SAPPORO – Stretching on the field hours before Thursday’s Game 5 of the Japan Series, Hokkaido Nippon Ham outfielder Daikan Yoh smilingly said that he hoped to go to South Korea.
That meant that he wanted to advance to the Asia Series in Busan by winning the Japan Series title against the Yomiuri Giants.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to go to South Korea,” said Yoh, who made his first All-Star appearance this year.
But it appeared that playing against the champions of Asia’s top baseball nations (South Korea, China, Taiwan and Australia) in the annual tournament on Nov. 8-11 would not be the only reason the young speedster wanted to make the trip.
“I want to do some shopping,” said a Taiwanese Yoh, who went to a Fukuoka high school before he was drafted by the Pacific League club in the first round of the 2005 NPB draft. “They’ve got stylish clothing and stuff, don’t they?”
Yoh added that he doesn’t eat Korean food on a regular basis but prefers spicy cuisine, so that’s another element that motivates him to fly over there.
Helped by the power of nature: Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama said with a serious look that he and his team have received special, additional power from the nature of their franchise in the northern island.
“We’ve played two games and this is the third game since we came back to Hokkaido,” Kuriyama said before Thursday’s game. “And I feel like we are getting energy from the nature of Hokkaido, as much as from the fans.”
For instance, Kuriyama, who commutes from Kuriyama, a suburban town near Sapporo which has only 13,000-plus residents, said that he saw a Sachalin red fox on his way back from from Sapporo Dome on the previous night.
And the 51-year-old first-year skipper also saw flying insects (called yukimushi in Japanese), which is a tiny white aphid and sort of look like a snowfall, as he left home before he was headed to the stadium on Thursday.
People usually don’t care about those insects, but Kuriyama even took it as a positive sign for his team. In Japanese sports scenes, a white dot often describes a win, so the white insects perhaps made him feel it was a good fortune.
“I felt like it would bring us wins,” Kuriyama said. “Also, as I was taking a walk this morning, I saw so many birds flying in the air. I didn’t see that many in a long time.”
Wish I was there: Nippon Ham’s poker-faced starting pitcher Masaru Takeda said that he was so touched by his team’s 1-0, extra-inning walk-off victory in Game 3.
Unfortunately, he was alone at home to see the moment through a TV monitor.
“I was (at Sapporo Dome) until the ninth inning,” said Takeda, who pitched in Game 2 and probably takes the mound again in Saturday’s Game 6 at Tokyo Dome. “I left for home. And then when I got home, the game was still going. And when I was about to eat, it was still going. And I put hot water in the bath tub, and the game was still going and I couldn’t take the bath right away.”
When Yuji Iiyama smacked the game-winning sayonara RBI double in the bottom of the 12th, it was 10:45 p.m.
“I wish I could’ve enjoyed with my teammates. When you are alone, you just get so moved,” Takeda, 34, said. “But I still thought like, ‘baseball is really fun.’ “