Weeks 13 & 14: April 22nd - May |
Entries completed: April 22nd, 30th
A nice comeback for us in Tokyo. After getting swept against the Eagles we went into the Tokyo Dome and swept the Fighters. Hopefully that gets us back on track and we can put together a nice run.
This 10 day, 9 game road trip is finally over. We ended up 4-4-1. More importantly we are going home. The tough part of baseball has always been the travel for me. I am looking forward to getting home to see my family even if it is only for a few days. May is a nice month for us, we have a stretch where we will be home for two weeks.
Tokyo was fun, it was my fourth time there since I have been to Japan but my first time playing in the Tokyo Dome. The Tokyo Dome reminded me a lot of the Metrodome in Minnesota. It has the same roof, that off white that can be difficult to find pop ups in. The artificial turf is that new stuff they are using all around baseball, my favorite surface to play on. The dimensions are small, it is an easy place to hit homeruns but that is the case is just about all the ballparks in Japan.
The manager of the Fighters is Trey Hillman, an American whose is in his 5th year managing in Japan. He took his team all the way to a championship last season which was pretty remarkable considering where his team was when he got here.
Trey is a real nice guy, kind of a guyís guy, he would probably be really great to play for. Trey was nice enough to invite myself, Buck and Adam out to dinner. We met him and his bench coach, Dave, at Bubba Gump Shrimp right by the Tokyo Dome. We had a good time. Itís nice to get together with the other foreigners, players or managers, whenever you can. Itís like we have our own little fraternity. There are only 4 foreign players allowed per team and it has been my experience here so far that we all kind of keep tabs on each other and make sure everything is going OK.
On the way to dinner we had an unusual experience. As we were leaving the hotel two young ladies, about 20 years old realized that the three of us were Hawks players. To say they were excited would be an understatement. They immediately stopped walking and starred as we walked by. One of the girls seemed really overwhelmed and began making an unusual sort of high pitched sound as she covered her mouth.
In all my years of playing baseball I have never experienced anything like this. I have met lots of fans and signed lots of autographs but I have never seen a reaction like this. I was slightly concerned this girl couldnít breath.
We got a few hundred feet away and they decided to catch up with us and ask for autograph. They could barely speak.
One of the nice things about the fans in Japan is that they are very respectful. They get as excited as fans in the U.S. do but they never cross the line or make you feel uncomfortable. I have had incidences in the States where people would completely disrespect your privacy. It is those kinds of incidents that deter players from wanting to sign for fans. I donít expect any bad experiences with these fans.
The Hawks continue to roll. After dropping to 10-11 we have won 8 in a row to put us on top of our division at 18-11. Despite injuries to our starting shortstop and number 1 pitcher we are finding ways to win.
We had another local stadium game scheduled outside of Fukuoka in Kumamoto last week. If you have been reading this blog you know how I feel about local stadiums (Nightmare in Kitakyushu). Iíd be lying if I told you I was disappointed that the game was rained out. I did feel bad for the many fans of the area who came out to see us play on their field. There were a lot of them, they battled to rain to see their Hawks but unfortunately it wasnít meant to be. I did take some pictures in Kumamoto, you can find them under View My: Pics on my MySpace page.
My pitching has been so-so lately. I am really disappointed in myself. After walking just 1 batter in the exhibition season my walks have escalated sharply over the past couple of weeks. Ever since Kitakyushu, where I walked 4 batters in 1 inning, my control hasnít been quite the same. My concentration hasnít been what it should be lately. Sugimoto San has suggested I be more confident. Confidence is not the problem, if anything I am over confident and not focusing the way I should. There have been more adjustments than I anticipated here in Japan. Iíll be back to normal soon enough. Even with the walks Iím pretty content with how I have pitched.
Tomorrow is May 1st and essentially the first month of the season is over, 5 more to go. I have never had great control but I have never been this bad in one month either. I seem to have this pattern of putting myself in a hole early in the season with my walks. By the end of the season everything usually balances out.
It is obvious Mr. Oh is frustrated by my walks. I havenít pitched in any of the last 4 games. The last time I pitched I threw the 9th inning and allowed an unearned run in a game we won 9-3. In the States allowing an unearned run in a blowout game goes virtually unnoticed, nobody cares, especially if you have done a pretty good job the rest of the season. Itís not quite the same here in Japan. Everything goes under the microscope.
We made an error that inning and it ended up costing us a run. It was no big deal, the game was a blowout, 9-3. I didn't think anything of it.
Nobody here notices what you did well in a game like that. Nobody says if we didnít make that error the inning would have been fine. Everybody makes mistakes in this game. I made a mistake with the walk, the 3B make a mistake with the error, it was no big deal, no harm was done and we won by 6 runs. Suddenly I am made to feel by the feedback from the coaching staff that even though I have a 0.87 ERA, done well with inherited runners, havenít allowed any HRís or blown any leads, that I am not pitching well. Part of Japanese culture seems to me to focus on the negative and nearly ignore the positive. I operate differently. You're going to make mistakes, remember what you did right and try to repeat that as often as possible.
Things are virtually day to day here especially in the bullpen. With the exception of the closer, roles in the bullpen are constantly changing. Iím not used to that. I have been spoiled with a tremendous manager the last two seasons in Indianapolis. He ran a great bullpen and the pitchers benefited greatly from it, my manager was easy to pitch for. You almost always knew when you were going to pitch, he knew how to get guys to suceed. That was then and this is now, I just have to be patient and wait for my next opportunity. When I get it I have to be ready for it.
Understand that what I am sharing with you are some of the day to day struggles that come along with playing abroad. I wouldnít trade this experience for anything right now. I love being here and I love the challenges that I have to meet in order to be successful here. I am not complaining or wanting things to change. Itís my job to adjust to life and baseball here, not the other way around. I am confident that given the opportunity I will get my walks under control and be a pitcher that the team can count on. I have to go out and re-earn that trust.