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!
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.
Tomorrow morning we will depart for Japan to take on the Japanese
All-Stars in a five-game All-Star Series. I am extremely excited for the
opportunity to represent Major League Baseball and the San Diego Padres
in this event.
Today I reported to Arizona to join my teammates for the
last of three workouts before we leave; I missed the first two days
because I had to attend a wedding back home. The workout was an easy
one and it was good to get back in the swing of things with baseball.
Although our season with the Padres ended only a couple weeks ago, the
time off felt like an eternity. Standing on the field with such an
unbelievable group of players brought feelings of disbelief and
amazement. I cannot believe the talent on the team and I am completely
flattered that I was chosen to participate. I have admired and
respected all the guys on the team as opponents and now I can be one of
their teammates, if only for 10 days.
Tonight we had a meeting for the traveling party at the team hotel in
Phoenix. My wife, Liz, is accompanying me on the trip and it will be
the first time to Japan for both of us. We were given a short synopsis
of Japanese culture, etiquette, traditions and other topics we might
find useful. It was a very informative and helpful meeting which
increased my excitement for the trip. I am a little anxious about the
difference in Japanese and American cultures. The Japanese are very
polite by nature and I hope that I will not do anything they might find
offensive. I am excited to experience the Japanese culture and see
firsthand their customs, traditions and overall way of life.
As for playing against the Japanese All-Stars, it should be a very
competitive and exciting series. Japanese baseball is extremely
talented, as evidenced in the success of players such as Ichiro, Hideki
Matsui, Kenji Johjima, Tadahito Iguchi, Hideo Nomo, Akinori Otsuka and
many others in MLB. They also won the World Baseball Classic last
spring, so we will have to play at the top of our game to beat them. It
will be a fun and memorable experience to pitch against their best
players, in front of their passionate fans, in their home stadiums and
cities. I cannot wait to get over there.
The only thing I am not
looking forward to is the 15-hour flight! Tall people and airplanes are
not a good match!