Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-4-12

Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Top of the 1st
So a guy walks into a bar. He’s got one arm significantly shorter than the other. As he enters the bar he notices a leprechaun. “Oh leprechaun could you make my arm like the other one?”

And the next thing you know – two short arms.

It reminds me of last night at Fenway. Last night, Billy-Ball and 36, 629 of his closest friends were at the ballpark (that doesn’t count the members of the press that would equal in number a good weeknight crowd at a Pirates game) to see the Sawx face the Mariners. As you approached the gate there was so much swag being given out your arms were laden by the time you approached the gate. English-to-Japanese baseball terms, samurai headbands, “K” signs in Japanese, newsletters, I didn’t notice if the “Jesus Saves” guy was handing out tracts in Japanese.

All this Hub hubbub because of the Fenway debut of Dice-K. The atmosphere was electric. My view was from the lush EMC Box compliments of Friend of Billy-Ball, Alex Bok and his parents who graciously adopted me for the evening (thank you, dōmo arigatō.). It was a magnificent venue to view the action, to both watch and experience the excitement. And it was indeed exciting.

The first pitch was delayed slightly from its usual precise 7:05 starting time, presumably while waiting for ESPN coverage, but from 7:00 until that first pitch around 7:11 the fans were on their feet as if in anticipation of the 9th inning of Game 7. In great synchronicity, Alex and I turned to one another as we waited for the Sox to take the field and said, “The tension is almost palpable.”

Then the Townies took the field and Dice-K prepared to face Ichiro. As, Matsuzaka squatted several times behind the mound, Ichiro stretched as he prepared to enter the box.

“That was a moment that probably only Daisuke and I could have created,” Suzuki said through a translator. “To be in that moment, I’m happy.”

He took the first pitch for a strike. “It wasn’t easy to throw with the flashbulbs going off,” Matsuzaka said, “but I’m glad I got a strike.”

“I didn’t want Ichiro to hit me the ball because you couldn’t even see the ball there were so many flashbulbs going off,” third baseman Mike Lowell said. “I was thinking, I hope he hits me a ground ball because if he hits a line drive right at me, I’m seeing stars. But it was pretty cool. We had two of the best players in Japan facing off against each other. That’s not something you see every day.”

But as Lowell would soon learn, this was not Japan, Toto, in the big leagues there are two pitchers in each game and the best may not be from Japan. As I was heading to the game last night I was talking with FOB-B, Brien Reich (the humping for his new book has officially started). Brien had the misfortune of attending Opening Day and watched his Mariners get creamed. Our conversation alternated between what a stiff Jeff Weaver is and what a treat it will be for me to see Felix Hernandez pitch. Oh yeah, everybody seems to have forgotten that the Mariners decided to contest the game last night and actually throw a pitcher against Dice-K, the Red Sox, and their doting fans. FOB-B, Bob of the women’s boutique “Float” who loves his Sox and knows his baseball seemed wary of Hernandez as well as we talked amidst the swarms in front of Fenway.

Why shouldn’t the cognoscenti be concerned? After all, when the M’s opened against the A’s, Felix, then 20 years and 359 days old, struck out 12, the first Opening Day starter to fan that many without allowing a run since Bob Gibson did it for the Cardinals in 1967. As Bob and I noted, Hernandez is the real deal.

The 1st inning progressed with Jose Vidro grounding a single through the hole off of Dice-K, one of four 1st inning grounders and 17 pitches. In the 2nd after the fifth straight grounder, Jose Guillen slammed a single off the Monster that most likely would have been a homer in any other ballpark and he quickly scored when Johjima doubled him to third (Kenji was 32 for 118, .271 against Matsuzaka in Japan), and scored on Yuniesky Betancourt’s short sacrifice fly to left, just beating a strong throw from Manny Ram