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Fan Fests

Baseball news from Japan and Asia

Welcome to the Bayside West: Yokohama Blog

Featuring Michael Westbay (a.k.a. westbaystars)

Michael Westbay has been blogging about Pro Yakyu since before the word "blog" entered the vernacular. Here he writes about Pro Yakyu in general, and the Yokohama BayStars in particular.


Fan Fests

6 replies. Most recent reply: Dec 1, 2008 11:42 AM by No.1BayFan

I didn't think I was going to be able to make it to either of the BayStars' fan fests this year, but thanks to the timing of other events, I managed to get to both.

The first was the SeaRex Fan Fest on November 22 (Saturday) at Yokosuka Stadium, just about a 10 minute walk from home. I've been to a number of games over the years here, but this was far and away the fullest I'd ever seen the stadium. (Well, usually the visitors' side is empty while the home side is full, so I guess it was about twice the usual capacity.) Kids in Little League uniforms, who would normally be at practice, were abundant.

Opening the day off (after the usual ceremonies) was the fan/player softball game. It was a good game, with a good mixture of fans and SeaRex out on the field. Some of the fans really put in a good showing, as well. For the finale, the visitors called on Kawamura Takeo to face pinch hitter Suzuki Tananori. Suzuki-kun swung on and missed the first two offerings, then lined a double up the first base line to clear the bases.

After the game, Kawamura and Suzuki sat down on some chairs at home plate and did an interview about their roles with the BayStars/SeaRex next season. Kawamura waxed nostalgically on his #16, of which this was to be the last day he got to wear it. (I noticed his pants had a higher, coach's number on them.) He'll be working with the SeaRex pitchers next season, getting them ready to become 'Stars. Takanori seemed a bit more withdrawn, but I'm sure will make an excellent batting coach for the SeaRex. I'd never really thought of Suzuki-kun as a leader (Ishii Takuro always assumed that role on the field), but despite Takanori's shyness at the mic, there was something about his presence that told me that we may be seeing him again in a higher role in a future season.

During the lunch break, the field was prepared for "Interchange Time," and more players were interviewed or showed their talent with a guitar and other entertainment. They read some faxes that had come in, including greetings from J.J. Furmaniak (who will be returning next season) and Iriki Yusaku (thanking the BayStars/SeaRex for the year - I was really hoping to be able to interview Iriki who was great when I went to that less-than-memorable interview with Bigbie at the start of the season). Many of the players also took their place in the food booths outside the stadium, or the ball signing/grab bag tent, or passed out fliers for some of the sponsors. I was finally able to spot Matt (No.1BayFan) in the crowd, and joined up with him.

The last act for the lunch break was Takamori Yuki doing a strike out imitation followed by a pitching imitation show. He was the highlight of the entertainment. He had many of the players pegged, like Ohnishi's walk on stride with the bat on his shoulder. He concluded the batting segment with former BayStar Taneda's crab-like stance at the request of Matt and several others from the stands. He then did Kizuka, from the sprint to the mound to his jumping calisthenics. To conclude, the crowd gave him a "Takamori" call (sounding a lot like the "Takanori" call), and he imitated himself striking out, going all the way around full circle. He was hilarious.

Soon after that, kids followed by the rest of the crowd poured onto the field to throw against a speed gun, throw "Struck Out" (the 3x3 grid of panels to knock out), play catch with the players, and other interactive events.

Matt and I saw Sign Guy on the field getting his photo taken by many fans. Sign Guy then went up to Sasaki Kuniaki, BayStars' club president, exchanging a few words, then resuming his sign walking. I had seen Sasaki-president outside at lunch and wanted to introduce myself, but couldn't think of a reason then. Then it hit me, I'd had a question I'd wanted to ask someone in his position for a long time. So, I went up to him and introduced myself.

After introducing myself as Michael Westbay from JapaneseBaseball.com, Sasaki-president commented that I'm pretty 厳しい (kibishii - harsh) in my comments about the team. Ouch! I try to be rational and fair. Anyway, I led into my question by commenting that, back when Maruha still ran the team, they were attempting to have the SeaRex branch off and become self sufficient. "How has this project been going?" Sasaki-president answered straight up, "It hasn't been going very well. It's very difficult." He didn't avoid the question or sugar coat it. I like this guy.

