From Tokyo to Osaka

We just wrapped up Game 4 with a 7-2 win over the JapaneseAll-Stars. It was a great all-around
effort, including two RBIs by Brian Schneider and Jose Reyes and home runs by
David Wright and Ryan Howard. I started
my second game of the trip and this one went better than the first. I was still a little rusty, but
Schneider did a great job behind the plate calling pitches and keeping my
focus. Sometimes it is a challenge
pitching to a catcher for the first time, but he made things extremely
comfortable. It?s great to have won the
first four games and hopefully we can complete the sweep tomorrow night in Fukuoka.

Clockwise: Chase Utley, myself, Joe Mauer, Sarah and Lyle Overbay and Brian Schneider on the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Yesterday was an eventful day traveling from Tokyo to Osaka. We departed Tokyo
for Kyoto via the bullet
train. In Kyoto
we were treated to a great lunch, some shopping and a magnificent tour of the Golden
Temple. The temple was incredible, as it is
surrounded by water and truly plated in gold. It is at the base of a mountain and the weather was a little cooler than
we were accustomed. It was rather

A picture of me walking the streets in Japan.  As the cliché goes, I stand out like a sore thumb.

From Kyoto we
bussed to Osaka, arriving around 7 p.m. For
dinner Liz and I joined Lyle Overbay and his wife Sarah for a steak dinner at an Australian steakhouse. Although I have enjoyed the food in Japan,
the dinner seemed like a familiar restaurant back home. After dinner we wondered the streets of Osaka
trying to find a taxi. There seemed to
be many lined up along the streets but none were for hire. In the end we walked back to the hotel,
enjoying the cool, crisp fresh air and entertaining conversation. It was a perfect night to cap off a great


More sightseeing, and another win

Howard480Saturday was another great day here in Tokyo. Today was the first organized sightseeing tour and it was very interesting. We started off at Asakusa Kannon, Tokyo’s most famous temple. The legend has that two fisherman caught a golden statue of Kannon, a Buddhist goddess, from the river. A shrine was built in her honor and later a temple in AD 645. The architecture of the shrine was of more traditional Japanese style, as compared to the tall, modern skyscrapers that are prevalent in Tokyo. Thousands of Japanese aligned the streets and steps of the temple, gathering to pray. It was a funny sight to see a group of tall and strong MLB players towering over the friendly Japanese people. We got a lot of funny looks and giggles to say the least. From there we took a short boat trip down the Sumida River where we disembarked at Hamano-rikyu, known as Samurai Gardens. After a short stroll through the gardens we were treated to a traditional Japanese lunch consisting of different types of sushi.

Joe Mauer cleaning his hands in accordance with Japanese customs at the Sensoju Temple. After cleaning your hands, you are suppose to drink the water, which Joe decided not to do!

Standing in the Kannon temple gave me great appreciation for the history of Japan, which dates back much much longer than the United States. America seems like such a new country relative to the ancient history of other places like Japan. It was a wonderful experience to see a traditional, ancient part of Japanese religion and to understand how it impacts Japanese culture today.

As for baseball, we came away with another solid, but close win. The star of the day was Ryan Howard, who hit two of the most impressive home runs I have seen. The first was an opposite field line drive and the second was a moon shot to dead center field. The home runs came in his first two at bats of the game. When the Japanese pitcher walked him on four straight pitches in his third at bat the fans became very upset, voicing their displeasure at the pitcher. It was pretty cool to see the Japanese fans excitement over the home runs and how they wanted, and perhaps expected, a home run each of his following trips to the plate. Another bright moment occurred when Tadihito Iguchi smoked a double down the left field line to score two runs. I’m sure it was a great feeling for him to have success in front of his native fans. Lyle Overbay provided the finishing touches with a homerun in the top of the 9th to extend our lead and Brian Fuentes closed out the game to earn the save. The two games against NPB have both been extremely competitive and exciting, exactly what was expected of the series. Fortunately we have come out on the winning end both times.

Dye, pitching staff lead us to victory

Mlballstars480_1 Yesterday, we got off to a great start beating Nippon Professional Baseball, 3-2, in an exciting game. Jermaine Dye hit a monster two-run home run and John Lackey, John Maine Scot Shields and Joe Nathan combined to hold down their hitters. After Jermaine’s home run, he was greeted at home plate by two little children with flowers — instead of boos! It was an electric atmosphere, including the ceremonial first pitch being thrown out by the Prime Minister of Japan I was very impressed by the Japanese All-Stars and I expect that the games will certainly not get any easier. Bronson Arroyo will start today followed by Chris Capuano and hopefully we can pull out another win as we continue the series.

Brian and Jordan Schneider and myself at the market near Sensoju Temple.

A trip to Japan would not be complete without a little — or a lot — of pearl shopping. Yesterday, we ventured out via subway to Roppongi to Yonamine’s PearlShop. Wally Yonamine was a former football player for the San Francisco49ers, who then came to Japan and played professional baseball before an injury ended his career. He and his wife, Jane, then opened a small pearl store in Roppongi. It was a very impressive experience in a small store, where the walls are covered with pictures and autographs from baseball players, actors and even Presidents. It was amazing to see photos and signatures of Joe DiMaggio, Warren Spahn, Roger Clemens, Jodi Foster, Hillary Clinton and Ronald Reagan to name a few. Needless to say, it was a fun experience and we completed most of our Christmas shopping. Mom, I hope you like pearls!

Our exhibition game against the Yomiuri Giants

Cyoung480_1Hello again from Tokyo! Our first result was a tie in
an exhibition game against the Yomiuri Giants. We had a great ninth-inning
comeback, highlighted by a two-run home run by David Wright to tie the game at 7. It was amazing to see the display of power from Andruw Jones, Ryan
and Wright. It’s a neat feeling to cheer when those guys hit
home runs, instead of being on the other side and giving up home runs to them! Personally, I did not pitch as well as I would have hoped,
but thankfully my teammates picked me up. I was a little rusty from
the time off, but I should be ready to go for my next game against
the Japanese All-Stars. The atmosphere in the Tokyo Dome was loud
and energetic. There was a band in the outfield bleachers, and the
Japanese fans sang a different fight song for each hitter. I only expect it
to get louder as we take on the Japanese All-Stars. One unique feature
is that the bullpens are not on the field, rather they are back behind
the locker rooms. Pitchers warm up back there out of view from the fans
and opposing players.

After the game I went to grab a quick bite to
eat around the hotel, and I was astounded by the generosity of the Japanese
fans. While signing autographs, many of the fans gave me gifts that are unique
to Japan and their culture. The gifts included decorative hand-held fans,
coasters made of kimono silk, a bottle of sake, business card holders
and chopsticks to name a few. They are extremely excited to hear
my impressions of Tokyo and proud to share tokens of their culture
with me. Everyone has made an attempt to speak English, which I
greatly appreciate, and many people are fluent. The warmth and hospitality
we have received is tremendous.

Tomorrow we start our series and it
should be very competitive. John Lackey gets the start and he will get
us started on the right foot. It will be fun to sit back and watch some of
the greatest players in the world compete, and hopefully,
we will