Lotte Marines pitcher Hayden Penn has played in front of some excited fans before, but nothing like the rabid supporters who jam the bleachers at Chiba Marine Stadium.
"You don't see it in the States, where the fans are still into it in a 10-run ballgame," former major-leaguer Penn observed Tuesday. "They're great out here and it's fun to play in front of them."
Penn, 26, a right-hander from California, was plucked by the Marines from the Pittsburgh Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis at midseason. While pitching assignments in Japanese baseball can be as closely guarded as state secrets, there was a good chance Lotte skipper Norifumi Nishimura would be calling on Penn to go in Wednesday's Game 4.
"Just kind of a wait-and-see right now," said Penn, when asked when he would next get the call. "If they give me the ball, whenever that is, I'll go out there and do everything I can to help the team win."
In his last outing, a 3-1 loss to the Softbank Hawks in Game 2 of the Pacific League Climax Series final stage, Penn gave up one earned run on three hits and one walk over three innings before Nishimura got the hook out.
That was a stark contrast to a pitchers' duel Penn found himself in with Nippon-Ham Fighters ace Yu Darvish back in early September. In that one, Penn went 10 scoreless innings and Darvish went eight on a searing hot day before the F's eventually prevailed 1-0 in 12 innings.
"It's definitely a different game (in Japan) but I'm enjoying it," said Penn, a fifth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2002. "I have good teammates and the Japan Series, I've been lucky enough to get to the championship series my first year so I'm just enjoying it."