Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Trip Overview Part 10 - Day 13 - Tokyo, Urawa and Chiba

Having had a long day the previous day I was a little slow getting moving on Thursday, June 6.  But I still was out of my hotel by about 9:30, heading to more card shops.

I was staying at a Toyoko Inn just north of Asakusabashi Station which put on the Sobu-Chuo JR line just one station east of Akihabara.  That was my first destination that morning.  Akihabara of course is a Mecca for people interested in anime and manga but as usual I was only interested in baseball cards.  I got to the Mint Akihabara store located very close to the JR station just after it opened at 1000.

After finishing up there I made my second attempt to get to Urawa.  This time I got on the right train - probably because I got on in Akihabara and didn’t have to deal with Ueno Station - and found myself near the Mint Urawa store with some time to kill before they opened.  I ended up getting an early lunch at a chain curry restaurant that Ryan had recommended - CoCo Ichibanya.

By the time I was finished eating the store was open.  I ended up spending a while in this store as they were attempting to put together an Epoch NPB set for me.  I spent so much time here that I was late getting to my next scheduled event - meeting up with Dan Skrezyna of Korean Cardboard.

Dan had arranged a trip to Tokyo to coincide with the end of my trip.  He’s another blogger who I had communicated with on-line for years and it was great to finally meet him in person.  He flew over from Korea that morning and the two of us met up at Akihabara Station to catch the train to Chiba.

The timing of Dan’s trip worked out very well.  I was planning on going to ten NPB games during my trip and had bought single tickets for nine of them through JapanBall Tickets.  For the other game I decided I wanted to experience sitting in the Oendan section (this was before I discovered I was going to be sitting in the visiting fans Oendan section at the Carp game).  Since I was too chicken to do this on my own, I reached out to Steve on Twitter.  Steve's a Marines fan who used to write a blog about the team (We Love Marines).  I asked him if I could invite myself to got to a Marines game with him and sit in the Oendan section.  I offered to pay for the tickets and to buy him a beer.  He agreed and we picked tonight's game against the Hanshin Tigers* as the game we were going to go to.  Tickets for the game had not gone on sale when Dan told me he was going to meet me in Tokyo so Steve was able to get tickets for both of us for the game.

*I have somehow forgotten to mention that this particular week was the beginning of the interleague portion of NPB's schedule

So Dan and I were heading to Chiba to meet up with Steve but first, of course, we had to make a stop in Chiba city itself to go to another baseball card store.  Mint Chiba is located in a shopping mall about a quarter of a mile or so from Chiba Station.  After spending some time at the store, Dan and I picked up the Chibatochi Monorail from Chiba Station over to Chibaminato Station to pick up the JR Keiyo line to Kaihimmakuhari Station, the closest station to Chiba Marine Stadium.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the station to the ballpark, although we made a pit stop to check out a Marines team store in Plena Makuhari Mall near the station:

We followed the rest of the fans heading to the game and were shortly greeted by the sight of the ballpark:

I had heard there was a Marines museum outside the ballpark that I was interested in checking out but Steve had warned me that a lot of the museum stuff was inside the ballpark now.  Sure enough - the Marines had turned the museum into a big team store.  But there was still some jerseys and pennants hanging on the walls:

There was also a giant bobblehead of Nazo No Sakana, aka the Mysterious Fish:

We met up with Steve outside the store just before 1800 - he was coming directly from work where he'd had a late meeting.  Luckily the game didn't start until 1815 so we still had time to get to our seats before the game started.  We ran into a bit of a snag on the way in.  Dan's a huge fan of Lee Seung-yeop, the legendary Korean slugger who spent two seasons with the Marines (2004-05), so he'd brought a Samsung Lions Lee jersey to wear to the game.  A security guard stopped him on our way into the stadium saying he couldn't wear a Lions jersey in the Marines Oendan section, even though it was a Samsung Lions one and not a Seibu Lions one.  Dejected, Dan removed the offending jersey but was able to put on one of the souvenir Marines jerseys that Steve had thoughtfully brought for us to wear (I unfortunately was too big for the one he gave me).

