2017 – T-Ray’s Personal Top 5 Tigers Things

This was another incredible year of following the Hanshin Tigers via this website, the Facebook page, Twitter, and the recently started Instagram account! Here are some of my personal highlights, both as a fan and an amateur reporter.

5) Correctly Predicting the CL Standings

Back at the end of March on the podcast, I opened up a contest to the listeners. Send me your predictions for the upcoming season, and whoever gets it right wins a prize! It turned out that I was the only one to predict it right on the nose. Doesn’t make me a prophet or better than any of the other people who gave it a try. Just makes me luckier. But it still feels good to have picked it right.

4) Helping out on the Japanball Tour

In the spring of 2016, I sent out an e-mail to the Japanball tour, asking if they needed any help when they came through the Kansai region. I received a polite reply, but it was not what I was hoping to hear. But that fall when they came to town, the man who runs the tour wrote me and said they had a spare ticket. Would I like to join them? So I went, and it turned out to be an audition of sorts (though neither party was aware of it at the time). They liked how I interacted with the tourists. I liked interacting with baseball fans who were just getting to know Japanese baseball. It was a match made in heaven, of sorts. Fast forward a year (to September 2017). This time around, I actually got to take part in operations. I got people from Point A to B, answered questions about the game, life in Japan, and more. And while I was at it, I got to visit 3 stadiums for the first time: Hotto Motto Field in Kobe, Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium in Hiroshima, and Nagoya Dome in… Nagoya. I also had an incredible meal with the folks on the tour, and (see #2) even met some of the Hanshin Tigers!

3) Experiencing Great Baseball at Koshien

Here are some of the games I got to see this year…

April 4 (Kyocera Dome). Tigers lose, but the benches clear. It was one of the more memorable moments of the year, and I got to be there.

April 16 (vs. Carp). Tigers beat Carp! Season starting well and feeling positive about what’s to come.

April 27 (vs. BayStars). Tigers win! Eric Campbell gets his first career hit and RBI.

May 6 (vs. Carp). Comeback of the century. ‘Nuff said.

May 16 (vs. Dragons). Tigers win! Takumi Akiyama throws his first complete game in 6 years. Awesome game-ending double play.

May 25 (vs. Giants). Tigers win! Campbell hits his first career home run, and Randy Messenger dominates. My first ever time seeing the Tigers beat the Giants live.

June 13 (vs. Lions). Tigers win! Shunsuke comes out of nowhere to hit like a beast.

July 27 (vs. BayStars). Tigers win! If you’ve never sat in the Ponta Deck, you must try it sometime. It’s like watching the game from your back porch… which overlooks Koshien.

From there I went to 5 more games and saw nary a win… but I’m not complaining because of the incredible number of GREAT games I witnessed this year!

2) Meeting More Tigers

As seen above, I went to a game on May 16. The game itself was great, but it was also who I went with that made it special. A friend of mine is friends with closer Rafael Dolis. He was in town, and asked me if I wanted to join him at a game. And with him were a colleague, plus Dolis’ girlfriend and older brother. We got noticed by a few fans during the game, but after the game was even more interesting. We were hanging out by the stadium waiting for Dolis to be set to leave. Suddenly, Tigers fans came up and asked to take pictures with Dolis’ brother (who looks like him, but is hardly a dead ringer). One or two fans yelled out, “Dolis is here!” and before we knew it, we got mobbed. In the end, we escaped and caught cabs to a restaurant, where we had a quiet meal together. It was great catching up with Dolis personally. Maybe even better than the first time.

While on the Japanball tour (see above), I was fortunate to be able to catch a Tigers-Carp game in Hiroshima (September 7). What made things even more fortunate was that we were staying at the same hotel as the team! Before the game, I was told by one of the tour mates, I missed a chance to meet the team as they walked through the lobby in uniform. (Their bus was about to take them to the stadium, and I guess the players change in their rooms instead of the locker rooms?) Well, as luck would have it, I caught the team walking through the lobby on their way BACK from the game. I saw Dolis and Marcos Mateo, briefly greeting them, but then I had to shout out to Jason Rogers, whom I had previously spoken to on Twitter but never met in person. We got to talk for a few minutes. While I didn’t take a picture, it was still awesome to meet him!

And then there was the time I got to sit down and have a drink with a guy named Randy Bass. I tell you, it’s such a huge privilege to have reached this point in my coverage of the that I am offered opportunities to meet legendary players like this. I owe it all to former Rakuten GM Marty Kuehnert, who has helped with advice on some of my work here, and is Bass’ “manager” here in Japan for any business proposals. Anyhow, The Man was in the Osaka area to film promotions for Suntory Malt, and Mr. Kuehnert graciously contacted me and asked if I wanted to meet them briefly one Saturday night in October. I got to chat with them for a solid hour, and even recorded part of the conversation. I have every intention of transcribing it or using it on a podcast episode, so you’ll get to hear/read snippets of what he had to say. Interesting stuff!

I gotta say, even though I do not get paid to do this, there are a few really good perks!

1) Being Featured in Daily Sports

Yeah, so, an article about me was featured in a more prominent position on Daily Sports’ website page than the article about Prime Minister Abe. Just another day on the job here, folks.

If you want to read the article itself, click here. But here’s the story behind how it all happened:

Long ago, I opened up a logo contest for H-TEN. Someone wrote me and said he would enter the contest. The way he wrote was as though we were already friends. But we weren’t. Not yet. Anyhow, I ended up interviewing him on the podcast, and we stayed in touch here and there. Turns out, through his business, he uses a PR company in the Kanto area that also works with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. So his man at the PR company contacted people at an offshoot PR company in Kansai, who then contacted Daily Sports, and the interview was set up! I thought they were going to turn me into an oddball gimmick of a guy, but actually the reporter treated me and my story with respect. In fact, he is trying to set me up with other people in the industry! VERY nice guy. VERY nice people who helped get all this set up.

And here’s how it looked in the newspaper itself.

So there you have it. I thought 2016 was an incredible year (and it was), but I can say with 100% certainty that 2017 was even better. And something tells me we’re just getting started… I wish myself an incredible 2018, but more importantly, I hope you all have a great 2018 as well. H-TEN is here to serve YOU, the English-speaking Hanshin Tigers fans all around the world. Your happiness is part of what contributes to ours. Happy New Year, everyone!

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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.

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