Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Trip Overview Part 7 - Day 9 - Fukuoka

With the previous day being quite a long day, I pampered myself a little on the morning of Sunday, June 2nd by sleeping in a little bit.  I had tickets for the Hawks game that afternoon at 1300 but I had a couple things I wanted to do before the game so I didn't sleep in too long.

First up was a stop by the Mint Fukuoka store in the Tenjin-Vivre Mall.  I wanted to get there not long after it opened at 1000 so I walked from my hotel down to Hakata Station and hopped on a subway to Tenjin station.  My next stop was Maizuru Park which is about a mile west of Tenjin station.  I decided I'd walk along Meiji-dori to the park instead of taking the subway one stop.

The main reason I wanted to got to Maizuru Park was because it was the site of Heiwadai Stadium, home of the Nishitetsu Clippers/Lions from 1950 until 1978 and the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks from 1989 until 1992 (and the Nishi Nippon Pirates in 1950).  The park was formally closed in 1997 and torn down in the late 90's/early 00's.

The stadium site has been left undeveloped - there's basically a stadium shaped plot of grass where it used to stand.  I don't know for sure if this is simply because it's in a city park or because there's an archeological dig going on there.  Maizuru Park contains the ruins of Fukuoka Castle and I thought I had read something somewhere about relics being discovered on the stadium site but I'm not finding anything on-line about it right now.

There's a plaque for the ballpark on the sidewalk on Meiji-dori just outside the park:


Here's what the site looks like:


It's hard to get any perspective on the site at ground level so I went into the ruins of Fukuoka Castle via the East Gate to try to get a better look.  I wasn't particularly successful:


Here's what the ballpark looked like in the early 1990's:

1992 BBM #106
My first photo on the site was taken from the area behind home plate.  The ruins of Fukuoka Castle I took the photo from are behind the right field stands.

Oh, and speaking of the Nishitetsu Lions, the Lions may be gone from Fukuoka but Nishitetsu remains:


I thought about walking around the park a little more but it was getting late in the morning and I wanted to get to the ballpark.  I got back on the subway and went a couple stops to Tojinmachi station.  From there it was a 15-20 minute walk to Fukuoka Dome:


The gate I needed to enter the park through was on the far side from where I came up to the ballpark so I had to walk around it.  I didn't mind too much because I got a chance to see some of the stuff outside the stadium:





There had been a museum for Sadaharu Oh at the ballpark that I was hoping to check out but unfortunately it closed a while back and it's moving somewhere else.  It won't reopen until next year.


The Hawks opponent that day was the Eagles and it didn't take long to see that this wasn't going to be Softbank's day.  Eigoro Mogi lead off the game with a home run and the Eagles added two more runs in the top of the second.  Meanwhile Rakuten starter Manabu Mima was mowing down the Hawks - I'm not positive but I don't think he gave up a hit until Takuya Kai hit a solo home run in the sixth.  Regardless Mima only gave up three hits in the six innings he pitched while striking out six.  Hawks reliever Arata Shiino also struck out six but he only pitched two innings.  The Eagles tacked on another run in the top of the ninth and then (just like the Eagles game I was at the previous Sunday) Yuki Matsui closed out the game to earn his 16th save.  Final score was 4-1 Eagles (also just like the Eagles game I was at the previous Sunday).

Here's the highlights of the game from Pacific League TV:



One other note from the game - Carter Stewart was a guest of the Hawks at the game (this was the day before his press conference formally announcing his signing) and he was introduced to the crowd during the "Lucky 7" celebration:


After the game I followed the crowds back to Tojinmachi Station and took the subway back to Hakata Station.  My last stop for the day was at the Mint Hakata store a few blocks west of the station.  From there I walked back to my hotel, picking up dinner from a Hotto Motto fast food restaurant on the way.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

RIP Loek Van Mil

Stunning news out of the Netherlands yesterday - former Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Loek Van Mil has passed away at the age of 34.  Van Mil played professional baseball in four different countries on four different continents.  He played for MR.Cocker HCAW and Curacao Neptunus in the Dutch Major League in the Netherlands, in the Twins, Angels, Indians and Reds organizations in the US in North America, played for the Eagles in Japan in Asia and played for Adelaide and Brisbane in the Australian Baseball League. 

