November 2006

Arrival in Tokyo

CyazThe last
day, or couple of days, have been a blur. We arrived in Tokyo after a 12-hour
flight yesterday afternoon around 2:45 pm, 12:45 am ET in the
States. Right away we were greeted by Japanese fans and media as we made our
way from the baggage claim to the bus. Although I was tired after a long day
of travel, the energy and excitement of the Japanese fans provided a quick
boost. I knew baseball in Japan was popular before the trip, but the fervor
of the fans at the airport demonstrated just how popular it really is. They
recognized every player by name and most wore some article of clothing
from various Major League teams. The number of fans waiting at the
hotel when the team bus arrived was even greater than the airport. It was
an amazing welcoming to the country.

Today we had the morning free
to explore the city, shop, sightsee or just rest. I walked around the hotel
area for a few hours before catching the bus for the team workout this
afternoon. The workout went smoothly and it was fun to finally be in the
Tokyo Dome. Kenji Johjima of the Mariners joined us today and his presence,
along with Tadahito Iguchi, attracted a great amount of media. The dome seems
to be a mix between the Metrodome in Minnesota and Tropicana Field in Tampa.
As far as the stadium, everything seems to be the same with the exception
of netting extending all the way down the foul lines, unlike Major League
stadiums, and the showers. The shower heads are low to the ground and each
shower has a mini stool where you sit to shower. It was not exactly what
a 6’10” person had in mind!

Ryan Howard and myself at Sensojo Temple in Tokyo.   The two of us stood out just a little bit in the crowded market.

After the workout we returned to the
hotel where we had a welcoming reception. It was a very elaborate ceremony
attended by both teams, many fans and corporate sponsors for the event.
There was a traditional breaking of the sake barrel to start the ceremony,
which consisted of a group of players, coaches and executives hitting
a barrel of sake with a baseball bat. Again, it was great to see
the support for the series and build some excitement for the players.
There is a lot of pride at stake here, especially because Japan won the
World Baseball Classic this spring.

As for the Japanese culture,
there are two major observations after my first day. One, it is hard to get used to walking on the left side of the sidewalk. The second
observation is how technologically advanced everything is. For example, cell
phones appear to be state of the art and sophisticated, and taxi cab doors are
hydraulic and open on their own. Ryan Howard had his picture taken with an
eager fan on his way to dinner, and by the time he came out of dinner, the fan
handed Ryan a copy of the photo to autograph! Overall the city is very clean
and the people are extremely friendly.

Tomorrow night I start the
exhibition game against the Yomiuri Giants so I am off to bed. I look forward
to getting back out on the field and competing against a very talented
Japanese team. I know my teammates are just as excited, and we hope to
represent Major League Baseball well and win the series.