May 27, 2008

Memorial Day - Interleague Baseball at Koshien

Happy Memorial Day to all of our U.S. Readers! Although we don't celebrate Memorial Day over here in Japan, Ilena and the kids were able to have a little picnic on Monday followed by an improptu swim in the fountains (while Mike was at work), and, later that evening, Mike and Ilena were able to take in some Memorial Day baseball at Koshien Stadium. (Sort of, since Monday here was Sunday in the U.S., but whatever, you get the point). Anyway, thanks again to courtesy seats from the Williams' family (3rd row behind the Hanshin dugout!), Mike and Ilena enjoyed a terrific 2-1 extra innings victory by the Hanshin Tigers over the Seibu Lions in a great interleague play matchup of the respective League Leaders.

Although Jeff Williams didn't pitch (he had pitched in the prior two games, the Tigers got some great starting pitching and then turned to the other 2/3 of their famed JFK bullpen (plus Watanabe, who got the win) and were able to squeak out a victory on a walk-off 2-out RBI single by Kanemoto in the 11th inning. (Incidentally, he beat the Lions Closer, Alex Graman, who was a former Yankee who never really panned out in the Majors).

We can't help but continue to gush about Japanese baseball. We made fast friends with our outgoing (and increasingly drunk) Tiger-fan neighbors. The guy in front of us in the Yellow Tigers jersey had posters for every player and bought and downed a beer (literally) every half-inning. Every time we looked up it was like instant replay as he was chatting up the neon-clad beer girl and she was smiling as she poured another. Another of our buddies is the guy in the hat with the little stuffed Tiger on it. We all "conversed" in broken English and broken Japanese. And rooted like crazy!

Every time the Tigers had a batter up with a man in scoring position, which was often, the cheering and thunderstick combination of "Rasshai Rasshai (BOOM-BOOMBOOM) HEY! (BOOM-BOOMBOOM) HEY!" went up through the crowd, the home fans whipping themselves into a frenzy for every pitch. The coolest thing about the experience is the positive energy of the fans. They are so adoring. And there is no booing. Ever. They just love this team. And even though our friends were wasted, there was never any belligerence and they were friendly (and highly entertaining) throughout.

The only tough part about being a Tiger's fan is that Mike can't find a Jersey in his size. He is dying for some gear, but the LL size in Japan just doesn't quite fit comfortably across the shoulders. This is highly annoying.

Here are some pictures from the game. Shortstop, Toritani (No. 1):

Mike's favorite player, Arai (1B, No. 25). He is off to a terrific start. He reminds Mike of a Japanese Andres Galaragga in his prime.

Kanemoto (OF, No. 6). The most popular of the Tiger hitters. Today's Hero of the Game.

Here is the post-game on-the-field press conference with Kanemoto, flanked by the Tiger's Mascots. The fact that EVERYBODY sticks around for the post-game press-conference and subsequent singing and cheering is really cool.


Anonymous said...

Great blog! I still haven't seen a live game outside of Kanto. I've heard so many great things about Tigers fans (well, some unruly thing too, but hey) and Koshien that I plan on going, hopefully this season. And Seibu had been on top of the PL thanks mostly to all the homeruns, but the Tigers showed that pitching, defense, and getting on base are more important in a short series. Hope my Lions fare better against the Dragons though, another solid team in the CL next to the league leading Tigers.

jmgesq said...

Definitely beats the Shea and Yankee Stadium experiences - not to mention the performances of the respective teams.

Happy Memorial Day to you too.

Mike said...

jhockey - thanks for the comment! Glad you found our blog. Your Japan, Hockey (!?), Baseball Blog is very cool too - we have come across it several times when searching for things. If you ever make it out to Koshien, let us know!

jmgesq - don't even start with the Yankees and Mets!

Matthew J said...

Those are some great seats!