd baseman Ryosuke Morioka hit a solo homer to left that made it 2-0 Yakult. Then, in the top of the 3rd with 2 on, Yakult centerfielder Tsuyoshi Ueda blasted a 3 run shot to left center to make it 5-0 Yakult. After this, Fujiwara was finished and it seemed that this was going to be a quick game for the Swallows. But, in the bottom of the 4th inning, something started to happen. Now, I don’t know if it was the clean country air in Chichibu or Yakult just decided to call it a day, but Seibu came back with a vengeance over the next 3 innings. Taketoshi Gotoh started things off for Seibu with a two run homerun in the bottom of the 4th that made it 5-2 Yakult. Yakult struck back and added another run in the top of the 5th courtesy of an RBI single by Yakult right fielder Munenori Shida which made it 6-2 Yakult.But not to be outdone, in the bottom of the 5th, Seibu struck again as Takuya Hara hit a bases clearing triple with 2 on to make it 6-4 Yakult and then Gotoh singled to left for an RBI which pulled Seibu with in one making the score 6-5 Yakult.

Saitama Seibu 1st baseman/DH Taketoshi Gotoh crossing home plate after hitting his 2 run home run in the bottom of the 4th.

Gotoh again going for it all, YEAH!

Before the game, there was a local Taiko drum group that performed for the pre-game entertainment. What’s funny is that they ended up staying for the entire game and would start playing after Seibu scored a run. Needless to say, Seibu set off the Taiko quite a bit as they broke the game open and then some in the bottom of the 6th. Seibu left fielder Hidekazu Hoshi led of the inning with a walk. Then, Keisuke Mizuta hit a two run homer to deep left to make it 7-6 Seibu. But not to be outdone by his teammate, 3rd baseman Naomichi Umeda hit his own home run to deep left center to make it 8-6 Seibu. Now, you think that this would be it right? Not even close as Seibu was just humiliating Yakult by this point. Shogo Akada and Takuya Hara drew consecutive walks and were moved over to third and second respectively by a Hiroyuki Oshima single to load the bases. Then, the man of the day himself came to the plate in the form of Taketoshi Gotoh and promptly hit a 2 run RBI double to make it 10-6 and put runners on third and second. What happened next was just incredible as Takayuki Shimizu SMASHED a 3 run home run into the riverbed behind the stadium to make it 13-6 Seibu and as a result of this, Shimizu also managed to send a horde of about 30+ kids into the riverbed to try and get the ball. One of my students actually managed to get the ball so it was pretty neat. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen at a Japanese baseball game to date. But Seibu wasn’t even done after all this. Keisuke Mizuta decided that 13 runs wasn’t enough and hit his second home run of the inning to left center to make it 14-6 Seibu. After that, the inning was finally over as was the game for the most part. Yakult managed to add another run in the 7th counrtesy of a bases loaded walk by Yakult shortstop Yuji Onizaki but by that time it really didn’t matter as the damage had been done as Yakult would go down quietly in the 8th and 9th innings.

Takayuki Shimizu swinging at a pitch early in the game.

This is FORMER Gomiuri Giant Takayuki Shimizu. He looks 1 million times better in these colors than those other ones. Kutabare Gomiuri!!! And yes, he is really really popular with the Seibu fans.

All in all, a truly fantastic game by Seibu despite a rocky start by both the pitching and the hitting and plus the game being played in my backyard basically added to the excitement as well. Both teams did really well I feel and I honestly didn’t know that both teams turned the game into a slugfest as well until I checked the box scores after the game. Plus, seeing my students happy made me feel pretty good too as some of them were able to catch some practice balls that the players threw into the stands in between innings. It’s really great if you are a teacher and are able to share some of your student’s interests as they open up to you a little more and actually listen to what you have to say. If you guys ever get the chance to go to a 2-gun game then by all means go. For 1000 yen and 9 innings of baseball, what better way is there to spend a sunny afternoon on the weekend?

As usual, here’s the box score from the game:

Shogo Akada is NOT happy with that strike call!

Yakult Swallows catcher Tomohito Yoneno

Saitama Seibu pitcher Tetsuya Iwasaki. He has on of the wildest wind ups I have ever seen seriously.

Takuya Hara using his batting eye to draw a walk.

Yakult outfielders Munehiro Shida and Tsuyoshi Ueda reacting after Tetsuya Hara's triple.

Saitama Seibu catcher Shota Nakata going for the bunt.

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