Sunday, August 16, 2009

Yakult Swallows 1 at Shonan Searex 16 (Eastern League) - August 16,2009

I'd been to 5 out of the 6 Eastern League ballparks in the Tokyo area this season. Only a visit to Yokosuka Stadium, home of the Shonan Searex, was required to complete the tour. Having seen the Yakult Swallows in 4 of those games, I was getting familiar with their players, and eager to see them take on the Searex. It turned out that they were visiting Shonan this weekend, with night games on Saturday and Sunday. After spending Saturday afternoon at a local festival, I decided to make the trip down to Kanagawa on Sunday.

Getting There

Yokosuka is a town just south of Yokohama, known mostly for housing a US Naval Base. The stadium is located near Oppama station on the Keikyu line. Using a rapid train from the Ginza area and switching to the local at Kanazawa Bunko, you can make the trip in about 50 minutes. It's a further 15-minute walk to the stadium itself, although this is a nice walk that is partly covered and offers a few convenience stores where you can get supplies before entering the game, as well as some drinking spots for afterwards.

The Stadium

Yokosuka Stadium is a real ballpark, unlike Yakult Toda Field. It's much the same design as Fighter's Stadium in Kanagawa - there's a ticket window in the middle and entrances on either side. There's only one level of seats though, so if you are sitting in the front row, you will be disturbed by people walking back and forth during the action. The plastic seats do have small backs on them, unlike the other stadiums, and are probably the most comfortable seats so far, which isn't saying very much. There are also some benches further down the lines. There is mesh behind the plate, and a fence all around, but if you sit high enough down the baseline, you can get a clear view of the action.

Front of the stadium

The field is artificial turf with the basepaths cut out with dirt. The outfield has some nice greenery around it and the scoreboard is quite nice too, displaying lineups and messages to the players between innings.

Infield practice

Food is actually located outside the ballpark, so make sure you have your ticket when you leave. There's your typical assortment of noodles, as well as Japanese curry with rice that looked quite good. There's also an all-you-can-drink option which looked appealing at first. But in reality it's 2,000 yen and you must stop after the 6th inning. Considering that beers are 350 yen for a can, you're looking at one beer per inning. I've been known to enjoy a drink or two, but that sort of pace would be tough to maintain.

All in all, this is the nicest stadium in the Eastern League, but having people walk around the front row makes sitting there annoying, and hence I prefer Giants Stadium as a place to go. I'll post a ranking of the Eastern League Ballparks shortly.

The Game

Shonan is the best team in the league and they soon showed why. They scored 5 in the first inning and 6 more in the 3rd to take an 11-0 lead. Yakult managed 4 hits for the entire game and the final score was 16-1 for Shonan. It was ugly. Yakult starter Ryo Hidaka faced 16 batters and 9 of them scored! Two relievers weren't much better, allowing 7 more runs. What amazed me was the well-balanced attack put forth by the Searex. All starters managed at least 1 hit and 1 run, and no player had more than 2 runs. Catcher Toshihiro Noguchi, a long-time veteran of 4 teams and now on the downside of his career, belted a 2-run double in the first and a grand slam in the 3rd for 6 RBI's. He also singled later, but was injured running home on a wild pitch, so he didn't get a chance to bat for the cycle.

The final linescore was:

Yakult 1 4 1
Shonan 16 17 0

The scoreboard congratulates Noguchi on his grand slam.

This was the most lopsided game I'd ever seen, but despite that and my team losing, I didn't really mind that much. The nice weather and a decent pace to the game, coming in at 2:49, kept me from getting too frustrated at the Swallows ineffective pitching. Still, I might try to see some other teams from now on.

Another run scores for Shonan

Next up

There's a Futures game this Wednesday in Kamagaya which I'm thinking about. The Futures team is a collection of young players from the Eastern League who play about 40 games a season against those Eastern League teams who are not playing. As the league has 7 teams, there's at least one team off every day, and so once in a while the Futures provide a challenge game. The Futures players cannot have any experience with the major league team, so you are definitely going to see some up-and-comers. That evening, there's a J League game nearby, so if the weather co-operates, I might skip the Koshien on TV and head out to Chiba for a sports doubleheader.

Camera Update

If you read my post from last Friday when I biked up to Toda, you'll know I got a bit wet on the ride home and the camera was damaged. Fortunately, the pictures weren't lost and I've added them to the post. But the camera seemed beyond repair, so I've upgraded to a slightly better one and will be using that one from now on.



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