We got to our seats and met up with Steve's friend Jerome who was sitting with us a little before game time and got to participate in one of the team's pregame cheers (I apologize ahead of time for the video going sideways in the middle):

I'm sure Lotte will be hearing from Disney's lawyers at some point.

Here's the view from the seats - the Marines cheering section is in the right field stands:

It was a lot of fun sitting in the section and learning about the cheers from Steve and Jerome.  Here's another video I took during one of Seiya Inoue's at bat (and it also goes sideways in the middle):

And I finally, after seven NPB games, took part in an NPB custom - I bought a beer from a beer girl:

OK, technically Dan bought the beer.  I paid for his ticket and Dan paid for the beer.  Steve won't let me pay for his and Jerome's tickets and since he had driven to the ballpark, he wasn't going to have a beer.  I felt bad that I wasn't able to pay him back for his hospitality.

As for the game itself, the pitching match-up was Haruto Takahashi, who I had seen pitch for the Tigers against the Giants a week earlier, going up against Atsuki Taneichi.  The Tigers scored two runs in the top of the first but the Marines got one of them back in the bottom of the inning.  The Tigers increased their lead to 3-1 in the top of the third with the Marines scoring a second run in the bottom of the fourth.  That's the way the score stayed until the bottom of the ninth.  Tigers closer Rafael Dolis was in to finish off the game and the Tigers fans in the left field stands had already inflated their victory balloons but with two outs, the Marines scored the tying run.  It was Dolis' first blown save of the year.  We were amused at how quickly the Tigers victory balloons disappeared.

Unfortunately the joy was short-lived.  The Tigers scored a run in the top of the 10th and the Marines went in order in the bottom of the inning.  Final score was 4-3 in favor of Hanshin (and the Tiger fans got to shoot off their victory balloons just one inning late).  Tigers relief pitcher Hiroya Shimamoto, a former ikusei player, got the save.  It was the first one of his career, an event that was immortalized on an Epoch One card.

Here's the game highlights from Pacific League TV (UPDATE - for some reason this video is no longer available on PLTV, so here it is from their YouTube channel):

Dan and I needed to stop by Ryan's apartment in Funabashi on the way back to Tokyo after the game.  Ryan wasn't there - he was on vacation that week - but he had left some items in a mailbox in the building's lobby for the two of us and had let us know what the combination was.  We had been planning on taking a train over but Steve was nice enough to give us a ride over as it wasn't too far out of his way.  It was my first (and last so far) car ride in Japan.  Steve dropped us off about a block from Ryan's apartment and Dan found it without too much trouble.  It was a short walk from there to Funabashi Station and we caught a train heading back into Tokyo.  It was almost midnight by the time I got back to my hotel, making it two late nights in a row.

UPDATE - I almost forgot that I wanted to thank Steve for his hospitality and generosity in putting up with Dan and I at the ballpark and especially for giving us a lift to Funabashi.  He and Jerome were a lot of fun to hang out with and it was one of the best evenings I spent in Japan.  Thanks again!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Card Shops In Japan: Quad Sports

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.

Quad Sports is probably my favorite card shop in Japan.  I've visited it four times which is the most I've visited any store (although that's only once more than Coletre and Mint Ikebukuro).  It's located in Takadanobaba in Tokyo, just two stops south of Ikebukuro and two stations north of Shinjuku on the Yamanote line.

Quad Sports had been on the second floor of the NT Building on Waseda Dori across the street from an elementary school but they moved during my trip to Japan.  Their new location is in a large building closer to Takadanobaba Station and across the street from their old location.  Here's a photo of their new building:

There's an opening leading to a staircase and an elevator on the left side of the building.  Quad Sports in on the fifth floor in Suite 502:

The only time I visited their new location was literally the second day they were open there.  I would assume they've added some signage outside the door but I don't know that for sure.  Here's what the doorway to their old location looked like:

So why do I like this store so much?  They have lots of singles.  They have huge monster boxes full of cards from various BBM sets going back to 1991 as well as other card sets (even for other sports).

