Great Day to Be Me!

I got to Koshien Stadium around 11am, despite not having a ticket to tonight’s game or even the intention of attending. And I didn’t. But I did get to take in the Koshien Stadium Museum for the first time ever, and followed it up with a tour of the stadium that included a chance to watch some of the team’s pre-game practice. I got to meet up with one of my Tiger buddies who was in town from Tokyo, spent the day with my awesome wife… and then the Tigers won their game tonight! Not a bad day overall! Here are some pics/explanations of what I got to see today.

 

Nothing really special here, just a big Tigers logo in the middle of the museum.

  

Towards the end of the museum, you can head outside and stand right in the middle of the center field stands. what a view! Great weather, too!

  

The Tigers drafted me as their official English tweeter! Ha, I wish!

  

Love the 80th Anniversary banners. The 4th one here is #4, Gene Bacque.

  

At the start of the tour, we got a view of the visitors’ indoor training facility. It felt like we were at the zoo, looking at a bunch of rabbits through a glass window. Do not feed the animals. Do not tap the glass.

  

Gomez and Murton take theoir cuts during an early afternoon batting practice.

 

Happy Birthday to… (Part 2)

9murton2015It’s been awhile since I did a birthday shoutout to a player on here. That one was for my favorite player, Matt Murton. This one is a shoutout to ME! Yes, I turned 40 yesterday. And I ranted about the Tigers’ 15-1 loss on Saturday and said I would NOT watch the game Sunday for fear of a loss (and what a loss – 10-1 this time!), and had some scathing words for some of the players, including #9.

Well you’ll never guess what happened to me today. I had agreed to meet a friend of mine for coffee in Sannomiya (downtown Kobe) after work, since I get off early on Mondays. I asked him if we could go to Starbucks, simply because I had a craving. So he got there a little earlier than me, chose the location he thought would have the most open seats (the Starbuckses in Sannomiya seem to always be full), and texted me to let me know the location.

I got there around 4pm, got in line, ordered my drink, turned around and saw… who else but Matt Murton himself, standing in line for his own beverage! My buddy was seated kind of behind where Matt was standing, and pointed in a less-than-subtle way to make sure I didn’t miss the tall, muscular redhead with 3-or-so days of stubble standing in line in a green t-shirt and military-print shorts. Nope, not gonna miss that!

T: “Enjoying your day off?”

MM: "Yeah."

T: “Or is it a day off? No practice today?”

MM: "No, we got the full day off."

T: “Nice. Guess the whole team could use a breather after the rough weekend…”

MM: "Yeah."

T: “Well, take it easy.”

THE END.

He gets to the counter, places his order, takes two coffees out of the store, and walks down the road, presumably to a car with a wife in it?

And I went back to my seat, kind of shaking, kind of sweating, but definitely grinning. I *knew* I would meet him this year, I just knew it! But who would have thought it would be at a Starbucks on a Monday afternoon while we both waited in line for coffee?

The more I thought about it, the more I second-guessed every moment of the encounter. Should I have introduced myself by name? Should I have told him about the blog? Asked for an autograph? A picture? Should I have told him it was my birthday? Or that his birthday is the same day as my son’s? Should I have been a little more enthusiastic about the whole thing? Did I really have to remind him about the bad weekend the team had? (Not to mention he was benched for 2 days – at least I didn’t remind him of THAT.)

The whole thing was surreal… and as I said to another friend of mine via LINE a few minutes later: “I’m kinda choked that I didn’t ‘get’ anything but the experience, the thrill and the memory. No signature, no proof of the encounter.”

But does it matter? Would my life be better if I had snapped a picture with my phone? If I had his signature on a napkin (or my Tigers’ membership card, which was in my wallet)? Not really, right? In fact, in some ways this is better because it’s just between me, my buddy and Matt Murton. A brief, “private” moment in the middle of the world’s most popular coffee chain, in the middle of the closest big city to Koshien Stadium. A memory. And that’s good enough for me. Happy birthday, Matt Murton fan!

(Thank God for the timing, being in the right Starbucks, and for him also having a craving for coffee at the same time as I did!)

Stars Simply Get Closer…

On Sunday afternoon, I went to my first ever sumo basho in Osaka. It was Day 1 of the spring tournament, and I stood outside the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium hoping to get close to the rikishi as they strode in. I was thrilled to be standing just a few meters from these colossal grapplers, snapping pictures of one and all, regardless of whether or not I knew their names. Of course the most exciting moment was when yokozuna and all-time tournament wins leader Hakuho came through. If I had been crazy, I could have climbed the little barrier, run up to him and touched him before being escorted away, but I wanted to watch the actual match, so I behaved. My best shot looked like this:

HakuhoDay1

As I got escorted up to my seat, I looked around. WOW, so this is what it was like to watch it somewhere other than my living room! The wrestlers look so… tiny! That’s what happens when you sit in the “cheap” (¥6,000, mind you) seats! The view from my seat was fine but far.

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The view from my seats at Day 1 of the Spring Basho in Osaka.

Then I check the news and see that just a day later, my favorite Hanshin Tigers player, Matt Murton, attended Day 2. Missed him by a day! Of course, when you’re a star you get to see everything from just a little closer. While I would have been arrested for trying to touch Hakuho, Matt got to do this:

Murton: "Congratulations." Hakuho: "Thanks."

Murton: “Congratulations.”
Hakuho: “Thanks.”

And while his seats may not have been a LOT better than mine, still his view of the dohyo (ring) was closer than mine:

MurtonSumo

Apparently Mr. Murton’s children love sumo as well, and his oldest, Micah (5) was saying “Ima sumo, ima sumo!” when his parents tried talking to him during the bouts. It was apparently Murton’s second trip to a basho, the first coming in 2010 when he went on to break Ichiro’s hitting record. Let’s hope this year brings him another 214 hits, or better yet, a Nippon Series championship for the team!

Upcoming Event – Murton & Whiting Talk Baseball!

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Author Robert Whiting

Here’s an event you won’t want to miss out on if you are passionate about baseball, particularly in Japan! On Tuesday, March 24, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (Kansai Chapter) will be hosting an evening with Hanshin Tigers all-star left fielder Matt Murton and renowned author Robert Whiting (writer of The Chrysanthemum and the Bat, You Gotta Have Wa, The Meaning of Ichiro, and other titles). They will be discussing playing and following baseball in Japan.

More event details can be found here.

In case you were unaware, Matt is my favorite baseball player on the team, and Robert Whiting has quickly become my favorite author on the subject of baseball, as I tore through his three books over the past 3 months. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend this exciting event due to family commitments. I hope some of you will be able to go, and tell me more about it when it’s done!

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“I’ll see you on the 24th!”