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Today our Championship hopes were nearly extinguished, as Yokohama came from 3-1 down to win 4-3, courtesy of a 3-run homer off Kyuji Fujikawa in the 9th innings. It’s the second season in a row that Kyuji has suffered in the closing stages – last season he gave up the homer to Woods that saw Chunichi progress to the final stage of the Climax Series. It’s a sad way to lose our chance, but one has to say that if we are unable to beat the Baystars at home, we don’t deserve to win the league. Chunichi now have a magic number of 1, meaning if they win their final game they win the league. Alternatively, if the Tigers lose one more game before then then Chunichi will win anyhow. There is still a lot to play for – second place, and the Climax series. And let’s not forget the mammoth season review that I will be writing following the conclusion of our league games. Still, today feels like the beginning of the end of Tigers 2010.

It just so happened that today’s game was also the final Koshien game of the season, and as such after the game Yano’s retirement ceremony was held. Yano has been a great servant to the Tigers over the years, and it was an emotional ceremony. It made me think of the impending ceremonies or Hiyama and, of course, Kanemoto – next season or the season after? These are all Tigers legends, and their (impending) retirement must feel like the end of an era for long time Tigers fans. Yano paid tribute to the club, the fans and to Koshien in his farewell speech, reprinted in Japanese below (from Yahoo.co.jp)

扇の要として阪神を支えてきた矢野は、「プロ野球に入ったころ、何年この世界でできるんだろうと思った自分が、こんなに長く、最高の野球人生を送らせていただきました」と20年間を振り返り、「最高のグラウンド、甲子園で僕の持っている力以上のものを出させてくれたファンのみなさんに感謝、感謝、感謝です」と、目に涙を浮かべながら感謝した。

Thank you Yano for all your years of service to the Hanshin Tigers!

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