Most stores in Japan charge 100 yen for single common cards.  I'm not positive but I think Quad Sports still only charges 50 yen*.  I bought 120-130 1999 BBM singles here on my last visit and they charged me 6000 yen although there may have been a volume discount.  The combination of the inventory plus the low price of commons makes this probably the best store in Japan to do set building at.  I've spent several hours here building BBM flagship sets (2003 & 2004 1st Version sets in 2013 and 1998, 1999 and 2000 this past trip) as well as BBM's Rookie Edition sets.

*UPDATE - I got some clarification from Ryan after I finished this post.  Quad Sports charges 40 or 50 yen for singles.  This is roughly the same as Wrappers, Mint Akihabara and Mint Odawara in Kanto, Sports Cards BITS and Mint Ponyland in Nagoya and possibly Mint Hakata in Fukuoka.

Higher priced cards are also available here.  Many are located in binders that are kept in cabinets.  Others are in cases.

By "higher priced cards" I mean rookies, inserts, parallels and autograph and memorabilia cards.  I don't think the store stocks older, pre-1991 cards but I wasn't really looking for them when I was here.

My photos don't show it but there's a table in the middle of the room where you can comfortably sit to go through boxes of cards.  The owner is friendly and helpful.  He speaks a little English - as usual his English was much better than my Japanese.

Here's a map showing the location of the building.  I've used the Saint Marc Cafe on the first floor as the reference point:

The store was written up in Sports Card Magazine #113 in September of 2015.  Obviously the article talks about the old location.

I do want to point out that the new store is smaller than the old one.  I did a panoramic of the old store when Ryan and I stopped there:

It doesn't do the store justice - there are shelves full of boxes behind me when I took the photo.  You can see some of them on the right side of the photo.

Interview in The Japan Times

Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times interviewed me a few weeks back for an article about my card collection and the blog.  The article just went live on their website this evening and it also appears in the print edition for Tuesday, August 27th.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara of the Yomiuri Giants announced his retirement a couple months ago - four days before I left for Japan - but I'm just now getting around to doing a post for him. 

Uehara was the Giants' first pick in the fall 1998 draft out of Osaka Taiiku University.  He immediately went into the Giants rotation for the 1999 season and rewarded them with an outstanding season - going 20-4 with an ERA of 2.09 and 179 strikeouts in 197 2/3 innings (the wins, ERA and strikeouts all led the Central League that season).  He was named CL Rookie Of The Year and also won the Sawamura Award.

He had a couple subpar seasons in 2000 and 2001 (I think he missed some time with a thigh injury) but he bounced back with a 17-5 season in 2002 and followed that by going 16-5 in 2003 and 13-5 in 2004.  He was roughly a .500 pitcher in 2005 and 2006 for very poor Giants teams.  Injuries delayed his start to the 2007 season and once healthy the Giants decided to convert him to closer, a role that he excelled in.  He earned 32 saves with a 1.47 ERA and 66 strikeouts (and only four walks) in 62 innings pitched.  He split 2008 between the rotation and the bullpen - he was reduced to a set up role for new Giants closer Marc Kroon. 

Uehara had requested to be posted in 2006 but the Giants denied the request.  His eligibility for free agency was delay by his injuries in 2007 so he didn't earn his international free agency rights until April of 2008.  He signed with the Baltimore Orioles that November and started the MLB phase of his career the following April.  He missed a lot of time that season with injuries, only making 12 starts and going 2-4 with an ERA of 4.05.  He was moved into the bullpen for the 2010 season and remained a reliever for the rest of his career.  The Orioles traded him to the Rangers in the middle of the 2011 season (the deal that brought Chris Davis to Baltimore) and he joined the Red Sox as a free agent before the 2013 season.  He had an outstanding season for Boston that year, taking over the closer role mid-season and ultimately going 4-1 with 21 saves, an ERA of 1.09 and 101 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings.  He remained with the Red Sox through the 2016 season before joining the Cubs for 2017. 

