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Interleague Game 6: Ouendan Tales

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So the clouds decided to go away, the teams returned, and the second game of the Hanshin-Lotte series (though technically the first game) got underway. We made our way back to Koshien again for Monday’s game hoping to make it through 9 innings and get out with a Lotte victory. That we did, but the Marines didn’t, losing 4-3 to Hanshin in a very exciting and passionate contest. In fact, despite the loss I’ll say it was the most fun I’ve had at a game in quite some time.

Tigers fans were out again in force, pretty much filling the outfield stands and most of the infield stands, which is pretty impressive for a Monday night game. Less impressive was my first exposure to Hanshin’s slogan for 2009.

I think that needs a re-think

I think that needs a re-think

Hmm, not quite. Koshien stadium has undergone the first part of a massive face lift, and it’s pretty much unrecognizable as the same stadium I visited several years ago. Very nice new outfield seats, very, um, interesting ‘temporary ivy’.

Pretty much the same as real ivy, right?

Pretty much the same as real ivy, right?

Well, it’s temporary – I hope. Upon entering the stadium we were given foil wrapped Hanshin cards. When the girl gave me my card I asked:

Me: “Hey, is this a good player?”
Her: Looking at me weird as it’s a sealed card, “Um, I don’t know?”
Me: “Could you check?”
Her: Puts it to her eye, “It’s OK, I think.”
Me: “Good, I hope it’s not Mench.”
Her: “I don’t think so!”

Not as many of the Tiger Cosplayers were in attendance for Monday’s game as Sunday’s game, but the fans were still pretty raucous, and honestly, quite curious about Lotte fans. Before the game the Tigers faithful came over to mix with the Lotte supporters, and some even stayed in the Lotte sections throughout the game. Usually there’s pretty strict separation between home and visiting fans in the outfield so I was surprised at the mixing. It added to the flavor of the game for sure – though there were a few unruly idiots that didn’t understand the concept of a visitor cheering section – and unfortunately they were the only other foreigners in the Lotte section. They showed up late in the game, sat in the middle of a bunch of Lotte supporters wearing Hanshin gear, Hanshin towels on their head, and jumping around when Hanshin was at bat. I got the impression it was their first game in Koshien, and it looked like several of the Lotte fans tried to convince them nicely to sit with the Hanshin fans.

Friendly Hanshin fans

Friendly Hanshin fans

We had a couple of great Hanshin fans sit with us for most of the game. They were wearing full Hanshin gear (unis and pants) and sunglasses at night. They figured Lotte was only in town for two games a year so they wanted to see what it was like to be a Lotte fan. We taught them songs, they bought us drinks – a symbiotic relationship.

Me: “It’s ‘Benny, Benny, Benny let’s go!”
Hanshin fan: “Who?”
Me: “Benny.”
HF: “Bobby?”
Me: “Benny.”
HF: “Benny, Benny, Benny let’s go!”

Fukuura hit-to!

Fukuura hit-to!

Curiously enough, I happened to sit next to a couple I met last year in Nagano for a Lotte/Seibu game. What a happy reunion! That game was memorable because Lotte starter Shimizu got drilled to the tune of something like 10 runs in 1+ innings including if I recall 7 RBI by Seibu’s Bocachica. It was a total disaster. I passed the time sitting on the grass drinking with the couple next to me – the same couple I sat with on Monday. The score ran to 16-0 in the 9th, we only had two hits. We got a runner on with a walk and two outs, and Takehara came to the plate. we sang Takehara’s song, hoping for something, anything. He delivers with a 2 run blast, we slide down the hill, falling all over each other as if we had won the Nippon Series. Good times.

