random thoughts

Miracle Marines – The Fan Experience

(I apologize – I wrote this last week but didn’t like one part of it so I kept it offline until now)

It’s a great time to be a Lotte fan, and just as good a time to be a retailer with a Chiba or Marines tie-in. The Family Mart by my office has 30% off all Lotte stuff. Many of the major retailers are having “Nippon Ichi!” sales – a friend reports one of the local shopping center has “We Love Marines” playing on all floors of the building, with sales, of course. My office elevators have the official victory logo on the LCD screens that show ads. The entrance to my office is plastered with Marines logos and Kaihin Makuhari station is resplendent with celebrations.

Thanks, Marines!

The official merchandise hasn’t really started to roll out yet. Expect hats, shirts, towels, flags, cups, stickers, keychains, mufflers, books, DVDs, bags, liquor, jewelry, armbands, uniforms, baby clothes and much, much more. The only stuff I have so far is the towel in the banner photo (which was sold after game 4 or so, though it looks like a victory towel in a way. Strangely enough I seemed to be the only person with this towel at game 5, 6, or 7, and in fact I got really jealous looks by some of the fans at game 7. It’s 1000 yen at the store and online, nothing unusual!), the Sponichi special newspaper on the Nippon Series (28 pages) and a Chiba Lotte Nippon Ichi quickie magazine from Sankei Sports I snagged last week. Today I swung by the official store near Kaihin Makuhari station over lunch to see if they had started to sell any good yet. Nope! I decided to ask about it.

Me: “So, no Nippon Ichi goods on sale yet?”
Them: “No, not yet – just the magazines and the Climax Champion goods.”
Me: “Any idea on when there might be some hats, shirts, towels, flags, cups, stickers, keychains, mufflers, books, DVDs, bags, liquor, jewelry, armbands, uniforms, or baby clothes on sale?”
Them: “Um, have you checked the official site? Check the official site.”

Right. They did have the Weekly Baseball special issue, which is MUCH MUCH nicer than the Sankei one.

The Sponichi special
Sankei on the left, Weekly Baseball on the right

I also snagged this great, pristine Nippon Series poster off of Yahoo Auctions. When I saw this in the station I knew I wanted it; I was just surprised I could get it. I wish I could get the other ones, especially the “Are You Ready?” poster – maybe it will pop up. The seller also included a nice envelope that “Congratulations on Nippon Ichi!” and contained the 4 cards seen below. They have dice on the back as if they were part of a game – anyone have any ideas what these are?

Nippon Series Poster
Mystery Cards

I spent so much time during the series talking about the action (and being nervous about the results) that I didn’t spend much time at all talking about how damn cool it was to be a part of the cheering section during this magical run to the title. For me one of the most appealing aspects of the fan experience at an NPB is the social network you build up. When I lived in the US and went to a ton of Astros games I had a great time, but it was a different sort of time. You went with your buddies but didn’t really branch out to meet new people. It’s quite the opposite here – it seems I meet new people every game (or every few games) and these people become a special category of friends you pretty much see only at the ball park. But you have fun with them at the park!

I think in these 7 games if the Nippon Series I ran into almost everyone I’ve cheered with this year and quite a few from last year. In fact if there was a singular series of events that led me to really believe that we were going to win in game 7 it was that I ran into SO many people that it just seemed like the last game of the year. I mean, it was for me regardless as I wouldn’t have been able to go to game 8 but something about running into so many friends made me feel that Our Marines would win that night. Before the game started I ran into a girl I met last year at Koshien, I ran into a lady who works in the Family Mart next to my office, people I met in Sendai, the Chunichi fans I shared a taxi with at 1am the night before, my friend Taka from Chiba, the girl I knew from Chiba who had tickets for me to swap seats to the visitor ouenseki, sitting in front of me were some guys I met in Ishigaki, my neighbor was sitting close by. I even ran into “Hey Texas!” from the interleague games in June.

Way cool. And this is on top of meeting so many of the people I normally see at games (some of the beer girls who tend to travel to away games, some of the cheerleaders who came as fans, the guys sitting behind me at game 5, in front of me at game 6). I even met the nice mother/daughter cheering team I bounced and sang with in June. It was a parade of awesome memories – a great way to end the season.

