Wedge and Griffey Visit Japan
Mariners manager Eric Wedge and Ken Griffey Jr. spent the past weekend in Japan.
The quick (48 hours!) jaunt to Tokyo provided an opportunity for the pair to help promote the Japan Opening Series 2012 when the Mariners and Oakland A’s will open the regular-season with a pair of games in the Tokyo Dome (March 28 and 29).
More importantly, it provided an opportunity for Ken and Eric to help spread their passion for the game to youth in Japan.
The duo flew from Seattle to Tokyo, leaving Friday the 13th, and landing about 6pm on Saturday the 14th. On Sunday, they drove about an hour outside of Tokyo to the Yomiuri Giants training facility to assist with a clinic for 110, 8- to 12-year-old kids from around Japan, including a special group from Fukushima.
Fukushima was devastated by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami and the 36 players from there (who took a four-hour bus ride to be at the clinic) are still dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy.
The clinic went about two hours; Ken and Eric (joined by coaches and players from Yomiuri) worked with the kids, gave an opening and closing statement, signed autographs and posed for pictures. Ken and Eric brought oversized baseball cards of themselves and, at the end of the clinic, the kids lined up and every player received a photo and a handshake for both Ken and Eric.
At the end of the formal clinic, Eric and Ken held a special meet and greet with the Fukushima kids; each child received either a Mariners hat signed by both guys, or a ball signed by both Ken and Eric.
Not surprisingly, in addition to the excitement and rapt attention paid to both Mariners, the major league players and staff from Yomiuri were very interested to meet, talk with, and (shyly) ask for autographs and photos from Wedge and Griffey.
Monday afternoon (after spending an hour at a sumo wrestling (!) tournament in the morning) Wedge and Griffey were joined by Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin for a news conference to talk about the Opening Series.
The passion for MLB in Japan is obvious, as nearly 200 media packed into a hotel ballroom to see the three, and ask questions about the two exhibition games and two regular season games in March.
Wedge and Griffey left about an hour after the news conference, and flew out of Tokyo on 6 pm flights. Thanks to the magic of time zones, Wedge was back in his office in Safeco Field (meeting with Jack Zduriencik) by 10:30 am Monday morning.