If you follow our Web site or read out paper, you know by now
that we’ve contracted with Sportspress Northwest for Art Thiel’s
coverage of the Mariners’ trip to Japan.
In case you’ve missed it, here’s the three columns we’ve
published to date:
Nintendo-Ball Part I: Mariners bucked system with Japanese
Nintendo-Ball Part II: Last year for Ichiro, Yamauchi?
Boss will be a no-show for Ichiro, M’s at the Tokyo Dome
You can also follow @Art_Thiel on Twitter
Thiel’s also blogging during his trip to Japan. Here you go:
Tokyo Blog: Ryan should have been Japanese
Saturday, 8:20 AM
TOKYO — Told that in Japanese baseball, the record holder for
sacrifice bunts was held in nearly the same reverence as Americans
held home run king Hank Aaron, Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan’s
eyes grew wide.
“Really? Oh, man, I should have been born Japanese,” said Ryan,
throwing his arms in the air. “I’d be so big here.”
Ryan probably would have fit well in Japan, where sacrifice,
fundamentals and execution carry more of the baseball day than the
power game played in the U.S.
“I know in America, chicks dig the long ball,” he said in the
clubhouse before the Mariners took to the Tokyo Dome field for a
workout Saturday. “Do they like the short ball here?”
There was no documentary evidence to provide an answer. But
checking out the Tokyo Dome, as well as the observations of
those who watched and played the game on both sides of the pond,
here’s few differences for newbies:
*What Japanese pitchers lack in power they make up for in
mastery of breaking pitches. The best are unafraid to throw
breaking pitches on 2-2 and 3-2 counts, where American pitchers
mostly rely on fastballs.
*The typical Japanese offense is more conservative, eager to
scratch out the first run of the game and defend it. Hence the
frequent use of the sac bunt.
*Some sections of the stands are organized for cheers with
actual cheerleaders, but elsewhere are sections where fans watch
quietly, leading some American players to describe the atmosphere
often as cemetery-like.
*Tokyo Dome oddness: Built in 1988 with a fabric roof like
Minneapolis’s Metrodome, the capacity is always officially listed
at 55,000. But in 1990, a newspaper audited every seat and came up
with a little more than 42,000. No one has disputed the
calculation, but a sellout is always listed at 55,000.
The bullpens are under the main grandstand, accessed through an
unmarked door in a hallway.
A couple of hundred VIP seats on the field down the right field
line have no protective netting, so each ticket holder is issued a
helmet and glove, and is expected to leave both at the seat after
GAME TIME – Games get underway Sunday (Saturday
in Seattle) when the Mariners play an exhibition game against
Japan’s Hanshin Tigers at 8:06 p.m. PDT (12:06 p.m. in Tokyo).
There is no TV, nor of the Monday game against the Yomiuri Giants,
the Yankees of Japan. That game gets underway at 3:06 a.m. Pacific
Monday, 7:06 p.m. in Tokyo.
ESPN 710 radio will carry both games. The Oakland A’s will play
Yomiuri Sunday evening after the Mariners, Hanshin Monday before
The regular-season games between the Mariners and A’s are
Wednesday (3:04 a.m. PDT) and Thursday (2:04 a.m. PDT) and will be
televised live on ROOT Sports (also on mlb.tv) and rebroadcast
again at 7:30 p.m. PDT.
The two games with the A’s will also be broadcast live on 710
ESPN Seattle radio, then replayed in their entirety immediately
after the games finish.
If you tune in a name may be familiar: Playing first base
(not catcher) for Hanshin is Kenji Johjima, who caught 462 games
for the Mariners between 2006-2009. Johjima was an average major
league hitter but the language barrier and his style of catching
troubled Mariners pitchers and he eventually returned to Japan and
CLUBHOUSE INTRUDERS — Ichiro, who hit seven
batting practice home runs in a workout Saturday — not unusual by
his Seattle BP standards — was asked what is unique about the
Japanese style of game.
He said he didn’t think anything was unique, but the baseball
environment was different here than in the U.S. He said he could
offer a long list, but the only one he mentioned was “media aren’t
allowed in the locker room in Japan.”
Food and drink is also forbidden on the field and in the
clubhouse proper. So why would the media want entrance
anyway? Not for quotes like that.
Tokyo Blog: Ichiro hitting leadoff — from
Friday, 10:21 AM
TOKYO — Wearing a pork-pie hat and high-water jeans, the hipster at
baggage claim looked a little familiar, except he was just about
“Welcome to Japan,” I said. He smiled.
“Let me welcome you to Japan,” he said. I beat Ichiro by an hour
Friday, but he had me by 38 years and change regarding trips to his
The Oakland A’s charter flight, bearing some media personnel,
arrived about an hour ahead of the Seattle Mariners charter at
Narita International Airport. So a few us from Seattle decided to
wait, then jump on the Mariner buses for the drive to the Tokyo
Ichiro was once again hitting leadoff. Because he is a Japanese
national, he had a much shorter customs line to navigate than the
foreigners. So he was first through customs and first down the
escalator. A few Mariners staffers showed up to start grabbing
bags. Ichiro’s baggage cart quickly filled up with suitcases. The
fashionista was not about to be caught in his homeland with just a
couple of change of clothes.
After passing through bag check he was greeted at the exit by
several dozen screaming fans and about 50 or 60 media personnel
awaiting his arrival. He whooshed past them and onto the waiting
bus before I could ask whether he would recommend a restaurant so
we could sample one of his favorite delicacies: Beef tongue. (It’s
true that he likes it and false that I would try it, but what else
to talk about at baggage carousel 5?)
His hurry was understandable, but fruitless. Friday night rush
hour combined with a steady Seattle rain to make the bus trip a
two-hour crawl to the Akasaka-district hotel. The 12-hour plane
flight seemed almost easy by comparison.
The players will work out the trans-Pacific kinks Saturday at a
Tokyo Dome workout, before the Major League Baseball teams play
exhibition games Sunday against the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri
By then, Ichiro will be hitting third. A new custom.