March 2008

Window shopping

It was a rainy Monday here in Tokyo, but I still did a little shopping before our workout. I went to Shinjuku. It was kind of similar to Ginza, where I went shopping yesterday.

To tell you the truth, a lot of the shopping around here looks the same to me. It seems like they have a lot of the same stores around the city. There’s a lot of American stores. There’s a lot of American stuff around here. But it was cool to walk around and see more stuff. There was a Ralph Lauren, and everything like that.

I did buy some Japanese souvenirs as gifts for people back home. I only bought Japanese stuff that you can’t buy back in the States. I got stuff for my family members.

Tonight, we’ll go out and eat some sushi and just check out some more sights with some of the guys. It’s our last night of eating dinner here and just being able to hang out.

Youk_7

We’ll just get ready for the game tomorrow. We’ll go to sleep, probably around midnight and get ready to do the daily grind of the 2008 season -? same routine.

I’m looking forward to the sushi. It’s very good here, it’s very fresh and really good. It comes right off the docks here. It’s great sushi. You’ve got to get as much as you can because you can’t find this kind of sushi in the States.

Just watching the Japanese people interact, they are very respectful when they speak to each other. When they speak to their elders, they bow a lot to them. That’s something that is sometimes lost in America but is a ritual here.

I also learned from Jeff Yamaguchi -? Oki’s translator -? about the 45-degree bow. That’s the most respect. I’ve gotten a lot of those. It seems like you get them all the time here. Jeff is older than me, so he says, “Give me the 45.” I don’t understand it all, but that’s what he said. The lower the bow, the more the respect.

We get back into game mode on Tuesday. I treat every game with a similar mindset. We’ll go out there knowing it’s a regular-season game and we have to win and it counts on our record. We have to come out, be focused, not worry and just play our game. If we play our game fundamentally sound, we’ll give ourselves the best chance to win every day. That’s all we’ve got to do. Play the way we usually do.

The exhibition games were good here because it got us used to the time change and got us acclimated. We’re used to having a crazy schedule. We get in late a lot of the time and it’s rough during the regular season. We’re very good at overcoming all obstacles. This is a little bit of an obstacle, but we’ll go out and play hard and not worry about the obstacles. We’ll worry about just playing a ballgame out of the 162.

OF course, the big story out here is going to be Dice-K pitching the opener in front of the Japanese fans. That will be wild and exciting. The fans here in Tokyo will be really excited to see him pitch and hopefully he can control his emotions. He’ll probably have his adrenaline going. If he can do that, he’ll be fine I think.

As far as the time change, I feel like I’m on Tokyo time right now. It’s kind of tough when you play in the Dome though because the sun doesn’t come in. It gets you a little off. But I think I’m acclimated. It’s getting back that they said is tough, but hopefully I’ll be able to get back in the swing soon after we get to Los Angeles. But I feel good now.

Eating Matsuzaka (not Dice-K) for dinner

Last night, I ate Matsuzaka beef for dinner. It’s actually better than Kobe beef. It’s the best beef you can have. I guess Matsuzaka is a city or a region in Japan. No, the beef is not named after Dice-K! But it was very tasty.

We went down to Ginza today ?- which is like the shopping district in Tokyo — and looked at stuff. A lot of the shopping around here is stuff you see in America. It’s very Americanized here in Tokyo. It’s unbelievable when you come this far to see how similar it can be. The department stores and all that are very alike and very similar to the customs of the USA. But it’s cool.

Youk_6 We just tried to look for stuff, but we really didn’t buy much because we found out it’s very expensive. We saw a lot of stuff that we can get in the States for cheaper. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to get some Japanese culture stuff later on in the trip, especially on Monday’s off-day.

This city is so big, and it’s very clean. The streets are so clean. It’s very orderly. That’s the biggest thing that sticks out when you walk around.

If you say hi to someone here on the street, they’re very shy or a little nervous or timid. But down in the Ginza area, they’re not as timid. It’s just a little different.

It’s definitely the big city lifestyle here with 13- or 14-million people. There’s high rises here but it’s not as crazy as New York. It seems a little more spread out.

We’ve had a taste of playing games at Tokyo Dome the last two days against the Japanese teams, and it’s loud and a little different just to hear the constant crowd noise. It was cool. It was a unique experience that a lot of us never would have gotten if we didn’t come over here. To sit there and hear it, it was fun. When we played Hanshin, it was pretty loud out there in left field. I wonder if Manny Ramirez could hear anything out there. They chanted the whole game for their team. That’s great to see.

Hanshin threw their best pitchers at us. They’re good players and it was a close game. I don’t know if all the hitters on that team could hit consistently at the Major League level. That would probably be tough. They don’t like the hard heat.

It’s just a little different, because, I think, the pitchers here also pitch different. I was watching a baseball game here today and they use a lot of offspeed pitches. They use their fastball a little bit, but they really focus on the offspeed stuff.

The first few days here have been busy, no doubt. We got in so late Thursday night, then came to the park for the workout on Friday, and had the early game Saturday and another game today. I think a lot of us are looking forward to the off-day just to have fun and do all the things we want to do.

Once Tuesday hits, it’s the real season and we have to be on the road right after the game on Wednesday. For us, it’s just a matter of seeing the rest of the sights and getting all the good stuff we can for our family members.