A while later I asked Sasaki-president about Miura, having seen Hanshin follow up with more talks after just one day (according to Nikkan Sports). He explained that he'd talked with Miura many times and have already said all that they can say. And they aren't about to start playing money games with Hanshin. Miura has stated that it's not all about money, and after talking with Sasaki-president, I'm apt to believe Miura when he says he's still torn 50-50 between the team that he matured with and his childhood favorite team. Even Matt is satisfied that the BayStars have done everything they can to retain Miura. (Matt's been much more kibishii than I with regard to the handling of Kroon - which I fully backed up the Yokohama front office. I think that Matt also understands better why it is that I don't just go off on an emotional rant very often. Doing so certainly wouldn't make chance encounters like this so enjoyable.)

We also talked about the signing of foreigners and some other chit-chat. And Sasaki-president even spoke a bit of English in talking about foreign scouting and dealing with foreign agents. He can clearly hold his own.

As the lines had gone down for the SeaRex Fan Club signups, and Kawamura-pitching coach was was right there, I figured I'd sign up and have a word with Kawamura. The word was "Please develop some young arms quickly, as pitching is the #1 need at ichi-gun right now." (I realized later that I wanted to add, "and find a cure for ippatsu-byo and inoculate the pitching staff.") Well, now that I've got my SeaRex Fan Club membership, I'll have to go to more games next season. Maybe I'll get the chance then to make such an addition.

All in all, I had a very good time at the SeaRex Fan Fest. The entertainment was great. And being able to speak one-on-one with both Sasaki-president and Kawamura-pitching coach was a real highlight.

I then took my son to the BayStars Fan Fest at Yokohama Stadium on Sunday, November 23. We got there a bit after noon, and from the train we saw a line wrapping around the stadium. When we got to the end of that line, it said that it was for the autograph session, and wrapped a good 1/3rd of the way around the stadium. We passed on that and went directly into the field from the left-center access point.

As soon as we went in, we could see how huge the event was. The field was absolutely full of people. Much of the stand, too, was full. I estimated about 15 to 20 thousand fans - Nikkan Sports reported it to be 22,000. I have no trouble believing that there were another thousand in the concessions and/or waiting in line outside.

As Jovian (my son) was reluctant to stand in line for anything, we just kind of wondered from place to place on the field, then headed into the stands where he had a good time climbing up and up in search of the best place to view the happenings. We went to the concessions to get an ice cream (it was rather warm in the sun), and ran into some neighbors. (Jovian had said when we came in that he doubted we'd find them in all of those people - but sometimes the odds are beat.) After some more stand climbing and a snack or two, enjoying the talk show and awards ceremonies on the stage (via the score board screen), things started winding down on the field and we started working our way down.

Just as we reached the field, a mob started heading our way! We ducked out against the traffic and around it all, then turned around to see a couple of TV cameras being held high along with some boom microphones. Fans were shouting "阪神へ行くな" ("Don't you dare go to Hanshin!") and "残れくれぇ" ("Pleeeease stay!"). Even Murata, being interviewed on stage, seemed distracted by the sudden shift of attention to the first base side of the field. "Hama-no-Bancho" was causing quite a stir.

That was when I realized it, I hadn't seen Miura on stage the whole afternoon. Murata and Uchikawa seemed to be the main attractions, with new coaches Kawamura and Suzuki-kun also getting a good deal of attention. And of course Saeki tried to steal the show whenever on stage. (I always enjoy his hero interviews. He goes wherever he wants to, not where the interviewer want to take a conversation.) Takamori did a short imitation of Kizuka, but it was much better the day before on the actual mound, with the sound of stomping on the stage kind of detracting from the effect. But Miura - where was he all day?

