Monday, July 17, 2006

Learn to Speak Japanese with the FSC Diary of the Softball World Cup Championship

Welcome to the FSC Diary of the Softball World Cup Championship between Japan and the US in Oklahoma City. Japan upset the US last year in the championship game. I expect the announcers to talk that up more than a little. As a long time Red Sox fan I expect nothing less. Now let’s go to the tape.

9:01 – First shot of Jennie Finch… way to hold off on the big guns, fellas. She’s not even playing tonight.

9:02 – I guess someone at Frosted Flakes couldn’t find anything else to sponsor.

9:02 – What the hell is that announcer’s name supposed to be? Ko-Ni-Su-Noo-Gai? Is that right? Did someone in the cultural sensitivity department mess up? Damn, I was so distracted by that I didn’t catch their names. Eh. I didn’t care that much anyway.

9:03 – Cat Osterman is pitching. She was the losing pitcher in last year’s final. She’s got good numbers this year, and she looked pretty pissed at being asked about last year’s loss for the 100th time. Not a good combination for the Japanese.

9:05 – Holy shnikies! I just looked up Osterman’s bio. She’s 6’3’’. She’s like the Randy Johnson of softball. All she needs to do is start looking like a carnie.

9:07 – The Japanese 5 hitter, Mishina, is hitting .462. Not bad.

9:08 – Announcers (“Ko-Ni-Eye-Land-Daug?”) just said that the US team has lost to this Japanese team in the last two international finals in which they’ve met. Why is it that the Red Sox and 1918 have inspired an entire genre of sports announcing?

9:10 – Osterman just threw a Rise ball. Did the announcer just make that up? I’ve never heard of that. Are they going to start naming her mistakes? “That’s her Throw the Ball Fifty Feet Away From the Catcher with a Runner on Third pitch. It’s a psychological weapon meant to artificially boost the other team’s moral and self-esteem.”

9:14 – Three up, three down. US up at bat.

9:18 – Caitlin Lowe, lead off hitter, batting .588 with an on-base percentage of .611 Damn. She’s on base with a single.

9:23 – Just to give you an idea of the offensive juggernaut that is the USA softball team - Natasha Watley, the number 2 hitter has 3 triples in 5 World Cup games and gets to base on pitcher’s error. The next batter, Jessica Mendoza, has almost as many RBIs as the whole Japanese team. Six batters in the starting line up are hitting .500 or better, and the team as a whole is hitting .485. Again - Damn.

9:26 – End of the first inning, US 2, Japan 0. The Japanese look like they’re capable of playing some nice defense; Emi Naitoh, their short stop, had a nice juke step to freeze US runners on a ground ball. But they’re making a lot of stupid errors, picking up two in that inning.

9:30 – I’m impressed. I made it to the second inning without thinking of Japanese school girl outfits. The smart bet was before the first pitch was thrown.

9:34 – Middle of the second. Six batters, five strike outs for Osterman. She-Johnson is chucking like 1999 Pedro.

9:41 – End of the 2nd, US 2, Japan 0.

9:44 – Announcers (Koo-koo-mung-ga?) bring up Jennie Finch’s maternity leave. Just thought I’d mention it as randomly as they did.

9:47 – I will say this – the Japanese players yell better than we do. I couldn’t understand them, but it was piercing.

9:51 – She-Johnson struck out the side for the second consecutive inning. Eight total strikeouts, the last seven in a row. I might never be as good at anything as Osterman is at striking out batters in this game.

9:53 – I think the Japanese manager imported her teeth from England.

9:56 – Announcer Koo-whatever: “[Third baseman Crystl] Bustos has the most power in her hands of anyone on the planet.” Somewhere Isiah Thomas is thinking of signing her as a shot blocker to come in off the bench, but not for less than $30 million over 4 years.

9:57 – End of the third. The Japanese pitcher, Yukiko Ueno, is starting to work it. She’s gone scoreless in the last two innings, only allowing one runner on.

