Saturday, September 11, 2010

Game 5: Nippon Ham Fighters vs Seibu Lions. A Concrete Umbrella Keeps Typhoon #9 at Bay

I could see the driving rain outside my window as the Shinkansen sped from Kansai to Kanto. The rain was the product of Typhoon #9, a tropical system that had annoyed residents of Okinawa earlier in the week. We had a taste of the stormy weather the previous night in Osaka, but the Kyocera Dome kept us dry during the game. The JapanBall tour was nearing its end; the group was returning to Tokyo to see our last game, the Nippon Ham Fighters against the Seibu Lions at the Seibu Dome in Saitama. 

The purple hue of Typhoon #9 at the Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama

The dome is actually a giant umbrella. The stadium was an open-air when it was first built in 1979, and the cover was completed after the 1998 season. The cover is referred to as an umbrella because it doesn’t enclose the stadium. The walls behind the seats are open, allowing air to come through. The design is sometimes compared to Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. 

The umbrella covering the Seibu Dome
Open sides of the Seibu Dome
Concession stands line the open sides of Seibu Dome
It’s a good thing the Lions added the umbrella because Typhoon #9 was still depositing rain during our commute on the Seibu train line from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo out west to Tokorozawa in Saitama Prefecture. The game would certainly have been cancelled if that concrete umbrella weren't protecting the players and fans.

The final game of the tour didn’t disappoint in terms of power. We saw two more home runs (no grand slams, though) and a two-run triple. Kazuhisa Ishii was Seibu’s starting pitcher, more proof that you can go home again. The five-time Japan Series champion with the Yakult Swallows spent four seasons in the Majors with the Dodgers and the Mets before returning to Nippon Professional Baseball. In our final game of the 2010 JapanBall tour, Ishii gave up two runs in six innings in the Lions' 8-3 victory over the Fighters of Sapporo. Had Yu Darvish pitched, the outcome probably would have been different.

On this tour we saw two grand slams, one by Lions DH Takeya Nakamura in Game 1 in Sendai. Nakamura is a big boy whose nickname is “Okawari-kun,” which means “one more bowl of rice.” I suppose he asked for seconds a lot as a child. We also saw six Japanese cities in seven days; traversed 1,270 miles across the archipelago; took bullet trains, subways, and taxis; sang teams’ fight songs; ate incredible food; made new friends, Japanese and North American; and had a wonderful time.


I guess I'll have to return next year, when I'm inducted into the JapanBall Hall of Fame.

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