Tigers have it both ways
The Hanshin Tigers on Sunday found a way to honor Randy Messenger, who is retiring with 98 career wins over 10 seasons, and bring their drive to the postseason down to the final game of the regular season.
Sure, it’s only third place and a spot as the visiting team in the Climax Series’ first stage, but a lot of people were blown away when the 2010 Lotte Marines won their final three games to sneak into the playoffs — only to run the table and walk off with the Japan Series championship.
The Tigers’ road requires six-straight wins, and three of the first four were shutouts.
Tigers 6, Dragons 3
At Koshien Stadium, Naomasa Yokawa broke a scoreless fifth-inning tie with a pinch-hit home run off Yuya Yanagi (6-8) and Hanshin took a 6-0 lead into the ninth. Kyuji Fujikawa, who has been solid as Tiger closer in the second half, allowed three runs in the ninth.
Game highlights are HERE.
Leaving a ‘Big Mess’
Randy Messenger notched his 1,475th career strikeout to open the first inning, and walked off the mound at Koshien to a thunderous standing ovation.
After the game, the Tigers held a retirement ceremony, when Messenger addressed the crowd.
“It’s hard to believe 21 years have gone by so quickly, especially the 10 years here with the Tigers. It’s been a great experience. I’d like to thank the Tigers for giving me the opportunity to spend my whole career being a Tiger. Playing here has been and outstanding journey for me and my family.”
“I will never forget anybody who helped me along the way in my career. So many people have helped me become the baseball player I am today. I want to say thank you to my coaches, my teammates, the training staff, everybody who’s been a part of this organization. Arigato.”
“And thank you for going to battle with me. It’s been a hell of a journey. I want to thank my mom and my dad, my family and friends for all the support you’ve given me in my career.”
“Thank my beautiful wife, Vanessa. You are my rock. You have always been there. You pushed me to be the best on and off the field.”
“You are an amazing wife and mother to our four awesome kids, Francesca, Colette, Rome, and Roland. Tigers fans, thank her as well. Without her I would not have accomplished so much. Thank you Ness.”
“And to all the Tigers fans all over the world. Thank you for the support through good and bad times. Your passion is tremendous.”
“Playing here 10 years has been incredible. I will never ever forget it. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.”
“Players can only dream of the amount of support you’ve given me. There will always be a special place in my heart for all the Tigers fans who have ever supported me.”
“As an athlete, you never want this day to come. You want to play forever. Now that this day is upon us, I say so long until the next time we meet again.”
After his speech from the mound Messenger received bouquets of flowers from a number of Tigers players and one each from his four children and a final one from his wife, who got an impressive Hollywood-worthy kiss as the crowd roared.
His teammates surrounded him on the mound and gave performed the celebratory “doage” toss, throwing him in the air repeatedly as the fans cheered before he walked around Koshien as fans showered him with streamers that are usually reserved for winning championships.
Great way to use all this stuff
I loved everything about the ceremony and the speech, but it made me wonder if the whole foul up with Takashi Toritani wasn’t the result of a front office mix-up, where someone jumped the gun and bought and paid for all the supplies they’d need to produce a first-class retirement ceremony before anyone was certain he actually wanted to retire.
In that scenario, someone has to inform the team president that having already spent all this money, it might be a good idea if they had a player to hold a ceremony for. This would explain the team going to Toritani out of the blue and telling him it was time to retire. Was all that production money spent on Messenger’s wonderful sendoff actually spent for Toritani?
I’m not saying this did happen, but if it did, it wouldn’t be the dumbest story I’ve heard coming out of a Japanese front office.
Buffaloes 5, Hawks 1
At Kyocera Dome, last-place Orix proved it could count to six as the Buffaloes gave starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto the six innings he needed to qualify — and win — the PL ERA title in their season-ending win over SoftBank.
PL attendance up 3.1 percent
NPB announced Sunday that the final PL attendance figures showed a 3.1 percent increase in announced attendance compared to 2018, with every team increasing except for the Nippon Ham Fighters, who saw a 1.3 percent drop.The Orix Buffaloes saw an 8.2 percent increase, while the Rakuten Eagles were next best at 7.0 percent.