Nikkan Sports answered that question for me this morning. Miura was doing a lot of fan service, signing for fans, taking two-shot photos, playing catch with fans, etc. Basically, at all of those places Jovian didn't want to stand in line for. With all of that time interacting with fans, he wasn't on stage. At the time, I thought that Miura had just appeared there at the end of the fan appreciation day, which would have been a bad sign for the 'Stars' chances of retaining him. Such an observation would have been very wrong. I think that this goes to show that you can't always rely on your first impressions - there is often more going on than one person can see.

Both Jovian and I had a good time at this event. We got to go into the dugouts, wonder around the field and throughout the stadium, etc. But personally, I really enjoyed the SeaRex Fan Fest better. It just seemed more personable. And while meeting with the club president may not be anything for many fans to write home about, I come away for the meeting feeling very privileged and honored.

I'm now psyched up, looking forward to the 2009 SeaRex and BayStars seasons.
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Comments

Re: Fan Fests

[ Author: Deanna | Posted: Nov 25, 2008 2:27 AM | Posts: 591 | From: Bay Area, California | NIP Fan | Registered: Dec, 2004 ]
Oh yay, thank you for writing this, it saves me the trouble of remembering to ask how Fanfest was!

Takamori IS hilarious. He and Atori are my favorite Searex. I'm glad to hear he was putting on a show like that. Perhaps he will be like Saeki in the future. And as an aside, that day where I saw him hit for the cycle down in ni-gun, I *did* call "TA-KA-MO-RI!!!" in a Suzuki-esque way. I think it would be appropriate

I am actually wondering how you could recognize Sasaki, I'm not sure I know what any of the club presidents look like. That's pretty crazy.

Good to hear Sign Guy was out there. What did his sign say, though?

Re: Fan Fests

[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Nov 25, 2008 7:46 PM | Posts: 35252 | From: Yokohama, Japan | YBS Fan | Registered: Aug, 2001 ]
Oh, yeah. I was one of the fans who stopped to take a picture of Sign Guy. Here it is [on the right]. And that's Sasaki-president standing to the right of the shot, looking into the stands. The sign says:
    Searex     2008 SHONAN
    ?? no kanata tsuke - resaikuru
    [Recycle up to and beyond ??]

    Zenin no Yokosuka
    Sutajiamu

    [Everyone's Yokosuka
    Stadium]
    Kuriinna kokoro kuriinna koudou
    [Clean hearts, clean deeds]
As for how I recognized Sasaki-president, while we were outside the stadium at lunch is when I first spotted him. I thought, anyone wearing a 3-piece suit with a BayStars jumper over it must be someone I'd like to meet. He even has "Sasaki" embroidered on the left sleeve.

But the real kicker is opening the Fan Fest booklet that they give out and seeing his picture right there on the first page along with his name and title. That pretty much gave him away.

Re: Fan Fests

[ Author: No.1BayFan | Posted: Nov 27, 2008 9:10 AM | Posts: 256 | From: Chichibu City, Saitama | YOK Fan | Registered: Jul, 2008 ]
It was good to go back to Yokosuka Stadium (and Kanagawa) again for the final time this year. Getting to meet the Baystar's club president was a thing in itself although I didn't say much to be honest with you. What caught my attention about this was that Miura wasn't on stage at all during the fan fest. I guess that Sasaki-president was indeed correct when he said something along the lines of letting the fans interact with Miura and them being able to express themselves towards him.

Re: Fan Fests

[ Author: Guest: Cheryl | Posted: Dec 1, 2008 4:40 AM ]
As far as I know JJ has not been contacted by the Baystars or the Searex about returning for the 2009 season.

Re: Fan Fests

[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Dec 1, 2008 10:27 AM | Posts: 35252 | From: Yokohama, Japan | YBS Fan | Registered: Aug, 2001 ]
Hmmm. That's interesting. I sounded like they were expecting him back next season. Perhaps it all depends on how the current foreign player search goes. We should know one way or the other by mid-January.

Re: Fan Fests

[ Author: No.1BayFan | Posted: Dec 1, 2008 11:42 AM | Posts: 256 | From: Chichibu City, Saitama | YOK Fan | Registered: Jul, 2008 ]
Well, I had read in a news article that none of the 2008 Yokohama foreign players were returning next year so take it for what you will.
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