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Dan Shaughnessy

So far, so good as interesting scenes abound

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Dan Shaughnessy
March 24, 2008

TOKYO - Scenes from Japan on the long and winding road with the Red Sox:

  • David Ortiz and Daisuke Matsuzaka wore eyeglasses when they participated in the breaking of the sake barrel at an official welcoming party Friday night. "I'd never seen Daisuke with glasses," said chairman Tom Werner. "It worried me a little. Maybe he needs glasses."

  • The locals will notice something missing when the Sox and Oakland A's warm up for tomorrow's opener. Neither team will be in front of their dugout doing calisthenics in the final hour before the first pitch. The traditional Japanese pregame routine includes a series of Jack LaLanne exercises that would remind you of high school gym class. Makes one want to see Manny Ramírez do a few jumping jacks before taking left field.

  • During batting practice, Japanese hitters use bats designed to show marks so the hitters know where they are making contact. The two-cage BP system is fascinating, especially since there's a coach hitting fungoes at the same time. Amazing nobody gets killed out there.

  • I have yet to hear a complaint from anyone representing the Red Sox or A's. The players and staff are getting the royal treatment and it seems everyone genuinely likes it here.

  • The Yomiuri Giants are the Yankees of Japan, signing all the high-priced free agents, including cleanup hitter Alex Ramirez. Alex played with Manny Ramírez for two years in Cleveland and is a Japanese legend. The Giants also have relief pitcher (Bronx born) Marc Kroon, who can throw 100 miles per hour and played for San Diego when Sox general manager Theo Epstein was cutting his teeth with the Padres.

  • The famous Koshien high school tournament is in full bloom and I stumbled across some fascinating action on the hotel television yesterday. With two out and a runner on second in the bottom of the 10th, a teenager dropped a fly ball in center field to lose the game for his team. At the end of all Koshien games, players from both sides go through a litany of public rituals and this boy cried uncontrollably throughout - on national television. Harsh. And hard to watch.

  • Japan is an on-time nation. When the Sox first arrived at their hotel last Friday morning just before 2 a.m., they waited for bags to be delivered from the airport. At 2:25 a.m., Tim Wakefield, J.D. Drew, and several other players were in the hotel's lower lobby, waiting for baggage, when an official told them that the bags would be arriving in five minutes. Assuming this meant another hour, several players turned for the elevators to go to bed. "No," said a Japanese man. "This is a Japanese five minutes, not an American five minutes." Five minutes later, the bags arrived.

  • This from Oakland traveling secretary Mickey Morabito: "We are the Washington Generals on this trip. That's OK. We have a lot of young players and this trip is a thrill for them. It was the same when Tampa played the Yankees here. Any time you're going against the Red Sox or Yankees, you are the "other team.' "

  • There are heated toilet seats in the Sox' hotel and Dustin Pedroia told teammates he wants to get one when he returns to the States.

  • A Red Sox contingent of 15 will visit the US Embassy in Japan at noon tomorrow, guests of ambassador Tom Schieffer, the brother of CBS's Bob Schieffer and a former Texas Rangers partner with a fellow named George Bush.

  • Tipping just isn't done in Tokyo. Waiters, cab drivers, and housekeepers expect to get stiffed. It's the anti-New York experience. Larry Bird would love the place.

  • Strange seeing Kevin Youkilis standing a few feet from Oakland GM Billy Beane at the welcoming party. It was Beane who dubbed Youk "The Greek God of Walks" in Michael Lewis's "Moneyball."

  • It's not unusual for the local media to applaud players and managers when they are introduced at press conferences. Must make them feel like Patriots players and coaches being interviewed on WEEI.

  • At the train stop near the Sox' hotel, unlocked bicycles stand in racks all day long. It's the same with umbrellas. Locals leave them outside train stations and they are still there when the folks come back outside. Like we were saying, the anti-New York.

  • Curt Schilling is due for his first weigh-in on the trip. Unable to pitch, he stands to make an extra $2 million in incentives if he comes in below weight for each of his six weigh-ins. Barring that, he can stay here, go Sumo, and hope the people give him his weight in gold on his birthday.

  • After missing the last train to his aunt's home of Kawasaki, Globe staffer Daigo Fujiwara found a 24-hour batting cage in the Shinjuku section of Tokyo and took a few swings at 1:30 a.m.

  • There was a cantaloupe on sale for close to $100 in a food store in the Sox' hotel.

  • Your faithful correspondent turned down an opportunity to be Wally the Green Monster for a day. Sox executive Meg Vaillancourt extended the invitation on the flight to Japan and publicist John Blake sent out a memo inviting any media member to don Wally's suit for a few innings. It would have been nice to find out what it feels like to be loved by Red Sox fans, but the assignment somehow seemed to lack dignity. I mean, where do you go in this business once you've been Wally?

  • Like me, Jerry Remy is something of an accidental tourist: Try to replicate a trip to Cleveland and everything will be OK. This means USA Today, air conditioning, ESPN, room service hamburgers. Most of our ugly American needs have been met. Rem-Dawg has been frequenting the Trader Vic's in the team hotel because he knows what he's going to get. Told about a local restaurant he might like, Remy said, "Is it outside the hotel? No way."

    The off campus restaurant menu offered sweet shrimp with mixed shrimp guts, chopped squid arms, raw horse meat, and broiled prime beef stomach.

    Rem-Dawg and I, we'd rather see a Werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's.

    Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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