After the single season with the Cubs he returned to Japan, signing with Yomiuri in March of 2018.  He appeared in 36 games out of the bullpen for the Giants last season, going 0-5 with an ERA of 3.63.  He spent all of this season with the Giants' farm team, pitching only nine innings in nine games with an ERA of 4.00 before he called it a career.

Uehara made the All Star team 9 times in Japan (1999-05, 2007 and 2018 although he didn't play in 2000 due to injury) and once in MLB (2014).  He won the Sawamura Award twice (1999 and 2002), made the Best 9 team twice (also 1999 and 2002) and won a Golden Glove Award twice (1999 and 2003).  He lead the Central League in wins in 1999 and 2002, ERA in 1999 and 2004 and strikeouts in 1999 and 2003.  He played in three Nippon Series, beating the Hawks in 2000 and the Lions in 2002 before losing to Seibu in 2008.  He won an "Outstanding Player" award for the 2002 Series when he pitched a complete game shutout in Game One, striking out 12 Lions while only walking two.  He made the World Series roster with the Rangers in 2011 but did not play in the Series.  He was the MVP of the 2013 ALCS for the Red Sox and pitched in the World Series that year, making him the most recent player to play for both a Nippon Series and World Series winning team.   He played for the Japanese National Team for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Here's a selection of cards from his career in Japan:

1999 SCM #1

1999 BBM #329

2000 BBM "Best 9" #B11

2001 Upper Deck #71

2002 BBM Nippon Series #S5

2003 Calbee "Title Holder" #T-19

2004 BBM All Stars #A04

2005 Konami Prime 9 Special Team Packs #PN05TE-039

2006 Upper Deck WBC Moments #CM-22

2007 BBM 1st Version #329

2008 Calbee "Star" #S-02

2018 BBM Giants #G02 (Gold Signature Parallel)

2019 Calbee #053

Card Of The Week August 25

There was an article in the Asahi Shimbun yesterday (H/T NPB Reddit) about how former Yokohama Baystars pitcher Atori Ohta is now a member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.  Ohta was a third round pick of the Baystars in the 2007 draft and was in their organization until 2015.  After the Baystars released him, he attended the 12 team tryout and eventually signed on with the Orix Buffaloes for the 2016 season as an ikusei player.  He moved onto the 70-man roster in June of that year and ended up making one appearance with the top team - pitching three innings against the Eagles in September.  That was his last appearance in NPB - Orix released him at the end of the season and he went back to the 12 team tryout.  According to the article at the tryout he saw brochures for joining the police force and other lines of work and he decided to become a police officer when all 12 teams passed on signing him (partly because his kids thought it'd be "cool").

One odd thing about Ohta's career - in November of 2015 it was reported in Nikkan Sports that he had signed a minor league deal with the San Diego Padres.  I actually did a post about it at the time.  But not only did he never play in the Padres organization, his name never appeared in the team's transaction list.  I'm not sure what happened - the next article in Nikkan Sports that mentions him is for him signing with the Buffaloes in January of 2016.  His Japanese wikipedia page appears to mention something about him trying out for both the Padres and Red Sox but I think it says that he failed the tryouts.  So maybe the Nikkan Sports was just wrong.

Here's a card of Ohta from the 2013 Bandai Owners League 04 set (#072):

Friday, August 23, 2019

2019 SCC KBO Set

Daewoo Media issued their first set under their SCC moniker for the Korean Baseball Organization this year back in June.  Dan Skrezyna picked up a set for me a while back but I hadn't had a chance to write about until now.

There's 300 total cards available for the set although the base set only has 190 cards (19 per team).  There are also 10 rookie cards (1 per team) that are serially numbered to 100 and 100 autograph cards (which are NOT split evenly between the 10 teams) that are serially numbered to 10.

There are four different flavors of base set cards - "normal" (9 per team), "rare" (5 per team), "holo" (3 per team) and "signature" (2 per team).  The "rare" cards have a shimmering finish (that actually comes through on the scans) while the "holo" cards have a silvery finish.  The "signature" cards feature a facsimile signature done in "holographic ink".

