Atmosphere and food are key for Mariners' Japan trip
Take 2's Jon Kingston talked to a couple of Mariners about the team's upcoming trip to Japan including Chone Figgins, who has spent some time there before. With photos by Emily Hopwood.
PEORIA, Ariz -- The Mariners will head to Japan for eight days on Thursday for a couple of exhibition games against Japanese teams and the regular season-opening series with the Oakland A's before returning to Peoria to finish out spring training.
With a large Japanese following due to Ichiro, Munenori Kawasaki, and Hishashi Iwakuma on the roster, expect a very large and extremely loud crowd in the Tokyo Dome.
While spring training has its own unique feel to it, getting out of the laid-back atmosphere of the exhibition games in Arizona to a more raucous crowed in Japan will no doubt be a nice change for the players as they get ready for the season.
"The thing about over there is that they are cheering the whole game for both teams," Mariners outfielder/third baseman Chone Figgins said. "It's not just one side. When Ichi comes up to the plate there's going to be a difference, or Kawasaki, or even 'Kuma.' When they come into the game it will obviously be a big deal, but the best part about it is that they are cheering the whole game."
Chone Figgins is a big fan of Japanese Kobe beef (photo by Emily Hopwood).
Other than the Japanese-born players on roster, very few others have been to Japan before. Figgins spent a little time there on an All-Star tour so he has some insight, but most everyone else will be relying on information packets and tips from the Japanese players on what to expect.
"I'm excited for Japan," catcher Miguel Olivo said. "We've been working so hard to go there and show people Seattle and all the young talent we have, and to face Oakland over there. They say everything is nice and the people are really polite. In a couple days we'll see what's going on.
"It'll be nice," Olivo added. "People are waiting to see Major League Baseball players from all over the country and to go over there and play I think will be very nice."
It should be a good break for the players, escaping the monotony of preseason baseball. But baseball routines aside, one can imagine most of the players have exhausted nearly all their dining options out in Peoria and the West Valley.
For a group that loves food as much as this team does, the cuisine will play a large factor in how much they enjoy their trip.
"I think when I was in Japan, one of the best things was the dinner," Figgins said of his experience. "Going out and eating Kobe beef, steak and stuff. It was good, so that was probably the best part about it."