Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Trip to Asahikawa Starfin Stadium Day #1: 08/18/09 Plus Photopost

Hello everyone. Yes I know that I am behind with my games to be posted but I wanted to get this one on the blog rather quickly as it turned out to be a great game and all around great day for Pro Yakyu. Also, just a little note, I will be doing an official stadium report on Starfin Stadium sometime during the off season because hey, we need to keep the Yakyu news flowing all year long right? So for now, my initial impressions of the stadium and today's game will have to do.

So, right now the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters are hosting a 3 game series with the Rakuten Eagles. Well, the first 2 games of this series are being held here in Asahikawa at Starfin Stadium as part of the Fighter's "We Love Hokkaido Series". So what that means basically is that every year, the Ham play a certain number of games in different parts of Hokkaido in order to bring baseball to the far reaches of the island and believe me folks, some of these places here in Hokkaido are far reaches. This is brilliant marketing on the Ham's part as they drew a little over 15,000 people for a day game on a weekday today. Oh yeah, and you'll notice too that the Fighters are wearing different uniforms too as part of the "We Love Hokkaido Series". Last year they were black and dark blue I believe but this year they decided to go with a purple colored uniform and I've got to say that I like it because it's different.

Infielder Chung-Shou Yang warming up before the game.

FINALLY! Some decent pics of Atsunori Inaba! You can run but you can not hide HA HA! Seriously, I've tried long and hard to get good pics of Inaba but just couldn't.

Inaba loves Hokkaido and so should you!

Did I mention that Inaba is so cool? I honestly think he's part machine and that makes it even better.

Kensuke Tanaka really does love the color pink but the new inflatable hands that the team is selling really suck which will be covered in a rant on a future blog entry.

Come to think of it, the "We Love Hokkaido" games are sort of similar to what Seibu does with its "Lions Classic" games because they play against every team in the Pacific League while wearing special uniforms and promoting a common theme (Seibu's reflects on its past while the Fighters concentrate on bringing baseball and itself subsequently closer to the entire island of Hokkaido). But it's strange that the Ham didn't play any "We Love Hokkaido" games against Orix this season. I don't know the reason for that but the concept for these games works and "I Love Hokkaido" even more as a result.

I'm going to assume that we all know who Victor Starfin is but for those who don't, who can find out who he is at this page here. I had bought my tickets via telephone back in April when they went on sale and had been looking forward to this trip for a number of months and it was well worth the wait. Asahikawa is a nice small city in the northern part of Hokkaido with some of the best ramen in all of Japan. But, the reason why I came to Asahikawa was to visit Starfin Stadium and what a great stadium it is indeed. The minute you walk into the main gate, you are presented with this statue:

Simply amazing and awe-inspiring is all I have to say. A true icon in Pro Yakyu is Mr. Victor Starfin and even though I don't know as much about the history of Pro Yakyu as some other people I know, I really did feel humbled and blessed to have the chance to visit such an awesome place. If any of you ever get the rare chance to come to Asahikawa for a game, by all means do it. You won't be disappointed. The actual stadium itself seemed kind of small to me and reminded me of Hiratsuka Stadium in Kanagawa Prefecture where I used to live (I did a write up on a Shonan SeaRex game at Hiratsuka Stadium earlier this year if you want to learn more about that place).

Now, as for the game itself, the staring pitchers were Hisashi Iwakuma for Rakuten and Tomoya Yagi for the Fighters. Nippon Ham started the game out really good by getting to Iwakuma in the bottom of the 1st. Kensuke Tanaka singled to left to start things off and was later driven in on an RBI Single by DH Shinji Takahashi and just like that it was 1-0 Fighters. It seemed like this was going to be a bad day for Iwakuma who gave up 3 hits in the first inning alone, but he got the help he needed in the top of the 2nd when Takeshi "Hulk Smash" Yamasaki walked to start the inning off and then was brought home when Fernando Seguignol homered to left to give Rakuten a 2-1 lead. Then in the 3rd, Rakuten struck again thanks to Tomoya Yagi's bad control. Rakuten lead off man Todd Linden singled with one out and was then moved over to third on a single to right by Naoto Watanabe. Shortly after that, Teppi hit an RBI Single to shallow right which made it 3-1 Rakuten. "Hulk Smash" Yamasaki then fouled out to 3rd and Yagi then proceeded to give up back to back walk to Seguignol and Rick Short which brought in Watanabe from third and widened Rakuten's lead at 4-1. But we weren't finished yet as former Yakult Swallow Ryuji Miyade singled to shallow center to put another run on the board and make it 5-1 Rakuten. Nippon Ham added another run of their own in the bottom of the 3rd when Kazuya Murata singled to left and then proceeded to steal 2nd while Atsunori Inaba was batting. Shinji Takahashi then hit his second RBI of the game which was a single to shallow left and that made it 5-2 Rakuten. Fernando Seguignol added another run in the top of the 8th via a solo home run to make it 6-2 and pinch hitter Yoshitoro Satoh added a solo home run of his own in the bottom of the 9th to make it 6-3 but the Ham could do no more and that's where the score ended up.

Hisashi Iwakuma catches a ball with his eyes closed.

Iwakuma delivering a pitch in the bottom of the 1st.

Yagi settled down after the 3rd inning and ended up pitching into the 7th inning. Meanwhile, Iwakuma just dominated the Fighters after he got that run support and ended up going all 9 innings on 111 pitches to get the win although he did give up 10 hits and 3 runs to the Ham while striking out 4 and walking 1. But despite Yagi's performance (5 runs 7 hits 6 strike outs and 4 walks though 7 innings), this was his first loss in a month or so I believe and he does hold an 8-2 record this season with a 2.90 ERA as of now and that has to count for something. Every pitcher has his off day and I think this was Yagi's so we'll see if he can rebound in his next start or if this is something else.

Tomoya Yagi sporting the special issue jersey for the "We Love Hokkaido" games.

Yagi delivering a pitch in the 6th inning.

All in all, a great day for Yakyu as I got to visit Starfin Stadium for the first time and see Iwakuma pitch a fantastic game. Hopefully, the game tomorrow will be just as good and I will end my time here in Asahikawa on a good note but until then, please enjoy some sights from the game today as posted in the blog here and as always, thanks for reading and keep supporting the game of Pro Yakyu.

Speaking of good things, today was Ryuji Miyade's birthday and he gave us all a present by hitting an RBI single in the game. Thanks Ryuji and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Makoto Kaneko also loves Hokkaido.

Kensuke Tanaka puts the tag on "Hulk Smash" Yamasaki as he tried to go for extra bases in the 5th. I really think I need more action shots like this in my blog which is something I'll try to work on in the future.

Fernando Seguignol crosses home plate after his second home run of the day. Ironically, since he bats switch, he hit his first one from the right side of the plate and his second one from the left side of the plate which was really neat to see.

Seguignol STILL loves Hokkaido and Hokkaido and Fighters fans still love him.

Yoshitoro Satoh does his best Seguignol impersonation in the bottom of the 9th.

Kazuya Murata warming up in the 9th inning and yes, He does love Hokkaido too so don't ask.

And much like "Everybody Loves Raymond", it's a safe bet to say that "Everybody Loves Hokkaido" just as much if not more.

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