I will defer from commenting how good the player selection is as I don't really know the KBO all that well.  There are (as usual) no foreign players in the set but pretty much every Korean player I know of off hand - Lee Dae-Ho, Park Byung-Ho, Kim Hyun-Soo, Hwang Jae-Gyun, Choi Jeong, Han Dong-Min, Son Ah-Seop, Lee Bum-Ho and Kim Tae-Kyun - are all in the set.

Here's some sample cards:

#SCCR1-19/011 Lee Jae-Won (Normal)

#SCCR1-19/034 Oh Jae-Ii (Normal)

#SCCR1-19/105 Baek Jeong-Hyeon (Normal)

#SCCR1-19/150 Sin Mae-Jae (Normal)

#SCCR1-19/094 Lee Chang-Jin (Rare)

#SCCR1-19/184 Park Jin-Woo (Rare)

#SCCR1-19/058 Kim Tae-Kyun (Holo)

#SCCR1-19/132 Lee Dae-Ho (Holo)

#SCCR1-19/077 Park Byung-Ho (Signature)

#SCCR1-19/179 Kim Baek-Ho (Signature)
Like the SCC sets from last year, the backs of all the cards are identical:

Also like the SCC sets from last year, this is an attractive set.  Dan has added the checklist for the set over at and has added images for all the base set cards

I want to thank Dan for picking up a set for me.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

About To Be Released Sets

A quick roundup of some sets that have an imminent release:

- I mentioned a little while ago that BBM was issuing a box set for the Carp called "Brilliant".  It turns out that they are also issuing box sets for the Fighters and Tigers using that name.  Like the Carp set, these sets will contain 29 cards - the 27 card base set plus a serially numbered "SPARKLING" insert card and an autographed card - and will retail for 10000 yen (~$92).  The Fighters set will be out on August 27th and the Tigers set will be out on September 3rd.

- Calbee's Series Three set will be out around September 16th - as always it wouldn't surprise me to see the cards in stores or online a few days before that,  As was the case with Series Two, the base set will contain 88 cards - 72 player cards (6 per team), 12 "Exciting Scene" subset cards and the usual four checklist cards.  As always there will be a 24 card premium subset/insert set called "Star".  There will also be a special 12 card box set available via some sort of redemption called "Control Tower" - it features the main catcher for each of the 12 NPB teams.  The checklist for the set (including the Star cards and the special box set) is available here.

- Epoch is releasing another of their ultra high end "Stars And Legends" team sets - this time for the Buffaloes.  Each box will contain four cards (two of which are autographed) and retail for 14,500 yen (~$135).  The base set will contain 38 cards - the listing on the promotional material isn't complete but most of the players in the set (30 according to the list) are active - there's only six OB players listed (although I would assume there will be eight when the set comes out).  There are four different kinds of autograph cards and also the serially numbered GEM insert cards.  The set will be out on September 14th.

- Dan Skrezyna let me know that SCC is issuing KBO Premium, their second KBO set of the year.  The base set will contain 220 cards that I believe will be split between "normal" (120), "rare" (45), "holo" (35) and "signature" (20) cards.  (Note that the "signature" card refer to facsimile signatures on the card).  There are also some 260 possible autographed and/or memorabilia cards available.  I'm not positive but I believe the set has already been released.  Dan has already added the checklist for the set over at

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Trip Overview Part 9 - Days 11-12 - Shizuoka, Tokyo and Tokorozawa

Tuesday morning June 4th saw me catching an east-bound Shinkansen in Nagoya.  I was returning to Tokyo after a week of running around Western Japan.  I had a quick stop to make on the way however.

On November 20th, 1934 the MLB All Stars took on the All Nippon team at Kusanagi Baseball Field in Shizuoka.  Eiji Sawamura started for All Nippon and pitched very well - taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning and at one point striking out Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx in succession.  Gehrig homered off of Sawamura late in the game for the only run in the MLB team’s 1-0 victory.  This loss was All Nippon's highlight of the 1934 US tour - to put it in context All Nippon had been outscored by the All Americans 50-10 in the previous three games of the tour.

