NAGOYA – With the Dragons’ surprising 2-0 start to the ongoing Japan Series, their loyal fans may be able to see something they hadn’t expected before it began: manager Hiromitsu Ochiai being tossed in the air at their home house.
The fans surely would believe that Chunichi would win the NPB championship banner, giving the outgoing Ochiai a fitting final prize.
But perhaps they wouldn’t imagine that the reigning Central League champions would wrap up the series in Nagoya, the site for Games 3, 4 and 5, against the strong Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.
“There’s no doubt that we were believing our side would win,” said Katsuki Hayashi, a middle-aged company employee and a Dragons fan from Nagoya, before Game 3 outside Nagoya Dome along with his wife on Tuesday. “But there was no way we would imagine (the Dragons) would take the first two games in Fukuoka.”
Hayashi added that it is a shame Ochiai, who has brought the Chubu club to the Japan Series five times, won’t be in charge after this year. But he thought that factor gives the fans an extra reason to cheer for the team and push its championship run.
“I wasn’t sure what the club’s thoughts were on that,” said Hayashi, who was wearing a replica jersey of Chunichi second baseman Hirokazu Ibata, of the ballclub’s decision to let the skipper go. “But in terms of whether he’s a good manager or not, his records will tell everything.
“Anyway, now we’ve got the chance to be able to see his doage (victory toss) here. That would be the greatest way of winning a championship.”
Meanwhile, there are some deep baseball fans that think anything can happen in the game as well.
Yoshio Takahashi, another company employee who’s a Dragons supporter from Nagoya, warned that the team still had to win two more games to clinch the title and for him it is still a long shot.
“All right, if it’s one more win to go, I’d be feeling differently,” Takahashi said, also outside the stadium. “But it feels to me like the team’s come half way (there).
“Don’t get me wrong. I really want the team to win the championship. I love manager Ochiai. But as he and his players said, you’ve got to play one game at a time.”
Though Takahashi is cautious about other fans’ hype to even expect the series sweep, he said that it would be a bonus to watch the team grab the title and Ochiai’s toss in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
“It’d be like a dream come true,” he said with a smile. “The team hadn’t won in Fukuoka for a while but it did win two there, and now it has a chance to wrap it up here? That’s crazy. That’s almost like a drama or something.”