Japan: Getting Back In The Swing of Things
The Mariners had the morning off before heading to the ballpark so some players took advantage of what the area had to offer. Several players including Kyle Seager and Blake Beavan wandered over to the Esplanade Akasaka area to check out the small shops and others tried to catch up on their sleep (unfortunately some woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep).
Right around noon, a crowd of fans swarmed the sidewalk just outside the team hotel and one quickly found out why. Felix Hernandez emerged from the crowd after taking pictures and signing autographs, and right behind him doing the same was Alex Liddi.
Liddi later remarked, “they only asked me for autographs because I was with Felix.”
Getting to the stadium is an easy experience when traveling with the team, but if you’re adventurous like ESPN 710’s Shannon Drayer, you take the subway. Shannon, along with members of the MLB Productions group got to the Tokyo Dome with the help of Hide Sueyoshi, the Mariners Director of Minor League & International Administration. There was some trouble trying to purchase a ticket to the subway but after some poking around, tickets were printed (if only the “English” button was spotted earlier!).
The Mariners team bus left the hotel at 2:00 pm and after getting to the stadium, the players got on the field for the first time since Wednesday in Peoria .
Players began to trickle out half an hour before the 3:30 pm workout and started taking in the atmosphere that the Tokyo Dome provides. Players observed the end of the Athletics workout and soon they were on the field themselves.
There was a large crowd of photographers just in front of the dugouts and while they were snapping pictures of all the Mariners, they were clearly waiting for Ichiro. At one point Miguel Olivo tried to fake out the Japanese press by making it sound as if Ichiro was already on the field.
After stretch, players began taking BP and they soon began making trips to the stands. Mike Carp felt right at home, launching several baseballs into the seats. While plenty of players went deep, the home run of the day came from Carlos Peguero, who hit one off one of the billboards above the bleachers, specifically off the cheek of Shigeo Nagashima, the Japanese legend who teamed with Sadaharu Oh to capture nine straight championships in Japan.
Jason Vargas and Blake Beavan both pitched simulated games today and had an interesting defensive alignment behind them. Munenori Kawasaki was at his usual spot at shortstop but his double play partner was none other than than Ichiro.
In their simulated games, Vargas tossed 3.0 innings and made 64 pitches, while Blake Beavan tossed 2.0 frames and made 31 pitches.
On Tap For Sunday (Seattle times in parenthesis)
9:00 am (5:00 pm Saturday): Mariners bus departs for Tokyo Dome.
7:00 pm (3:00 am Sunday): Mariners vs. Hanshin Tigers