The day we went was a Saturday and happened to be the last ni-gun game of the season, so there was a good-sized crowd. The crowd seemed bigger than the recorded 2,290 as the seats in the section behind home plate were entirely full and the bleachers along the third-base side were mostly full. The stadium itself had the feeling of being pretty old, the seating seemed to be much older than 2010 and concessions and merchandise were very limited. Still it was a fun place to see a game, even with the weather being as hot and humid as it was.
There wasn't any reserved seating and we were only a little early, but we were still able to find seats for my wife, my daughter and myself about two-thirds of the way up behind the tunnel on the first-base side. The Dragons had a very recognizable lineup that day with Takeshi Yamasaki, Shuhei Takahashi, Tatsuro Iwasaki and Atsushi Fujii all starting and Kenichi Nakata on the mound for a pre-playoffs tune-up. As the game went on it became pretty clear that it was a ni-gun game as the defensive play was very inconsistant. Takahashi made a nice play charging a ball in the first, but later missed on a play that he should have been able to make. Both teams had some communication issues, including when Dragons right-fielder Shingo Ito collided with second-baseman Shigeo Yanagida on what should have been an easy pop out. While there was plenty to laugh about, there was also plenty to cheer about. Iwasaki made some fine plays and Satoshi Kato answered Hiroshima's 3-run (1 ER) 3rd-inning with a booming home run out to left field. Kato then hit another, almost identical, home run in the 5th. The two home runs were his first and second as a professional. Chunichi was down 4-2 in the 7th when Yanagida tied the game with two-run home run, but the rally wasn't over. The Dragons took the lead on yet another unearned run when Ryoji Nakata (AKA bu-chan) became my wife's favorite Dragon by legging out an RBI triple. It was probably the highlight of the game, we were all surprised at how fast the big guy got around the bases and he beat the relay from right field by a good margin. The Carp made it interesting in the 9th, but Chunichi was able to hang on for the 6-5 victory.
Being the last game of the season ni-gun manager Suzuki made a speech and thanked the fans for their support. After that a number of the players came out and signed autographs. I'm not much of an autograph hound, but my neices who are members of the Dragons' fan club and so can get into ni-gun games for free said that the players were more accessable there and they had been able to get some autographs before. I had a ball that I was hoping Fujii would sign, since he's from Toyohashi where my in-laws live, but he's kind of a popular ni-gun player and had hit third in the lineup that day so he had a big crowd of autograph seekers. I still tried, but he and the other guys got called away to practice before it was my turn. I told my wife that it was no big deal, but she was dissapointed for me, which was nice of her. She said we should wait around outside the stadium to see if any players would come, but I wasn't really interested. After leaving the stadium we headed over to the park across the street so my daugher could swing and run around before the train ride. We hung out there for a bit, I watched some of a rec softball game which was happening on the field at the park while she played, then we headed off towards the train station. As we passed the indoor practice building we noticed that there was a small group forming near the fence. Apparently someone had convinced former Dragon outfielder/first-baseman and current coach Yonetoshi Kawamata to come outside. One of the guys said that he was a friend of Kawamata's and had called him outside and then the crowd had formed. Anyways, we hit him up for an autograph and so didn't leave empty handed. Looking at his stats Kawamata had a long career with Chunichi and even led the Central League in sacrifice flies in 1986.
Some historical photos of the stadium from wikipedia:
|Takahashi At Bat|
|Kawamata Obliges our Request|