Closing Out a Fine Night

On Tuesday night, I had the privilege of going to watch the Hanshin Tigers face the Chunichi Dragons. Without going into too many details about the game (series recap will come out after Thursday’s match), suffice to say that there was little drama in the game itself, but it ended jubilantly.

I received an invitation from my friend Mark, who comes to town a few times a year, and often gets us tickets from his friend: Rafael Dolis. This night was no exception, except that (wait, does that count as an exception?) since we didn’t make arrangements for seats until the last minute, we were not super close to the field. Still, we were behind home plate just off to the first base side, a few seats away from all the media folk.

After the game, we were waiting around for Dolis to come out and see us. We (Mark and I, that is) wanted to make sure that the rest of the crew (especially Dolis’ brother and lady friend) got home safely. Anyhow, as we were waiting outside the stadium, a lady came up to us and asked to take a picture with Dolis’ brother, though she had no idea who he was. She just wanted a cool picture to remember the win by. Well, Mark accidentally told her that the man she had taken a picture with was none other than the brother of our team’s closer. She freaked out, others overheard, word got around pretty quick, and before long, there were literally a hundred people around us. Some of the fans were yelling out that Dolis himself was there. (I know they look kinda alike… but not *that* much! Plus, as I yelled to the crowd in Japanese: As if Dolis is gonna hang out near the stadium in street clothes just minutes after the game ended!)

Anyhow, we ended up escaping the mob, met Dolis, and he said, “What are you guys doing? You wanna go get something to eat?” Ummm… just like last time when I got asked if I wanted to go to his house, there was no hesitation on my part. Let’s GO!

So I recommended a place quite far from the stadium (location cannot be disclosed!), and off we went. We sat down, the five of us (Mark, me and the Dolis trio) and shot the breeze about all sorts of things. I can’t share all the details, at least not yet, but here were some interesting tidbits from the conversation:

 He recovered from his offseason elbow surgery way earlier than anyone could have imagined.

 After seeing one bullpen in Okinawa, manager Tomoaki Kanemoto told him he wanted to give him either the set-up or closer role.

 He and fellow countryman Marcos Mateo have a great time with their interpreter, Kuri. Mateo has taught him all sorts of bad words in Spanish.

 The food in the clubhouse is really good. (Dolis likes ramen but not udon so much.)

 Dragons’ starter Raul Valdes set a record in the Dominican Republic, striking out 20 guys in 7 innings of work. The one guy who got a hit basically threw his bat at the ball and grounded out to short.

 His favorite mounds to throw from are at Koshien Stadium and Yokohama Stadium, because they are not particularly high.

Just like last time, it was a real fun night. I’ll save the rest of the conversation for the podcast and/or myself – some things just need to be mine alone – the privilege (and luck) of being able to go out and chat with the players during their down time away from the field!

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.