The parade is coming up this Sunday in Makuhari – I’ll post more details as they come, which hopefully is soon!

Cherished memories, all of my game tickets from the Nippon Series

6 thoughts on “Miracle Marines – The Fan Experience”

  1. Ohhh, that Toru Sugiura card is sweet. I mean they all are but that is a particularly Japan Series apt one 🙂

    Those are from the Takara card series or card game depending on how you look at them. Dave wrote a little bit about Takara cards on his blog here. I see sets of them in stores from time to time but never bought them so I’ve never actually played the game. I should do that someday I suppose.

    Baseball friends are great, but I have noticed that at least in my case they rarely are friends for anything BUT baseball, so I just don’t see my friends from the ouendan for 4-5 months at a time, which is kinda sad.

  2. It sounds like you’ve integrated at the stadium as well as I’ve integrated in my community. Great story!

    And it was great getting together for the Japan-Korea Club Championship last Monday. I know that I haven’t spent nearly enough time with my baseball friends this season. Hopefully things will start to turn around for next season.

  3. I really enjoy reading about your baseball adventures in Japan. The home & road warrior indeed! I would like to ask you if you know that person in the gaiya of Chiba Marine Stadium? But maybe better to ask one of these days at Marines Stadium.

    It brings me back good memories too reading and watching video clips. And you coming from US makes it more interesting. A cross cultural experience and with the same love towards the game of baseball. How cool is that? It’s very cool. I completely agree with the baseball experience, totally. Never seen a game in the States so can’t comment. Would like to go one day but.. As for Japan, there is a matsuri/carneval atmosphere so people tend to be open and friendly. Good place to meet new faces, interact with people and scream your head off and vent steam. I used to go to baseball games the most in the 80s and 90s. Then moved to Europe. Don’t watch so much any more live though the interest is still there. In 2004 when I went to Jingu, first time in years. I went to the left field bleachers and met some old timers ouendan. I went up to say, genki? I hadn’t seen him in 10 years or so, the first thing he then said to me is we are looking for trumpet players we don’t have enough trumpet players. I kindly declined his generous offer. But stuff like that feels good. ( I kind of sold out on the team as my interest is more with Chiba these days. hmmmm have been for some time though since the Kawasaki days actually but I was more into Central, now more into Pacific, anyway)

  4. I am a slack-ass who can’t respond to comments on his own blog in a timely manner. Sigh!

    That’s really cool about the Takara cards – I had no idea. Incidentally, the seller from Yahoo Auctions called me tonight to make sure I got everything OK. I said thank you so much for the extras, he said he was just so happy with the Nippon Series win that he wanted to send some extras. I didn’t notice at first but he actually included two ironic posters in the tube:

    The bottom is for the September series – we got swept in that – and the top is of course the Climax where we returned the favor. Quite cool.

    I actually don’t mind not seeing my baseball friends in the off-season as it’s pretty common for me to not see my regular friends for months at a time. Modern life is complicated at times for me!

  5. Westbay-san, I’ve integrated way better at the stadium than I have in my area. I’m not joking, the only people in my area I talk to regularly are a) my next door neighbors b) my neighbor who works at Chiba Marine (and her parents + brother) c) my other neighbor who goes to a ton of games.

    It was fun at the NPB-KBO Championship! We’ll have to do it again next year 🙂 We should definitely do a picnic box earlier in the season.

  6. Ed, which person are you talking about in the gaiya? I’m sometimes in the gaiya (and am almost always when on the road) – 5 or so times this year including game 5. There’s another man who’s always in the gaiya – he sent me a mail earlier in the year but I had a mail server problem and couldn’t respond to the mail (and I had lost all previous mail). Maybe he will read this and write again?

    Nice story about Jingu – the festival atmosphere is awesome at games. I find it even more so on the road, maybe because the fans are a bit more intense? Like at Sendai in September – while singing Imae’s ouenka some fans were dancing an doing a doage with a large stuffed banana. The previous game some fans made a big Cup Noodle pyramid. One of the Rakuten fans was dressed up as the four bases – home plate over the crotch. Which reminds me – I am going to retro blog that series this off-season (and I never shared the pics from the September 2009 trip to Sendai).

    But yeah, let’s definitely meet at the stadium next year!

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