He spent the 2014 season in Japan but spent most of his time with the Eagles' farm team.  He only got into 7 games with the ichi-gun team.  There were only Japanese three baseball cards I know of for him that year - BBM 2nd Version #410,  BBM Eagles #22 and Eagles team issued set #69.  Of these I only have the 2nd Version card:


Van Mil pitched for the Netherlands National Team on several occasions.  He was selected to play in the 2008 Summer Olympics but had to bow out due to an elbow injury.  That injury also prevented him from playing in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.  He played in the WBC in both 2013 and 2017 and also played in the inaugural Premier 12 in 2015. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Card Shops In Japan: Mint Sendai

Please check my "Card Shops in Japan" page before planning a trip to this store to verify that it's still where it was when I visited.

My last stop on the day I spent in Sendai was at the Mint Sendai store.  This store is located just west of Sendai Station on the first floor of a shopping mall called "E BeanS".


There's a series of elevated walkways on that side of the station so it's possible to walk from the station to the mall without being at street level.

Here's a photo of the shop itself:


As you can (hopefully) see from this photo, the shop isn't very big.  As I mentioned in my write up of Mint Shinjuku, Mint's mall shops tend to have limited space and limited inventory.  This store was very similar to Mint Shinjuku in that it mostly had recent releases.  The one thing though that this store had that Mint Shinjuku didn't was team issued cards for the Eagles.  I ended up spending about 5400 yen here entirely on Eagles team issued cards although about half of that were cards I picked up for Ryan.  I believe that this store is one of the few card shops in Japan that Ryan has not been to yet.

I'm pretty sure that this shop takes credit cards although I paid cash for what I bought.

Here's a map showing the store's location:



Sunday, July 28, 2019

I Got Korean Cards In Japan

Ryan and Sean were not the only card bloggers I met up with while I was in Japan.  Dan Skrezyna of Korean Cardboard flew to Tokyo from Korea towards the end of my trip to meet up with me and we accompanied each other to a number of card shops as well as a Chiba Lotte Marines game. 

Dan was kind enough to bring some cards for me.  He had picked up one of the three cards I needed to complete the 1999 Teleca Premium Korean Dream Team set:

1999 Teleca Premium "Korean Dream Team" #D-25
Like the rest of the Premium cards this card has a silver sheen that makes it difficult to scan.  It looks a lot better in real life.

Dan also gave me a bunch of cards from a team issued Hanwha Eagles set from 2005The complete set has 36 cards and Dan gave me almost half of the set.  The big names in the set are Kim Tae-Kyun (who played for the Marines in 2010-11) and Lee Bum-Ho (who played for the Hawks in 2010) - sadly I didn't get either of those cards.  I actually had other cards of only one of the 17 players Dan gave me - Yun Kun-Young - who had a couple cards in one of the 2014 Superstar Baseball sets.

The cards themselves are very attractive.  The design reminds me a little of some of the early 1990's Upper Deck designs.  I especially like the backs as there's a second photo of the player that takes up almost all the space although it fades out on the lower half of the card so the player's biographical and statistical information can be read.  The photo on the back is different than the one on the front.

Here's a couple example cards:




Here's the back of Yoo's card just to show what the backs look like:


So thanks for the cards Dan and it was great getting to meet and hang out with you in Tokyo!

Card Of The Week July 28

I complain quite a bit about how boring the photos on the cards from BBM, Calbee and Epoch have been recently.  Back when I first started collecting Japanese cards (around 2000) the photos were much more interesting - it was actually one of the things that really attracted me to the cards.  Here's an example from the 2000 BBM set (the Late Series that year to be exact):

2000 BBM #575
I can't imagine any of the companies using a photo that was this much fun in any sets now which is a huge shame.  By the way, Sean had a post a few months back regarding a lawsuit filed by a number of NPB stars in the mid-00's against their teams for allowing BBM and Calbee to produce baseball cards of them.  One of the interesting tidbits that Sean uncovered during his research on this case is that the card companies don't have their own photographers - in many cases they are forced by the teams to use photos taken by the team's photographer. As Sean says, this "may explain the crap photo selection in recent years!" 

