Friday, June 25, 2010

Tokyo Crosstown Doubleheader - June 24, 2010

Yesterday was a perfect day for baseball. I had already arranged to meet a friend for the evenings Giants-Swallows game at Jingu so I decided to make it a doubleheader by biking down to Ota Stadium to watch a Tokyo Industrial League tournament game in the afternoon.

There were two games scheduled, but with the World Cup games going on overnight here (yay Japan!), mornings are not an option, so I only made it for the afternoon game featuring JR East and Sega Sammy.

Ota Stadium

Ota Stadium is located in the southern part of Tokyo, close to Haneda airport. The closest train station is Ryutsu Center on the monorail, just two stops from the airport, but the stadium is located next to a long bike trail that takes you from Tennozu Isle all the way to Jonanjima. I used to use the trail here regularly and had passed this stadium hundreds of times but had yet to venture inside.

It is used for a variety of baseball games, and like most of these smaller stadiums, has no outfield seats. The seats extend down the lines a fair bit, and there is a small canopy shading the seats directly behind the plate. The field is a bright green that is almost blinding when you first get in. The dimensions are similar to other stadiums at 325 feet down the lines and 400 to center. You can walk around the top of the seating deck which provides nice views of the surrounding area, including Oi Racecourse, a nearby horse racing track.

Next door is a smaller stadium that looks to be a soccer field and had players practicing lacrosse, which I found interesting. There's not much more than that. It's not a place that is easy to get to or that has regularly scheduled games, so I'm glad I got to finally catch a game here (and up the stadium total to 304).

You can see a plane on approach just to the top left of the scoreboard

The Game

The game featured two teams who had won their first round matches. I missed the first out so decided not to keep score (which turned out to be a fortuitous choice as I had to leave early to make it to the nightcap). JR East broke open the scoring in the 3rd when Akira Matsumoto (shown above) cranked a 3-run shot to left. Sega Sammy got one back in the bottom half on a Takuya Jukuura RBI single (shown below).

The game progressed rather slowly for a few innings until JR East added a run on a great hustle play in the 7th. With a man on first, the batter attempted a sacrifice. The pitcher fielded it and threw wildly to first. The ball bounced into shallow right and the runner rounded third, heading for home. He just beat the throw and that made it 5-1. The bunter also scored on a single later in the frame and that was the final, 6-1.

Not a very exciting game, lots of pitching changes and Sega Sammy must have left 10 men on base. With the win, JR East faces Tokyo Gas next Monday at Jingu with the winner going on to the top tournament. Sega Sammy played a loser's bracket game today and were eliminated.

Tolerant Umpires

The most interesting incident in today's game involved the Sega Sammy manager arguing a call. He felt like his fielder had been interfered with and came out to physically show the umpire. He bumped the ump not once but twice to demonstrate what he felt had transpired on the field. Yet he wasn't tossed, the umpire just explained how he saw it while the manager steamed. Generally in Japan, umpires are much more tolerant and managers or players rarely get ejected.

There's a famous incident where American umpire Mike DiMuro, who was here as part of an experiment to improve umpiring standards in the NPB in 1997, ejected a player for arguing balls and strikes. He was surrounded by the players and pushed, no doubt causing him great consternation. That just doesn't happen in the States, where umpires are respected to some extent and have much more power. No punishment was given to any of the players and DiMuro subsequently resigned, ending the experiment.

Giants beat the Swallows

After biking back home and cleaning up, I headed over to Jingu to meet my friend Greg. He had never been to the stadium before despite living here for over 10 years. I told him I would bring him to a game, and we decided to check out the Yomiuri Giants. Weather was perfect and plenty of tickets were available at the box office. Given that the Swallows are in last, a full 14 games behind the league-leading Giants, this might not be surprising.

We ended up sitting in the second row just beyond first base. I didn't take many pictures as the screen was bothersome and the angle wasn't that good as you can see above. As for the game, the Giants won 4-2 behind two homers from reigning MVP and one-time Swallow Alex Ramirez and a two-run shot from Hisayoshi Chono. Chono is an interesting case - he was drafted twice previously but only wanted to play for the Giants. So he opted to play industrial ball for two years, leading Honda to the title last season. Finally, Yomiuri drafted him and he's been playing all year, although hitting only .245 with 9 homers. Of course, homer number 9 gave the Giants the winning runs yesterday. Ugh. Still, it takes guts to stick with your favourite team, even if it makes you a frontrunner.

It was nice to be back in Jingu to watch the Swallows but the game itself was thoroughly unenjoyable, taking 3:07 to reach its inevitable conclusion.

Next Up

That's pretty much it for Japanese baseball this year, at least in Tokyo. There's no stadium here that I still need to see and the teams I cheer for are horrible (as seems to be the case in every sport).

I'm off to Minneapolis and Iowa in two weeks and will be enjoying the World Cup in the meantime. Look for a post on that in the next couple of days and everyone please cheer on Japan!



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