I went down to LA for the WBC finals this week.
Back in January, my friends Dave and Dani were buying tickets to the WBC finals. Dave was flying in from the east coast and Dani lives south of LA anyway. But they also didn't mind watching WBC games that didn't involve the Japanese team. Me, I was pretty heartbroken in 2013 when Japan lost on the first semifinal, then I watched the second semifinal with my Dutch friend and the Orange Embassy, and then the final game was rainy and awful and we barely watched it and instead just hung out around AT&T Park with other grumpy Japanese fans.
This year I was worried even -- what if I made plans to come to LA and then Japan didn't even make the finals?
So while I bought a ticket in January, I didn't actually make travel plans until last Thursday, when their game order was confirmed. Chris said I could use our car and drive down, and I asked my friend Kevin if I could crash with him since I hadn't seen him in a while and he lives relatively close to the Google LA office, and so that's what I did.
Japan's game this time was on Tuesday, the second semifinal. So instead of driving down on Sunday, I spent all weekend solving puzzles (we finished 11th in the Galactic Puzzle Hunt -- maybe I should write about that sometime too) and drove down on Monday night.
Actually, even worse -- since rain was on the forecast on Tuesday I really wasn't even sure if I'd drive down until I was literally in the car and on the way south on 101. I decided that I wanted to go because of 1) adventure! 2) seeing my friends, not just D&D but others that would be there, and 3) Japan winning the WBC again would be awesome to be at!
I was kinda scared of making the drive to LA alone, but it turned out to be not so bad. I stopped halfway to get dinner and gas and I made it to Kevin's place shortly after midnight. Met his cat, sat up talking for a little while, went to sleep around 2am I guess.
I had a meeting at work at 10:30 and had reserved a room to call into it from in LA, so I got up early and drove down to the office and all. I was supposed to have lunch with Cort, too, but then he ended up not coming into work that day, so instead I spent the day by myself camping out in a minikitchen and at least did some work.
Left around 3pm, briefly stopped back at Kevin's to drop off my laptop, get my baseball stuff and an umbrella, and then drove to Dodger Stadium. You'd think that leaving at 3:45 for a 6pm game would be okay, except LA traffic is ridiculous, and so getting from Santa Monica to the stadium took me two hours. Seriously. LA drivers are terrifying. Google maps had me avoid the highway, too, so that took me through even more interesting but terrifying routes.
I got to Dodger Stadium at 5:30, parked, walked up, etc, and got to my seat at like 5:45. Of course it was good to see Dave again (we have been Japanese baseball blog friends for a decade, but I only first met him last year at Fighters training in Arizona) and even though I saw Dani last month in Arizona, it's good to see her too (she's my "Fighters sister" on Twitter).
We had somehow managed to get seats RIGHT under the overhang on the upper deck, so rain wasn't really falling on us, but I didn't keep score anyway because I didn't want my book to get wet. I tried to keep score on my phone and had to give up after like 2-3 innings.
Which is just as well because the 4th inning is when the US went up 1-0. Which made me grumpy but it was also about the time that my friends Jason (from the Japan Times) and Kevin (another Swallows fan) came over to hang out anyway, so instead of watching the game I stood in the concourse chatting with them (and Dani) for a while.
Kikuchi hit a homer to make it 1-1 but more sloppy wet fielding and ground rule doubles and things happened and the US got another point in the 8th and won the game 2-1 in the end.
Honestly, I don't really remember most of the game action. I remember singing the Yamada and Aoki songs and Sho Nakata, and I remember seeing Kodai Senga pitch well, and there were these really ridiculous USA fans a few sections over with drums and stuff singing really stupid songs and trying to drown out the Japan ouendan (I don't think they understand how that stuff works). And I had heartburn for a while so I had chest pain which was a little weird (and why I mostly sat there quietly for the last few innings). I was also excited to see a Puzzles and Dragons ad on the scoreboard (Gungho was a sponsor) and it was fun seeing Hideo Nomo (and Tommy Lasorda??) throwing out the first pitches.
But ugh, Japan losing kinda sucked, yeah.