The ballpark, which opened in 1931, is still standing although it has been renovated a number of times over the years.  It is occasionally used as an alternate park by NPB teams and I think there are some collegiate games that are regularly played here.  In the early 1990’s statues of Sawamura and Ruth were erected outside the park to commemorate Sawamura’s feat.  My plan was to stop off in Shizuoka that morning and see the statues.

Shizuoka is only about an hour east of Nagoya as the bullet train rolls so it wasn’t long before I was getting off the train and finding a locker in the station to store my luggage in.  I made a somewhat impulsive decision to store my backpack as well as my suitcase in the locker, deciding to free myself temporarily from the otherwise ever present weight on my back.  It wasn’t until I was outside of the station that I realized the mistake I had made in doing that - I had left my rented MiFi in the backpack which meant I had no internet access as I made my way towards the ballpark.

I briefly considered going back into the station to retrieve my backpack but I decided that I knew enough about where I was going that I could probably get there without internet access.  I remembered that I needed to head a couple blocks north of Shizuoka Station to get to the light rail line so I walked off in that direction.  Sure enough I soon saw signs for the light rail station in the Shin-Shizuoka Cenova Mall and I was shortly on a train heading towards the ballpark.  It certainly helped me that the light rail stop closest to the ballpark was called “Prefectural Sports Park” - if it had been a Japanese name there’s a pretty good chance I’d have missed it.

The ballpark was only a block or two from the station and I was soon greeted by the sight of the two statues:

I quickly realized that not only was the ballpark open, but there was a ballgame going on.  I walked in to take a quick look:

I only stayed for a few minutes, nowhere near long enough to figure out what level of ball I was witnessing.  I sent a photo of the scoreboard to Deanna Rubin who said it was “Itoh” against “Shizuoka” but she wasn’t familiar with either of those teams.  She figured it was probably some sort of local baseball club.  The ballpark’s website wasn’t much help as it didn’t have any events listed for the day.

I’d have stayed longer but I was hoping to limit my Shizuoka stay to just about an hour so I hurried back to the light rail station and caught the next train back to the Shin-Shizuoka Cenova Mall - the station I needed to get off at was the westbound end of the line so again it obvious where I needed to get off.  I took what turned out not to be the most direct path back to Shizuoka Station however and I wasn’t able to catch the train I wanted.  After getting my backpack and suitcase out of the locker I ended up spending 40 minutes or so just hanging out on the platform - obviously had I known what was going to happen I’d have just stayed at the game longer.

Shizuoka is about half way between Nagoya and Tokyo so it was another roughly hour long Shinkansen ride to get back to Tokyo Station.  A couple short train rides later and I was dropping my suitcase off at my hotel.  After having stayed at seven different hotels over the previous 11 nights (no stay longer than two nights) I was really looking forward to spending my last six nights at one hotel.

After grabbing some lunch down the street from my hotel I decided that I would head up to Mint Urawa, the store that I had planned on going to a week earlier but didn't because I was too hot and tired.  I took a train to Ueno Station and transferred to what I thought was a train north to Urawa.  After about 10 minutes I realized I was on the wrong train and got off.  I decided to postpone Urawa for another day and headed back south.  I ended up going to Jinbocho and stopped off at two card shops - Mint Kanda and Biblio.  I also took a quick look at the baseball books and magazines at the Shosen Grande bookstore although I didn't buy anything.  I then headed back to Takadanobaba to find if Quad Sports had moved yet and where they had moved to.  I was unsuccessful - the old location was closed although there was no signing saying that they were moving on the door and I couldn't quite figure out where the new location was.  There was a sign for them on the ground floor of their new building that indicated they were on the fifth floor but I couldn't find them on that floor.  I finally gave up and called it a day, heading back to my hotel to watch that evening's Carp-Lions game to prepare myself for the next day when I would be attending the game in person.

I was going to be spending most of Wednesday the 5th out in Tokorozawa but first I wanted to visit one more former ballpark site.  Tokyo Stadium was home for the Daimai/Tokyo/Lotte Orions from 1962 to 1972.  If I'm understanding what happened correctly, the company that owned the stadium went bankrupt and the ballpark closed after the 1972 season, forcing the Orions to move to Sendai for the next couple seasons.  It was torn down in 1977 and the Arakawa Comprehensive Sports Center was built on the site.  I wasn't sure if there really was anything to be seen although Ryan had told me there was some sort of monument or display there.