Soaking It In

We?ve been here in Tokyo a couple of days and the biggest thing when you get here is just trying to get back on schedule with the time.

Our first day here, we really didn?t have much planned other than just coming to the field. I walked around the Tokyo Dome yesterday, and checked out what it was like outside the stadium.

I had some sushi for lunch and came here to the park to have a workout. Last night was that Welcome banquet and basically I crashed hard at 9:30 because I was just tired.

Newyouk_2
Today, I just went and saw a little shrine right by the hotel. I took some pictures, there was a thing there to make a wish. I did that, and the last thing was, we went to where the government building was here, took a picture there and just went back to the hotel and then headed over here for our game today.

I feel pretty good now. The big thing is to try to stay up as late as possible tonight. That could be tough. I?ll make sure just to stay up as late as I can because we have to get ready to play those night games, starting on Sunday. That?s my focus now, is trying to stay up. I?ll just go around and check out Japan and look at stuff tonight, see some of the sights of Japan I haven?t seen yet, do a little shopping or whatever. Hopefully I?ll get some cool things.

On the flight over here, I made sure to only sleep for about two hours. I just took a little nap. Once we got here, I slept about four and a half hours. I took a little Ambien and got four and a half hours. I woke up and I was wide awake.

Some of my early thoughts from being here is that it?s very densely populated and very interesting. I heard there?s 14 million people that live here. The streets are very narrow, there are no big SUVs. The vans and stuff are even smaller. The trucks are small. But it?s definitely a city that has order and it?s cool to see.

It?s very americanized. There?s English everywhere, like the names of restaurants and stuff, so it?s pretty cool.

I went around with Hideki Okajima?s interpreter Jeff Yamaguchi this morning. We were just hanging out today. We had breakfast, and he was just like, ŽLet?s take a quick walk?, so that was cool. It gave us something to do before we came over here. As we go on, I?ll probably just do some stuff and make sure I bring back presents for people.

I?ve heard that Japanese style baseball is very different, and we?ll see that in these exhibition games. But being a first baseman kind of stinks because I heard they bunt a lot so I have to move around a lot more than usual. There?s no Jason Giambi out here, where I?d have to play all the way back. But it should be fun, it should be interesting to see. It will be fun just to watch them as players. You never know, they?re could be a player over here that might come over to America and play at some point. It will be cool to see that.  It should be interesting.

Tokyo Dome reminds me of the Metrodome. It?s like being in Minnesota except for we?re not walking up all the steps to get on to the field like we do there, which is good. The dugout is interesting. There?s two rows. It will be very interesting because a lot of us guys, we like to stand up and look around. But we?re pretty good at adapting to our environment. I think we?ll be alright.

Of course, everyone is excited to see Dice-K and Okajima back here, but we?re treat
ed like celebrities here also.

I think once everyone on the team gets back on their schedules, this is going to be great, and a little easier. But we?re having fun. We?re enjoying it.

We?re going to make the most of it. As long as you have an open mind, it?s a lot easier out here. But if you come in negatively, you?re not going to have fun. I?m positive, I?m having fun. I?m excited just to be here and play and I?m going to make the most of my time here.

Japan, here we come

We?re ready and excited to go to Japan. If the flight could be cut down by 10 hours, it would be great. So the only negative thing about is the length of the flight. Other than that, I think people are looking forward to go see Japan. I?ve been hearing great things about the country and what it?s like to be there. I think the biggest thing right now is we want to see the culture and we want to see all the great stuff that Japan has to offer.

If you go there with an open mind and you?re excited, it?s going to be good.

You just have to stay positive. Hey, it?s two baseball games that count and two baseball games that could be huge down the road, so we have to go out there and not be negative and keep a positive attitude.

Me
The longest flight I?ve ever gone on before was Taiwan. In college, we went there my freshman year, we played three colleges over there. That?s probably about the same length flight as this one will be. It was long.

I remember doing a  lot of sleeping that time. But the biggest thing for me this time is I?m not going to try to sleep. I?m going to try to get accustomed to their time zone as quick as possible and then when we get back, I?ll try to get back on our time zone as quick as possible. It will be pretty tough, but we?ll try to work it out.

First and foremost, I?m there to play baseball. I don?t want to do too much where it?s going to put a toll on my body. If I?m tired, I?m not going to go do anything, I?m going to try and get some rest. We?re there to play baseball and that?s the first thing. But hopefully we?ll have some time to check out some cool things and be able to see what Japan has to offer.

It?s going to be great for Dice-K and Okajima I?m sure. You can definitely tell they?re probably going to be treated like royalty and they always tell us we?re going to be treated like royalty over there because they don?t get to see Major League games very often. I heard there?s a different kind of cheering over there, and how they go about the game. We?ll see how they react. It will be fun just to see another culture in the sport of baseball.

I?ve heard Tokyo is very Americanized, so hopefully they?ll treat us well. I think the hardest thing a lot of times is the language barrier and just trying to get things, like food or whatever. But some of us guys who go down to Mexico or other countries, we can speak a little Spanish. But none of us really know Japanese. It?s going to be a different experience for us.

It?s going to be a very eye-opening trip. The key is to try to have fun and enjoy it because it?s something you might not ever do again.

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