I was just sorting through some of my photos from Ishigaki and came across some Marines related ones. I can’t tell you how strange it was waking up each day and walking to Ishigaki City Hall to find posters of Bobby Valentine in so many windows (see photo at bottom). During the triathlon I met a women from Ishigaki radio and I asked her if she went to any of the practices during spring training. She said that a lot of people turned up despite the bad weather to cheer on the team… only to not really cheer because they didn’t know what to do! It was only after hardcore Marines fans from the mainland (who followed their team all the way to Ishigaki) showed the locals how to sing the chants that locals really started to get in to it.
For a team that has only spent one rainy spring training in Ishigaki, they have a lot of fans already. I guess it helps to have your right-hander hometown hero – Yuta Omine – be a part of the team. Yaeyama Shoko is proud of him!!
As some more anecdotes, the mayor of Ishigaki instantly perked up when I told him that I had come from Chiba. He said “Bobby promised me that they would win the championship this year” and continued to talk about the Marines and told the volunteer from Australia that it was too bad that Geelong was too cold for the Marines. I saw all week that City Hall workers as well as other locals were wearing their “Team 26” name holders, Ma-kun and Zu-chan dolls were propped up in various spots, Bobby’s poster could be seen all over the city in windows… to make a long story short, I think that the people of Ishigaki are looking forward to the team returning next spring.
While I was there, they even installed a “Marines noticeboard” (see above) that they update after each game to show everyone how the team is doing. There was even a picture of the Mayor and the sign in the Yaeyama paper to let people know about it.