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Giants sluggers bring crowd into the action

by Kaz Nagatsuka

The ushers blow whistles to call the fans’ attention when batters hit into the outfield stands during the batting practice. And with the powerful Giants, the whistles are particularly heard more often when Michihiro Ogasawara and Alex Ramirez take the cages.

Their batting practices have been a kind of show by themselves, something worth watching even before the game.

Both sluggers, who usually take the cages at the same time at their home field, Tokyo Dome, rained dingers into the bleachers in the pre-game showcase Sunday.

Both Ogasawara and Ramirez, who sit in the No. 3 and 4 spots respectively in the lineup, blasted homer after homer, and every time the balls landed in the stands, the fans desperately chased the special souvenirs.

Ogasawara and Ramirez gave them something to clamor for by smacking tape-measured long balls, too.

Right-handed hitter Ramirez, who clotted the Central League’s second best figure of 45 homers in the season, went over the heads of the audiences in left field and hit a big Kirin Beer advertisement twice and a JR East ad beside it.

What makes these two men special and fun to observe is their techniques. While they can literally bash the ball pulling, Ogasawara and Ramirez can also go other directions.

That means that you have a possibility to grab a souvenir anywhere in the outfield stands.

Taking it easy: One day after the spectacular performance of the previous day, starting pitcher Hideaki Wakui, who is poker-faced all the time on the mound, looked so relaxed Sunday.

The 22-year-old hurler, who went eight shutout innings giving up just one hit in the Seibu Lions’ 2-1 win in Game 1, carried a big black bag filled with baseball equipments with veteran southpaw Kazuhisa Ishii from the outfield into the dugout after a casual workout.

Wakui then came out to the bench in a gray sweatshirt and enjoyed chatting with reporters, partly to get information on the opponent from them.

“Who will be the starter for the Giants the day after tomorrow? (Seth) Greisinger?” Wakui asked them.

Apparently he was so into the game and didn’t even know (or remember) who sung the national anthem before his start in Game 1.

It was actually the famed vocalist Ken Nishikiori, but when someone told him that name, Wakui looked astonished, mistaking it for someone else.

“Is it the tennis player?” he said of Kei Nishikori, whose last name is the same in Chinese characters but is pronounced differently.

Then Wakui grabbed a sports paper to check what was on the front page. After he found it was about the Giants and a huge photo of their starter, Koji Uehara, he quickly turned to other pages and now began reading the entertainment section.

“I always start reading from this page,” Wakui joked.

Don’t let your guard down: Lions catcher Toru Hosokawa is one of the hardest workers on the Lions. Or maybe not — he looks so because he has to put on protectors and a catcher’s mask and always sweats a lot on the field.

But still his task is heavier than other fielders’. While he is expected to do well with his bat, he has to guide the Seibu pitchers correctly behind the plate against the highly-offensive Giants playing at the hitter-friendly Tokyo Dome.

“Once you make a mistake, it could lead to allowing many runs at a time, so we can’t put our guards down,” Hosokawa said. “We need to use inside pitches effectively.”