I had picked this card up during my trip - not positive where although it was likely Quad Sports.  I had mentioned in my post from Tokyo that I'd done really well in knocking off cards for some of BBM's flagship sets in the late 90's - I had said that I'd completed the 1997 and gotten to just need one for each of the 1998 and 200 sets.  It turns out that I wasn't quite right - I was still short one card from 1997 and I needed two from 1998 and four from 2000.  I think that's still pretty good.  I had a bit of a similar thing with the Rookie Edition sets - I thought I'd completed the 2003 through 2006 sets but it turned out I was short one card from the 2003 set.  Again I still think I did pretty well.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Trip Overview Part 6 - Day 8 - Hiroshima

Saturday June 1st started bright and early for me.  I left my hotel in Osaka at about 6:30 so that I could catch the Shinkansen at 7:30-ish.  I was heading west once again.  I would eventually reach Fukuoka that day but first I had an extended stop in Hiroshima.

I got into Hiroshima around 9, found a locker to store my suitcase for the day at Hiroshima Station (one of the reasons I got going early that day was my fear of not being able to find anywhere to stash my suitcase) and hopped on a streetcar to head over to the site of Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, home of the Carp from 1957 to 2008.

The ballpark has mostly been demolished since the Carp moved to their new park a few miles east but nothing's been built on the site.  The space gets used for events and on the day I was there the site was hosting some sort of "Kid's Day" event.  This meant I wouldn't be able to see the one section of stands that is still intact.


What I was able to see though were the monuments that had been erected outside the park while the Carp still played there and were still there.  There's one celebrating every Carp Nippon Series Championship:


There's also one for every Central League pennant that the Carp have won.  What I like about this one is that not only have they added to it with the pennants that the team has won since they moved to the new park, they actually added a new stone to the monument when they ran out of room:


The final monument commemorates Sachio Kinugasa and his consecutive game streak of 2215 games:


I walked around the stadium site, hoping to be able to get a good look at that still remaining section of stands.  I was only able to get a halfway decent shot of it from one spot:


Here's what the ballpark looked like in the early 1990's.  The area containing the monuments is the green area in the upper right corner.  The stands that are still standing were in right center field so I don't think you can really see them in this shot.

1992 BBM #107
After walking around the ballpark site I headed across the street and finally got some breakfast at a 7-11 (it was almost 10 AM by now).  I then headed over to the Hiroshima Peace Park which was almost right next door.

The first stop was the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, the building now known as the "A-Bomb Dome":


Just to give you some idea of how close the Peace Park was to the old ballpark, here's a picture of the ballpark with the Dome visible beyond the third base stands:

2008 BBM Hiroshima Stadium Memorial #04
The park itself sits on the northernmost part of an island in the Motoyasu River so I crossed the Aioi Bridge and headed into the park itself.  I didn't go into the museum itself and I didn't see all the memorials in the park but what I saw was incredibly moving. 


This is the Atomic Bomb Memorial Mound which contains the cremated remains of 70,000 unidentified victims of the bombing:


This is the Cenotaph for Korean Victims.  There was a substantial population of Koreans living in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing and an estimated 45,000 were killed.


The Memorial Cenotaph:


Here's the museum:


One more shot of the dome from the park:


After walking around the park for a while I decided I would start making my way towards the Carp's new ballpark as I had tickets for their game that afternoon.  I had a couple stops to make on the way though so I crossed back over the Motoyasu (this time over the Motoyasu Bridge) to go to the first one. 

There's a small marker down an unnamed street nearby that's easy to overlook.  It marks the hypocenter or ground zero of the atomic bomb blast.  Since the bomb was an airburst this marks the location the bomb was directly over when it detonated.



The rest of the day was mercifully a lot lighter.  My next stop was a little over a half mile away - the Mint Hiroshima card shop that had just opened a few weeks earlier.  After checking it out it was now time to head to ballpark.  I caught the street car to get back near Hiroshima Station then got off and started following the crowd.  There were billboards for the team's current players on the way and plaques for retired players as you got on the main walkway up to the park.





This game was one of the ones that I was most eagerly anticipating as I was looking forward to seeing the ballpark (it's the newest park in NPB) and the Carp are probably my favorite team after the Dragons and Lions.  There was just one drawback - I wasn't going to be able to outwardly cheer for the Carp at the game!

