Mariners vs. Yomiuri Giants (March 26)

If you havent read about Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and George Sherrill making a visit to Camp Zama and riding a Blackhawk, Greg Johns provides us with a recap: Fly, Fly Away. More pictures from the Blackhawk will be uploaded to Mariners.com.

Having played a day game Sunday, it was the Mariners turn to play at night against the Yomiuri Giants. The biggest difference early on between yesterday and today was that the team was no longer in the same clubhouse they were in yesterday. Instead of coming down the stairs from the tunnel and going straight, there was a left turn, then a right, another left and finally a right to get into the clubhouse. The new clubhouse is unfortunately not much bigger than the clubhouse the team was in yesterday.

The team bus was a little late today so Eric Wedge‘s pre-game press conference was pushed back ten minutes while his team was taking the field for stretch.

During BP, Mike Carp was on a roll, launching ball after ball into the seats and he was joined by Jesus Montero who was hitting his home runs to right-center.

Michael Saunders gets his cuts in the cage.

As some of you may have already seen, Ichiro has a tendency to make catches behind his back during batting practice and today he did the same to the oohs and ahhs of the crowd. Basically, every time that a ball was hit to right field during BP there was higher than usual crowd noise in right field, all hoping to be the lucky fan that caught a ball thrown into the stands by Ichiro.

Former Mariner Phil Bradley has been here all week, making the rounds talking to Mariners front office staff, executives and players. Chuck Armstrong, John Ellis and Howard Lincoln  have all been regular down on the field for BP. Special Assistant to the GM Roger Hansen has also been a fixture down on the field and it is very clear to see how much he is respected by Japanese baseball. Roger spent a few seasons in Japan as the roving catching instructor for the Orix BlueWave and still has many friends in the Japanese game.

Roger Hansen, Taka Morimoto and Phil Bradley chat with a Giants team member.

Ichiro has obviously also been a popular target for meet-and-greets. Yesterday he met with a few Yomiuri Giants behind home plate and the night before, there were several players who were waiting for him to emerge from the clubhouse after the Hanshin game. It was fun to see as Ichiro had a big smile on his face when he realized who was saying hello. At one point, a Giants player who knew Ichiro brought out and introduced a young player to him and you could see the respect and excitement that this player had for number fifty-one.

Ichiro greets Yomiuri Giants players.

The assembled media on the field was thick and they were all corralled within barriers that prevented them from getting too close to the players and trying to get through the group makes you feel like you’re an amateur contortonist.

It was great to see a full stadium as the crowd poured in. Watching the highlights from the earlier game between the Athletics and the Tigers, it was clear that the game was not sold out. The crowd of 43,759 made for a great atmosphere and it was a great experience to hear the fans sing along to the National Anthem.

The Tokyo Dome crowd stands for the National Anthems.

As part of the pre-game ceremony (first pitch), it is curtomary for the leadoff hitter from the visiting team to step into the batters box and swing and a miss. Today, former Mariners pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa had the honor of taking the mound and fired a curve ball as Chone Figgins purposely took an exaggerated wild swing as a sign of respect for the right-hander. Chone and Shiggy know each other well from their days together with the Angels.

Chone Figgins chats with Phil Bradley and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.

The post-game news conference included Dustin Ackley and Eric Wedge. Ackley went first and answered questions about Opening Day, batting second this year instead of third and his general thoughts on the game. After a few minutes, Wedge emerged and took his turn on the stage.

Tomorrow, Eric Wedge and a few players will take a bullet train up to Ishinomaki Stadium where they will participate in a clinic for youths. Check Mariners.com later today for a recap of the event.

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