It’s hard to believe, but this is the Sweet 16th anniversary of the Cubs’ 2000 season-opening trip to Japan. To commemorate the blessed event, I found the original unedited Chuck Wasserstrom day-by-day recap – which turned out to be my original blog. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it back then – and reading it now. Apparently, I was funny back in the day!
This is the third and final installment of my retro posting. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed reminiscing about the trip.
March 29, 2000 (Day 6 Recap): Sunnyside Up In The Big Egg …
It’s really late here in Tokyo as I recap the day, but I’m under deadline pressure now (I’ll explain a bit later).
As you probably already know, we won the season opener 5-3 over the Mets. It was nice to get at least one regular season win out of this trip, as an 0-2 start would have made for a very, very long trip.
In case you were wondering, the “cute” nickname they have for the Tokyo Dome is “The Big Egg.” But anyway …
Before I give you a couple tidbits from this evening, I thought I’d share my morning activity. Because of this series, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo hosted a reception today in honor of some of the celebrity Americans making the trip to Japan. So a few of us tagged along which honored America’s own Mike Piazza and, of course, Sammy Sosa.
It was a neat experience, as I had never been to a U.S. Embassy before. I met Tom Foley, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, who formerly was the Speaker of the House (and not the Tom Foley who was formerly a middle infielder with the Reds and the Expos). Others in attendance including Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron, Lou Brock and Tommy Lasorda.
After the reception, which also included a buffet lunch and a nice dessert bar (best cheesecake I’ve had in Japan!), I went to the ballpark — and basically ran around for the next 9 hours. That brings about the question, can you legally run around with your head cut off like a chicken inside the Big Egg?
Once we got closer to game time, it was nice to have real gameday duties to do again. And one of the things I was scheduled to do was the in-house P.A. in the press box.
Approximately 40 minutes before first pitch, though, the in-house P.A. — which didn’t work for the two exhibition games — still wasn’t working. That’s when MLB gave my boss (Sharon Pannozzo) a gift to give to me — a bull horn to make announcements. Big mistake on their part. That also clinched that the in-house P.A. would work.
In the interim, though, I got to walk to the press box shouting “Konnichiwa” over the bull horn. Then, since we had a lineup change, I had the chance to use the device in the press box. This bull horn was the Mercedes Benz of bull horns, too! It was like giving a kid a book of matches. Of course, I probably woke up the electrician in the process.
The way the press box was set up, though, the official scorer (Bob Rosenberg) was 1 1/2 rows away from me. He literally had to send signal flares down toward me for me to make the announcements. At least I had the foresight to beg and grovel to the umpiring crew to signal all changes to me since there is no phone communication to the dugouts.
A couple last thoughts for tonight about the Big Egg … While it is absolutely uncommon for booing to occur at baseball games in Japan, that practice did occur when Sammy Sosa walked twice. Also, just so you know, when they do the wave here, it goes from left-to-right — just like in the States.
That’s all for now. Sayonara.
P.S. — As for the first-line mention of deadline pressure … It seems that my diary has been picked up by our publications department for Vine Line. I hope they have the guts to run my first-day “ass spray” line. As part of the diary, our team photographer, Steve Green, followed me around part of the day. It’s the first time I’ve had my very own paparazzi stalker. Or, as one of our coaches asked, “What’s the singular of paparazzi?” I’m sure you’ll all be looking forward to my Jaws Kiel smile.
March 30, 2000 (Day 7 Recap): The True Japanese Shrine …
We treated the Japanese people to one of the finest elements of America this evening — a four-hour extra-inning game. As I’m sure you’re aware, we lost, but at least we got out of here with one victory.
Before I tell you about my day, a travel tip for you — Don’t bruise a heel when you’re on the road!! Teeth … you can survive without. But when you hurt your heel and insist on going on long walks …
Another travel tip, Tokyo style. The best way to get around the trains is to travel in a flock. I don’t know why, since none of us can read the maps. But at least you seem to get where you want to go.