We hung out after the game for a while -- I bought a WBC lanyard and we looked at stuff in the Dodgers/WBC store, and took some photos outside, and were talking trying to decide what to do, when I got approached by a guy with a media badge who saw my jersey/cap/etc and was like (in Japanese), "Hey, nice getup, do you speak Japanese?" and I'm like "Yeah, why?" "I'm with the Asahi Shinbun, can I please interview you for an article I'm doing about the fans here?" "Uhhhhhh sure?"
So we talked for about 5-10 minutes in Japanese -- he asked me questions like, my history as a Japanese baseball fan (I told him about seeing the Fighters 15 years ago, moving to Japan to watch baseball, living in Tokyo, etc, being a big college fan too), and like, who was I cheering for tonight (as a Fighters fan, Sho Nakata, and also as a Swallows fan, Yamada, of course) and what did I think the Japan team lacked -- why didn't they win? And I was like, "I don't think they lacked anything. I think that the problem was the weather. It was raining, which is a difficult condition to play in anyway, but also, the USA players have played in this kind of rain at Dodger Stadium and on grass fields before, but remember that the Japanese team played and won all their games up to now in the Tokyo Dome, on turf, indoors... and so because of the rain, they didn't get to practice on the field before the game, too, so I think they were at a huge defensive disadvantage." He also asked what I thought of the style played and I was like "I cannot believe they had Tetsuto Yamada bunt, but other than that, it wasn't that bad."
Well -- some part of that all made it into his article. Check it out:http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASK3Q1W61K3QUEHF001.html
Unfortunately, while we were chatting about all that stuff, the two guys from another Japanese baseball blog, that I really don't particularly like very much (mostly because the one outspoken immature one keeps trying to pass themselves off as experts on the NPB, despite that neither of them speak Japanese or have even been to a goddamn game in Japan, and they steal translations and other things from people all the time) came up like "HEY it's you guys!!!" to Dani and Dave and me and the reporter and all. It was funny because the reporter said to me "Oh, I saw those guys yesterday... but I couldn't really talk to them... you seem to know them, what's their deal exactly?" and I was like "They're really not my friends. More like internet stalker wackos."
So it was super awkward but after finishing our interview he asked if he could take a photo of our group, so that's what you see in that article there. Whee.
Also he asked my age, which is always a thing they include when mentioning people in articles -- but he was like "yeah, I know women don't like to talk about their age but, how old are you?" I probably could/should have lied but I didn't, so now that is also a little embarrassing -- my Japanese friends who saw the article were even like "hahaha! he got you to admit your age! you're not so good at keeping a secret, huh?" but I countered that with "Come on you guys, you know I went to my first Fighters game after I graduated college, and it was in 2003, so surely you can do the math and figure out I have to be at least 36?"
But still! It's exciting when I make it into the media and actually find out about it. (I was interviewed a few times at Fighters spring training in Arizona this year -- and I was even used as an interpreter in an interview with Dan Evans!! but I didn't get to see any of the footage because I don't think it ended up on Youtube. Unlike last year where I got on camera in a Koibito Erabi thing going "What, no Kagiya??" which people back in Japan thought was absolutely hilarious)
Anyway. After that, the parking lot had cleared out enough that I drove back to Kevin's place. Even though I took the highways, it was terrifying in the rain.
So I decided to just take Wednesday off and drive home. Kevin and I went and got brunch at a fantastic place in Santa Monica that had croissant french toast, and I dropped him off, and then I hit the highway to go home.
It was raining really hard at some points during my drive, which was absolutely terrifying, but on the other hand, there were lots of rainbows, and I like rainbows. I stopped off at Tejon on the way out to get gas, and stopped off at Harris Ranch not to eat but to also refuel and to chill out for a while because I was beginning to get super nervous after being on the road in the rain so much. Harris Ranch turned out to be nice enough to just get a cookie from their bakery and sit on a couch and use the restrooms and whatever until I was feeling better, and then I didn't stop again until I hit Gilroy, where I got dinner at Famous Dave's BBQ, and then I got back home at about 9pm.
It's funny how I just don't remember the game details of games like this but it was still a very very memorable trip and I'm glad I made it.