I had gotten almost all my NPB tickets by ordering through Japan Ball Tickets (which by the way I would highly recommend).  I was very concerned about getting Carp tickets because they've been selling out their entire home schedule within a few hours the past few seasons.  Michael Westbay (of the seminal JapaneseBaseball.com website fame) handles getting tickets for JBT and has found that his best luck in getting Carp tickets has been getting them in the visiting team section (the stands on the left of the photo above).  So the good news was that he was able to get me tickets to this game.  The bad news was that I was going to have to sit in the middle of the Hanshin Tigers cheering section.

Once I got into the park I took a walk around it on the concourse.  This is one of the few parks in Japan that you can walk all the way around inside it.  I then climbed up to my seats on the island of yellow floating in a sea of red.  I had a pretty good view from my seat though:


It was an interesting experience sitting in the cheering section.  I stood when they stood and clapped and yelled along.  I didn't know any of the songs but I would hum along as best I could.  I exchanged high-fives with the people around me when the Tigers scored.  All while mentally rooting for the Carp. 

Here's video I took during one of the cheers:


I ended up being pretty happy with the game's outcome.  The Carp won the game 7-2 behind the pitching of Kris Johnson and a couple solo home runs from Tetsuya Kokubo and Xavier Batista.  The Tigers got a home run from Kenya Nagasaka - it was Nagasaka's first career home run so it got commemorated with an Epoch One card.

After the game I followed the crowd back to Hiroshima Station.  There had been over 31,000 people at the game and I think they were all trying to catch a train:


I picked up my suitcase and waited for my Shinkansen for Fukuoka.  And waited.  And waited.  Ok, I'm exaggerating a little bit.  I had the first (and as it turned out) only real train delay that evening.  Apparently there was a fire at the Shin-Osaka station that afternoon and the trains were running maybe 20 minutes late.  It was just kind of jarring as everything had been smooth up until then.  Luckily I had nothing going on in Fukuoka that evening so being 15-20 minutes late getting in didn't matter that much.  My hotel was a little further from the station than my other ones had been and I had to duck Saturday night revelers at Hakata Station on my way but I really didn't have any problems getting to the hotel.  I had now finished the first half of my trip and was as far west from Tokyo as I was going to get,.

Friday, July 26, 2019

2018 Epoch Lions Rookies & Stars Set

The last set that I got from Ryan in Tokyo that I'm going to blog about is the 2018 Epoch Lions Rookies & Stars set.  This was one of the series of "comprehensive" team sets that Epoch started doing last year to challenge BBM.  I've gotten some cards from a few of the other sets but this is the only complete one of these sets I've gotten.  Although "complete" may actually not quite be correct. 

The set has cards for manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji, last year's farm team manager Tetsuya Shiozaki and 67 players.  There are photo variations available for 21 of the players which brings the total number of cards to 90.  The set I got however does not have the photo variations so it's only 69 cards - which is why I say it's debatable whether I have a complete set or not.

Photo variations aside, the set is...ok.  I can't quite put my finger on it but I find it lacking compared to last year's BBM Lions "comprehensive" set.  It's not the photos - Epoch's got similar issues to those that BBM has with photo selection but this set actually has a little more interesting shots than the BBM one.  It may just be the card design itself (although last year's BBM set's design wasn't all that great either).  Or it may be that I like the silly little subsets that BBM puts in their sets to pad them out to 81 cards - Epoch doesn't do those.

I did a comparison of the contents of the two sets.  The BBM set contained a card for one player who's not in this set - Daiki Enokida, who was traded to the Lions from the Tigers during spring training last season.  BBM's set came out later in the season than this one which made it easier for them to include him.  The Epoch set contains cards for three people that aren't in the BBM set - the previously mentioned Shiozaki and the Lions two ikusei players - Masato Saito and Wataru Takagi.

Here's some example cards:

#64

#48

#07

#61

#38

#44

#02

#53
Here's what the backs looked like - they used a cropped and zoomed in version of the photo on the front:


I'd considered getting this year's edition of this set when I was in Japan - I actually had one in my hand at Coletre for a while - but I ultimately decided against it. 

You can see all the cards over at Jambalaya (as usual).