Unfortunately when I got there I realized I wasn't going to be able to see anything as the building was completely closed due to renovation:

I was able to see the field behind the building.  I'm pretty sure this originally was the ball field itself:

In retrospect it was probably not worth the trip up to Arakawa even if I'd been able to see whatever display they had for the ballpark in the building.  It wasn't a bad little out-of-the-way trip but I could have done the "Ultraman Boulevard/Toho Studios" walk that I ended up never getting around to instead.

The rest of my day was going to involve two Lions games in Tokorozawa.  First up was an Eastern League game between the farm teams of the Lions and the Swallows at Seibu #2 Field at 1300.  After that I'd be seeing the top team Lions take on the Carp next door at the Seibu Dome at 1800.

I was a little concerned about whether or not there'd be any food for sale for the farm team game so I stopped off at a news stand in Ikebukuro Station and picked up a sandwich and chips to eat at the game.  It turned out I needn't have worried - not only did the Lions have a couple food stands open near the train station at the ballpark but there was a FamilyMart just across the street from the station as well.

I guess I should point out that the Seibu #2 is pretty much right next door to the Seibu Dome - there's a long rectangular building that houses an indoor ski slope in between the two fields.  Normally it's a fairly short walk from the train station to the field but the Lions are building a new dorm and/or training facility between the station and the field and everyone heading the field had to take a bit of a detour around the far side of the new building to get there.

If you had asked me before this day what the most primitive ballpark I'd ever seen professional baseball at was I'd have told you Thomas Run Field, the makeshift home of the Aberdeen Arsenal, an Atlantic League team that existed for just the 2000 season.  The ballpark was on the campus of Harford Community College and was part of a complex including two other fields used for softball.  There were only temporary stands at the field and the ballplayers had to use the same bathroom facilities as the fans.  The field was close enough to the softball fields that it wasn't uncommon for foul balls hit on one field to land in the other.  The owners of the Arsenal had greatly overestimated the willingness of the local residents to pay to see indy baseball in a lousy ballpark - it frequently appeared that there were more people on hand to watch the softball games than to watch the Arsenal.

Still, makeshift as it was, Thomas Run Field had several amenities that Seibu #2 lacks.  Like food vendors.  And bathrooms.  And seats.  OK, I exaggerate a little.  Seibu #2 does have a vending machine that dispenses drinks as well as a handful of benches.  But other than that, there's not much there.  The one thing it has going for it is that there's no admission charge.  I should also point out that all this really wasn't a surprise.  Not only had I read Deanna's post about a game out there but I had asked her for advice about going there.  So I knew what I was in for.

The Lions apparently don't let fans into the ballpark until maybe a half hour before game time so I discovered a line of people waiting to get in when I arrived:

Once the gates opened the few benches that are there were quickly snatched up.  I ended up sitting on the ground at the top of an embankment down the left field line, right behind the Lions' bullpen.  Here's some photos I took from there - you can see the Dome peeking over the Indoor Ski Slope in the background:

Deanna had seen the posts I did on Facebook about being at the game and turned into the Pacific League TV feed to see if she could see me.  She posted a screen shot that I'm visible in - I added the red arrow to make it obvious where I was sitting:

I stayed sitting there for a little over half the game.  Around the sixth inning or so I decided to try my luck elsewhere in the ballpark.  I stood behind home plate for a little bit:

I lucked into a seat on a bench down the right field line.  There was a young woman sitting there by herself and she was nice enough to let me sit next to her.  The downside of this seat was I had to look through the Swallows bullpen to see home plate:

As for the game itself, it was fairly uneventful.  The most interesting thing was that 38 year Shohei Tateyama started for the Swallows.  Tateyama was at one time a workhorse starting pitcher for the Swallows - he's a four time All Star and led the Central League in wins in 2009 - but he's missed a lot of time since 2012 with injuries.  The Swallows lineup also featured 36 year old Kazuhiro Hatakeyama, another former Swallows star trying to come back from injuries.  Hatakeyama is a two time All Star, a Best 9 winner, a two time Golden Glove winner and led the CL in RBIs in 2015 but he's missed a lot of games over the past three or four seasons.