10:03 – Announcer Not Koo-whatever: “Cat’s gotta be careful not to be too careful.” What? You can’t do that to the English language and get away with it.

10:04 – She-Johnson just let her first runner on base.

10:05 – Runner on first tried to steal second and got picked off by catcher Stacey Nuveman. Three and a half innings down.

10:10 – Nuveman’s got the first homerun of the game, her first of the World Cup. Nothing like a 220 foot moonshot (that’s the actual distance from plate to wall in the park).

10:15 – Lovieanne Jung has another homerun. US 4, Japan 0. Chicks dig the (sorta) long ball.

10:21 – I meant it about the screaming. You can hear some of the Japanese players over EVERYTHING. I gotta figure there are some 4-year olds in the crowd crying over this.

10:24 – And Naitoh at short might be the loudest of them all.

10:26 – My favorite part of these announcers: Not Koo-whatever translating the supportive screams from the Japanese players. She plays in the Japanese professional softball league (presumably run by the Japanese David Stern) and has picked up enough to know how to get psyched-out.

10:35 – She-Johnson retired the side again, third time in four innings. She must have been wicked pissed off at the Japanese after losing last year. Do you think she gets like this after being cut off in traffic? You know that friend everyone has who becomes a maniac on the road after some mom in a minivan accidentally jumps in front of them on the highway because the four kids in the back are throwing fudgsicles at each other and she didn’t quite realize what she was doing, but now that friend is plotting vehicular vengeance? I bet she’s like that. Think of it this way – would you cut off Randy Johnson in traffic? Same with Osterman.

10:38 – The Japanese pulled Ueno (that sounds like a medical conditioned, a pulled Ueno) and put in Yuko Endo.

10:48 – Sachiko Ito just hit a ball off her foot and didn’t even blink. If A-Rod had done that he’d be limping around, milking it. If A-Rod got into an ultimate death match with any of the girls playing tonight, I’d bet money on the softball player.

10:49 – She-Johnson just walked her first batter, top of the sixth. Still 4-0, USA.

10:54 – Nuveman lets a ball get past her and Japan scores its first run, 4-1, USA. But She-Johnson gets the next batter out on the first pitch. Middle of the 6th.

10:57 – I haven’t mentioned this enough, but these announcers are playing the “We used to be the best until last year, and now we’re back for our crown” angle like crazy all game. If it were a closer game (now 5-1, after a solo homer to start this half of the inning by Andrea Duran), I’m sure they’d be mentioning this a lot more, as in “Can they handle the pressure? Can they get this monkey off their backs?” Do they teach this in sports journalism school? Or maybe it’s a correspondence course.

11:02 – I just learned that first base is “hee-to-choo” in Japanese. Thanks, fellas, I appreciate the insight into the game.

11:03 – I like this Naitoh player – good screamer, lots of intensity and she’s Iceman freezing runners on the bases. She would have made the All-Star team in the NL this year easy.

11:06 – Not Koo-whatever actually just translated English to English from a Japanese player. Just because she has an accent doesn’t mean we can’t understand her when she says “Two outs.”

11:08 – Between the 6th and 7th innings, 5-1, USA. Three outs left for Japan. She-Johnson coming in to finish her work.

11:10 – Wow – this is truly impressive. Two hours in before we see gratuitous shots of half naked frat guys with USA painted on their chests. Way to show restraint ESPN. FSC salutes you.

11:13 – I’m going to hear Naitoh in my sleep tonight.

11:17 – Freaking bizarre ending – bad base running. The last Japanese hitter got to first on an error and then tried to take second, but got caught running. Final score – USA 5, Japan 2.

The USA finished the World Cup 6-0, outscoring their opponents 56-3. Nothing like parity. Congrats to the US Women, and to She-Johnson – Cat Osterman – who pitched a complete game and struck out 11. And congratulations to you, for finishing what became a much longer diary than I ever imagined. I can’t believe I watched an entire softball game when the Sox were playing.


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4:37 PM  

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