Thursday, July 30, 2009

On the Road in Nagano: Yokohama vs. Yomiuri @ Nagano Olympic Stadium 07/22/09

Greetings everyone. It's been a little while I know, but I haven't had much time for Pro Yakyu as of late with the Japanese school term ending for the summer holidays. And because of the summer holidays (and the boredom that comes along with it partially), I have this burning desire to write about and go to Pro Yakyu games and I will be doing just that this summer. So, as a sort of treat to everyone out there, I decided to kick things off by making a "culture trip" to Nagano to take in some sites and whatnot. Oh yeah, and there just happened to be a baseball game being hosted in Nagano that didn't affect my travel plans whatsoever when I planned this trip. A strange coincidence indeed.

So, I arrived at Nagano Station at around 12:30pm and after checking my bag into the hotel where I would be staying at, I went back to the station and proceeded to the Nagano Olympic Stadium shuttle bus area. And much to my surprise, none other than the Yomiuri Giants had a bus waiting for them right near where the shuttle buses were. So, as you can imagine, when they were heading towards the bus, they were immediately hounded by at least 20+ people wanting autographs. But, as the players went into the bus and sat down, none other than Marc Kroon came over to where I was standing and shook my hand. Now for those of you who don't know, during the 2007 season, I used to travel around and see the BayStars at wherever they went. And as such, I kind of made it a point to always say "hi" to Marc (it was his last season in Yokohama). So, I guess because I went to so many games, Marc remembered who I was. Now, I hadn't seen Marc in quite some time but when he came over and shook my hand, I got goosebumps. We had a short one minute chat before he headed onto the bus and headed to the stadium. I was in shock to say the least. I guess it was one of those "fan moments" people tend to have when talking with their favorite players and whatnot.

Now, as for the match itself, this looked really good on paper because of the pitching match up. The Giants sent out Wifrin Obispo and Yokohama countered with ace Daisuke Miura. Since being called up to the top team, Obispo has been on fire for the Giants and has turned heads to say the least. Suffice to say, I actually enjoyed watching the Giants play in this game and no that was not a typo (I’m also preparing myself for the numerous amounts of stones and other foreign that will be hurled in my general direction after I post this article too). Nowadays, whenever I see the Giants, I see a lot of players I don’t even recognize. It seems to me like Yomiuri is getting younger in some areas so to speak and it’s obviously working as they have had an iron grip on first place in the Central League for what seems like an eternity now. So while I still don’t really care for Yomiuri, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due.

Former Nippon Ham Fighter Takahito Kudoh.

But aside from all that, the story of the game for me was Yomiuri starter Wifrin Obispo. After a rocky start in the first inning which included a bunt hit and a hit batter, Obispo became untouchable and went on to throw his first complete game on 120 pitches while only giving up 2 runs on 6 hits while striking out 7. Obispo really deserves to be on the top roster at this point and I’m glad that the Giants didn’t demote him after Kroon was ready to come of the disabled list. So, congratulations to Obispo on this accomplishment in his career and I hope to see him at least one more time this season before it ends.

Wifrin Obispo reacting after throwing a pitch.

Obispo delivering a pitch.

Wifrin Obispo getting ready to deliver a pitch.

Daisuke Miura standing on second after hitting a double in the 3rd.

Miura immediately after hitting the ball.

Miura getting ready to hit the ball.

Yokohama on the other hand, was really a huge letdown by the way they played. It simply amazes me that about 2 weeks ago, they were riding a really impressive 5 game winning streak but now have reverted to their old ways. Bad pitching and the disease known as “iipatsu byou” (a disease in which pitchers have been known to give up an extraordinary amount of home runs throughout the course of a season) were Yokohama’s main problems. The lack of offense too also contributed to this loss as well but when your ace pitcher is serving up homeruns like nobody’s business, well that takes precedence in my opinion.

Michihiro Ogasawara or rather his “clean-shaven dopplelganger” as my friend Deanna from Marinerds would say, started things off for the Giants by hitting a solo home run to left in the top of the 1st to give Yomiuri an early 1-0 lead. Then in the top of the 2nd, the home runs continued as Yoshiyuki Kamei and Shinosuke Abe each hit solo home runs to right field (Abe’s barely cleared the wall) to give Yomiuri a 3-0 lead which basically spelled the end for Yokohama. While Yokohama ace Daisuke Miura didn’t really pitch all that well, he did help out with the bat by leading off the bottom of the 3rd with a double to left. Miura then was then moved over to third on a single by Yokohama leadoff hitter Takehiro Ishikawa and was later brought home on a sacrifice fly to center by Seiichi Uchikawa which cut Yomiuri’s lead to 2. However, that’s about all the offense could do as the Giants kept on going. Shigeyuki Furuki tripled in a run in the top of the 7th which was the only run of the game which didn’t come by the long ball and gave Yomiuri a 4-1 lead and Ogasawara’s clean-shaven doppleganger added 2 more in the top of the 8th with a 2 run home run to left which was his second on the night. Yokohama 1st baseman Dan Johnson added a solo shot of his own to center in the bottom of the 9th hoping to start something for Yokohama’s offense but it wasn’t meant to be as Yomiuri scored often and early to put away Yokohama 6-2.

Alex Ramirez taking some batting practice before the game.

Michihiro Ogasawara's clean-shaven doppleganger watching his first home run of the night sail into the left field stands in the first.

Yomiuri catcher Shinosuke Abe hitting a home run in the 2nd inning.

Not a very good way for Yokohama to head into the All-Star break and here's hoping that they can have a respectable second half. But all in all, it was a great time as I did end up in the outfield around the 5th inning and got to cheer with some of my friends who had also made the trip to Nagano.

Yokohama closer Shun Yamaguchi and Yuta Sekiguchi greeting people at the entrance before the game. I think like the first 100 or so people in the gate also got a free BayStars fan book as well.

Takeyama and Takehiro Ishikawa also greeting people by the entrance gate I was at.

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