Despite the Swallows having the more interesting players, the Lions ended up winning the game.  Tateyama struck out six Lions in four innings but also gave up two runs in the bottom of the fourth.  The Swallows scored a single run in the top of the seventh to make it a little closer but they weren't able to get anymore.  The final score was 2-1 in front of an official crowd of 278 (I have no idea how they calculated the crowd size - maybe someone walked through the crowd and counted?).  PLTV doesn't have a summary video for the game available for non-subscribers but they do have a clip of Waturu Takagi's double off of Tateyama that scored Aito (Takeda) and Haruka Yamada with the Lions' two runs:

I didn't know it at the time obviously but this would be the last time I'd see the home team win on the trip.

The ni-gun game ended at about a quarter to four, giving me two hours to kill before the start of the ichi-gun game.  I took a look around the team's gift shop in the Indoor Ski Slope building before heading over to the Dome itself.

With the Carp in town there was a huge crowd there for the game and I decided to head to my seat pretty early.  Seibu Dome is a bit odd in that it's essentially built into the side of a hill.  The only gates into the park are in center field - there's one gate for the first base side of the park and one for the third base side.  If you follow the sidewalk on the top rim of the ballpark you end up walking uphill to go towards the area behind home plate.  You can only go as far as the sections containing your class of tickets - there are additional check points as you go where you have to show your ticket to pass through.  Luckily my seat was in the section between home and the visitor's dugout so I was able to go pretty deep into the park.

As I said, the Carp were in town and there were a lot of Carp fans at the game.  And unfortunately I was surrounded by them.  It wasn't a problem for me rooting for the Lions as I wasn't in the Carp cheering section but it would have been nice to have been sitting on the third base side with all the Lions fans.

I didn't realize it until later but Ibraki Golden Golds manager Ayumi Kataoka threw out the first pitch that evening:

The pitching matchup was Daichi Ohsera for the Carp against Ken Togame of the Lions.  The Carp got on the board first with a run in the third inning but the Lions tied it in the bottom of the fourth on a solo home run by Shuta Tonosaki.

Ohsera was pitching decently but he was racking up a high pitch count and I was hoping that the Lions would be able to capitalize on getting into the Carp bullpen early.  He did leave after six innings and 122 pitches but if you've been following the 2019 Lions at all, you'll know which team's bullpen is more likely to be a problem.

The Carp put up three runs in the top of the seventh off of Togame and two relievers - Ryuya Ogawa and Ryosuke Moriwaki.  I was still hopeful that the Lions would be able to pull it out as a three run lead wasn't insurmountable considering Seibu's line up but then the top of the eighth happened.

The inning started with a tremendous home run from Xavier Batista off Moriwaki.  It was now 5-1 in favor of the Carp.  Still I was thinking that the Lions could come back from this.  But then five batters later with the bases loaded, Kosuke Tanaka drove a Hiromasa Saito pitch into the Carp cheering section in right field for a grand slam, putting the Carp up by eight runs.  The hoped for Carp bullpen never materialized - the Lions went 1-9 with one walk against Kyle Regnault, Kyohei Nakamura and Makoto Aduwa.  The final score was 9-1 in favor of Hiroshima.  Here are the highlights from PLTV:

One additional note about the two games - Deanna had mentioned something in a post she did years ago that "it is NOT entirely uncommon for a player to actually play in two games in one day, both a farm game and a top team game."  I saw this in action on this day as Aito Takeda and Ryusei Satoh played in both games - they started in the farm team game and came in as late inning replacements in the evening game.

Following the game I got on a very full train to head back to Ikebukuro and then caught another couple trains to get back to my hotel at around 2330.  I was pretty exhausted after a long day and promptly went to bed.