YOHOHAMA – Mazda All Star Game 2008! This was my first time heading out to the stadium in Yokohama. The trek wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be from Chiba but once the train started getting closer to Yokohama, people clad in yukatas and jinbes started to crowd the train. For some reason the Yokohama fireworks were scheduled at the same time as the All Star Game. It was a strange mix of people wearing gear from the 12 baseball teams and people dolled up for the fireworks at Sakuragicho station.
I went inside just as the “Homerun King” face off was about to begin. Since my seat was out in the bleachers a lot of the balls that were hit into the stands came flying by. It was really fun to see Alex Ramirez ‘s (Yomiuri Giants) homeruns zoom by. Unfortunately G.G. Sato (Seibu Lions) really wasn’t hitting that well and his time out to bat was pretty short. All of the balls that didn’t make it over the fence were left for school boys in uniforms to catch out on the field. Some of the boys had bulging pockets with a ball in each pocket while others were frantically running to catch their own prize.
The stands before the game
As the clock ticked closer to 18:00, more and more people poured into the stands. I was so excited to cheer on all of my favorite Pacific League teams at the same time! It turned out that the person sitting next to me was wearing a Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Chiba Lotte Marines) and his friend next to him was wearing a Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Eagles) uniform so I knew I was in good company. My whole row was jumping up and down when the Pacific Leaguers were up to bat just like at Marine Stadium. Some guy who sat two rows behind me knew every single song for each player so he was leading the chants in our section.
Pacific League cheering squad
The starting lineup for the Pacific League was Tsuyoshi and Ohmatsu from the Marines, Yamasaki and Rick from the Eagles, Inaba from the Nippon Ham Fighters, Kataoka and Nakajima from the Lions, and Matsunaka from the Softbank Hawks. Then the remaining Pacific League All Stars were called out one by one. Everyone came out in a “normal” way but of course Hichori (Morimoto form the Fighters) had to do something different. When he first came out the announcers were confused and announced that Hichori came out doing a handstand but once our eyes adjusted you could see that he had put his pants on his head and his shirt on his legs and attached a head to his crotch… I have no idea where his inspirations come from but it was pretty funny to watch him during the singing of the national anthem by Kumi Koda.
Kumi Koda singing the national anthem
Hichori Morimoto pulls a stunt
The Central League All Stars were slightly blinding in their all-white uniforms and was more difficult to tell them apart. However, I did manage to catch Alex Ramirez (or “Rami chan”) come out from the dugout but was soon distracted by Hichori again and went back to watching him interact with his team. It was great to have a chance to see the Central Leaguers since I usually only watch Pacific League games. For example, I know that Kenshin Kawakami of the Chunichi Dragons (last year’s champs) has a huge following so it was a treat to see him pitch.
Ramirez - aka the evening's home run king
The Central League All Stars
Hisashi Iwakuma, the Eagle’s ace pitcher, had a couple of good innings and everything was going well until Yoshihisa Naruse of the Marines took the mound. It was seriously the most painful pitching I have ever seen. I might not remember this correctly but he gave up something like 11 hits and 8 runs in a couple of innings!! This was totally unexpected, especially coming from the man who gave up fewer runs than Yu Darvish in the 2007 season. What happened Naruse?? In an interview after the game, he didn’t even know what happened「自分でも分からない」were his words after the game. Seriously painful pitching. As for something good, Ohmatsu was on a roll and hit two homers. July was a fantastic month for Ohmatsu and I believe that he was given MVP status for July.I am not sure why he does this but every second time I went to take I picture of him he had his hand in his left pocket. So here he is in his favorite position.
Ohmatsu of the Marines likes his pocket
One of my favorite moments of the evening was when the mascots of every team came out to roll a gigantic baseball from one end of the field to the other. The Central League mascots and the Pacific League mascots were out to get each other and kept derailing the ball rolling process. It was really fun to watch and people near first base even got to participate. I know that I am biased but Mar-kun is the cutest mascot! I’ll have to find a new home for my Mar-kun mascot when I get a new phone in Canada.
Mascots please the crowds
Mar-kun is the cutest
For the last few innings, I had a friend sneak me around to different seats behind the Japanese journalists covering the event. (I noticed that a lot of them had red-penned Naruse’s 6-run inning as they were taking notes). For some reason beyond anything I can comprehend, there was a musical interlude by Yuko Ogura (an idol) and her non-musically gifted friends. I feel like the baseball was enough entertainment as well as the Yokohama fireworks in the background but the organizers threw in some idols to spice some things up.
The game from a new vantage point
Ahh and yes, I got to see Ma-kun pitch! Yay!! He only pitched for one inning. If you recall Ma-kun was pulled form the team roster because of a rumoured right-shoulder injury. There was talk that he would miss the All Star game as well as the Olympics but he worked on his arm and gave it some rest. I hope that he isn’t pushing himself too hard and that he has actually recovered from the injury. The Eagles don’t need another Iwakuma… especially since the team rakes in huge merchandise profits due to Ma-kun’s popularity. When I got home and watched the highlights, there was so little focus on who hit what when but a lot of attention was paid to Ma-kun’s one inning. Go figure.
Ma-kun showing Japan he is ready to pitch