Anyway, I started my day with the nice breakfast buffet on the New Otani’s second floor. It’s very Americanized — so much so that tater tots and carrots have been part of my daily breakfast. I did get bold and try the Japanese version of Raisin Bran, which actually tastes like kibble.
After breakfast, a group of us headed for one of the Japanese shrines every visitor must see — the Pokemon Center. Yes, Virginia, Pokemon does exist here. Apparently, you have to go to this mecca to purchase the manna. I promise, no more made-up cliches.
I know just as much about Pokemon as my grandmother does (Hi Grandma!!), but this craze does exist. When the group got there, all you saw was this huge line going halfway down the block. Being ugly Americans, though, we bartered our way to the front of the line. Which leads me to …
I waffle-faced a little kid today!
The Pokemon Center is approximately the size of the players’ area in a clubhouse. Not a bad size for 40-60 people, but not quite big enough for double that amount. Unfortunately, keep multiplying up for an approximate number of people in this place.
Pokemon Center was like the train ride back from Tokorozawa, only with shorter people. And these children were just as unruly as their American counterparts.
One such future politician slammed into the side of me as he was running around. The reflex action (yes, I sometimes have reflexes) caused the bucket in my hand to bounce off his face. He had a little waffle mark, but he kept going. I don’t think I even slowed him down.
I think it’s safe to say that Pokemon Center had as much Pokemon-related paraphernalia as there is out there, although I can’t read Japanese. Since I was picking up stuff for others, I spent almost 12,000 yen — mostly on trading cards (I don’t think they have stale bubble gum in the card packs, though).
After the train ride back to the hotel area, I returned to the noodle shop I was at for lunch earlier this week. My Japanese is getting better, as I was able to order beef-u and rice-u — and please bring the fork-u. I believe those are three of the ten English words spoken in that establishment.
After returning onto hotel property, I finally got a chance to roam through the New Otani’s famous outdoor garden. That, of course, leads me to …
I stepped on a big fish today!
This garden had everything you’d picture of a Japanese garden — men trimming trees, carefully groomed bushes, flowers, waterfalls, and of course, big fish.
Fish the size of the children at Pokemon Center live in a small lake-like area. To cross the area at one point, you need to walk from rock to rock to rock — with about one-foot water gaps in between the rocks. I was taking pictures of the fish from one of the rocks, and I stepped aside to let some people by. As you can figure, Charlie Tuna had a human briefly standing on his back. The fish was fine. My shoe got wet.
Before heading to the ballpark, I stopped by a one-hour photo center in the hotel. They have this neat little thing here in which if you are willing to wait three hours for the film to develop, they will deliver it to your room — for a price less than if you want the pictures within the hour. As promised, my photos were waiting for me when I returned from the Tokyo Dome — along with a thank you for choosing them to develop my film. Can’t beat that!
I feel that I need to thank a few people for their help at the ballpark — most notably the umpiring crew and my press box translator. I spent more time talking to the umpires the last few days (Randy Marsh, Angel Hernandez, Ron Kulpa and Marty Foster) than I probably did over the course of the last five years.
Then there’s Nobuhisa “Nobbie” Ito, who translated every P.A. announcement in the press box into Japanese. Nobbie is the coordinator of international relations for the office of the baseball commissioner in Japan. He went to college in the U.S. at Ohio University — and had an internship with a minor league club in Boise, home of the Boise State University blue football field. This was his first time ever speaking into a microphone or assisting as a translator. I did my best to Westernize him in two nights.
That just about wraps up this installment — which probably is the end of the diary for me. We have an early morning workout tomorrow, then I’ll probably just come back to the room and get some work done. We need to leave for the airport four hours before our 7 p.m. flight (I hope that’s enough time), and then I get my first course in time travel — as we “technically” land more than three hours before we took off.
Assuming this is the final chapter of my Tokyo trip, I want to thank you for reading. I hope you received at least a fraction of the fun reading it as I had typing it.
For now, Oyasuminasai (good night), and Sumimasen, nihongo was wakarimasen (Sorry, I don’t speak Japanese).
See you soon.
Editors Note: No fish or small children were harmed during the typing of his journal entry. However, a heel is still bruised