Cheering as the sun goes down

Cheering as the sun goes down

Monday’s game was very much the opposite of that one. There was no score through the first 5 innings as Lotte starter Shimizu (again!) did a good job keeping Tigers off the base paths. Hanshin starter Kubo was a bit less in commmand with a pair of hit batsman and 2 walks, yet allowed no runs. That changed in the 6th as Lotte erupted for a pair. First, Saburo reached on a single and Iguchi walked, and Saburo was brought home on a timely hit by Saturday’s hero Ohmatsu. The 2 days of pent-up celebrations boiled over as we jumped around like fools. The fans in the lower section of the Lotte outfield even hoisted one of their own in the air for a bit of celebratory crowd surfing, which brought a quick and panicked response from Koshien security. Satozaki hit a sac fly to score Iguchi, the celebrations began anew, and Lotte came out of the top of the 6th with a 2-0 lead.

Young and old fans go crazy

Young and old fans go crazy

The long-ish inning seemed to throw Shimizu completely off his stride, though. Hanshin erupted for 4 runs capped by a 3-run smack by Arai to center. Not good, not good. Bobby couldn’t pull Shimizu for Kawasaki fast enough.

Happy Tigers fans

Happy Tigers fans

The man sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder, put his hands to his head and said “Oh my God!!!!” The kids behind him put their hands to their head and also yelled “Oh my God!!!!!!” Indeed.

Lotte got some of the deficit back in the 7th on Chase Lambin’s 1-out smash over the right centerfield wall. Here we go again – fans, chastened by security for the crowd surfing incident, decided to start a mosh pit instead. People were falling down the aisles, security rushed even more people over saying “No no no no no!” Nobody cared, it was baseball, man!

Celebrations run into the night

Celebrations run into the night

Lotte played some solid defense to back up Kawasaki and Itoh to keep the score at 4-3.

Nishioka and Fukuura combine to get the out

Nishioka and Fukuura combine to get the out

Hanshin brought in Fujikawa to close the deal. Hanshin fans got noisy, smelling victory, trying to drown out us small band of Lotte fans. We were having none of it.

Riled up for the flag theme

Riled up for the flag theme

Fujikawa got two quick outs on Burnham Jr and Lambin. He opened the door with a walk to Nishioka. Fukuura kicked it open a bit further with a single, and we ratched up our noise level with our “Skinhead Running” rally song. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a continuously hopping song cheering the team on to a big inning, and it doesn’t stop until the inning ends. We began it with Fukuura at bat, all hopping as much as we could, screaming at the top of our lungs, trying to drown out all the noisemakers of Tigers fans. Saburo comes to the plate – hop, hop, scream, scream – a walk. Two out, bases loaded – Iguchi in the box. Louder, louder! It’s been going for ages, we’re tiring, our voices are going, we need to keep going. Hop, hop, IGUCHI! He runs the count full – can he do it? Hop, Hop, IGUCHI!

…a pop to right. We hope, but you can tell it won’t carry. Gloved, game over.

The young boys behind me tap me on the shoulder, all put their hands to their head – “Oh my God!!!!!”

A disappointing result to be sure, but a very, very fun game and a good weekend. It’s too bad we have to catch the overnight train back to Chiba as I would have loved to stay for the replay of Sunday’s game. I will most certainly be back for next year’s Lotte games in Koshien, though.

Comments 9

  1. Fantastic report! I feel unworthy of calling myself N26. But please keep in mind that the N also stands for Norway as that is where I am living currently:) I think I’ll change names from now on. When I was a kid growing up in Japan hanging out in the bleachers, I actually got some racist abuse as a kid. I used to play trumpet in the bleachers and some of them thought that me not being Japanese should not play trumpet. Stupid BS, so when I read reports about how other non Japanese are now in the bleachers and seem to have no problems whatsoever, I get very happy. Chiba Lotte Marines fans are fantastic!!

    I am also very impressed that you went all the way to Koshien to see the game. I have never been to Koshien but it probably must be one of the best stadiums to watch baseball. The Marines fans are great fans, don’t think any team can fill up the visitor section as much as Marines fans can in Koshien and yes, Marines fans are defnately loud and we don’t need to bang on some silly plastic sticks.

    Please keep up the good work Steve Novosel!! Love the ouenka section too.

    Best regards from Norway.

  2. Just wondering.

    How many of the Lotte fans in the bleachers do you think were from Chiba and how many of them were Kansai based do you reckon?

  3. Love the blogs and the pictures Steve! Great stuff. The pictures of Koshien and the Hanshin fans makes me very “natsukashii” for the days when I was there! I hope to get back sometime in the future.

    Steve

  4. Man, I remember last year when I was sitting in the fifth row of “visitor ouen” seats at Koshien for a Baystars game… which means that I was still surrounded by Hanshin fans, though they were at least polite enough not to counter-cheer for the most part. I noted at the time that Hanshin sells “visitor ouen” tickets for only a small area normally, but has a bigger ouen section SPECIFICALLY for Lotte and Yomiuri games. I only roadtripped with Lotte to the Fukuoka and Kyocera domes last year; getting off the plane in Fukuoka, seeing the sea of black jerseys and realizing that probably 1/3 of the plane was Lotte fans was pretty nuts. (And to be fair, both trips were Fighters/Marines trips for me.)

    And my Koshien card last year was freakin’ Lew Ford πŸ™‚

    So did they actually remodel any of the concourse in the outfield area? I only got to see Koshien from the outside a few weeks ago, and I’ve heard great things about the infield, but I’m guessing the outfield is still the same as before?

  5. N26 – I actually work for a Norwegian company and we’ve tried to get some of our Norwegian coworkers interested in baseball (games at both Chiba Marine and Yokohama). So far we don’t have any ‘true believers’ but I think they’ll catch on, eventually!

    I think most of the Lotte fans were local, especially on Monday’s game. Even the couple I met last year in Nagano were from Kobe. I think it depends on the stadium whether fans are local or out of towners – I went to two road series in Sendai last year and it seemed to be over 50% out-of-towners, as all the hotels near Sendai station seemed to have lobbies full of Lotte fans.

  6. I noticed when I bought the tickets for this series from Ticket Pia that they had a much, much larger ouen section for Lotte games, which surprised me. I always think of Lotte as more of a regional team but I guess the fans travel well. For Tuesday’s makeup game a few sections of left were completely full of Lotte supporters (well, NHK wasn’t giving us a real great look at the outfield) – which is not bad at all for a game in the middle of the week where tickets were only on sale for 24 hours.

    I can’t remember the outfield concourse from my previous visit to Koshien, but it was pretty narrow for a remodeled stadium, so I think they just didn’t get around to remodeling that part of it yet. The outfield stands themselves were great, though, and obviously very very new.

    I forgot to mention, but my card this year was Kano, who contributed to the Lotte cause in Tuesday’s victory πŸ™‚ Much, much better than Lew Ford!

  7. Small world! Can’t believe you work in a Norwegian company and like Chiba Lotte Marines! We could possibly have mutual friends. Will be heading over to Japan again, this summer to live. Will try to catch as many games as possible then.

  8. Hi Steve,

    Just found your blog thanks to Deanna. I’m English but my wife Ryoko is from Kobe. Despite this she’s a Marines fan, although most of her family and friends support the Tigers and a few follow the Buffaloes. We’ve just returned from a trip to Japan and were at this game. We didn’t get tickets for the Marines section but were just to your right closer to the foul pole. I had my Marines cap on which caused some consternation among the locals! At the end I was standing and praying that we’d get a home run but alas… I’ve been to see the Marines several times at Koshien, Skymark and Osaka Dome over the past five years and their support is always terrific. Shame about the change to ‘false’ ivy at Koshien though. Ryoko thinks it’s there for good. By the way the card I was given was Atsushi Fujimoto. Keep up the good work!

    St John Rylance (Wigan, England)

  9. Hi St John,

    Too bad we missed each other there! The area we sat in had quite a few free seats – you could have moved where we were. We actually invaded from up above when we saw the empty rows. I think it much have been a group canceling due to flu concerns or something.

    That’s too bad about the ivy if true. That fake ivy is interesting if temporary, horrible if permanent.

    Marines fans do travel well, don’t they? I’ve caught us at Osaka Dome previously, but never Skymark (though I probably will for the series in September). We may not be very good so far this year but we’ll be hopping and singing anyway!

    Good to know there’s Marines fans in all parts of the world, too.

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