After starting to get into the groove of things across the world for the first time on Monday, I actually slept a decent amount of time before waking up on Tuesday. I still woke up a few times throughout the night but I made it. I might just be figuring out this whole jet lag thing, although the real trick is going to be coming back. I am already pretty nervous for that.
I’m sure I will start to really catch on to the whole waking-up-at-a-normal-time thing just in time for our extra-early scheduled flight from Tokyo to Miyazaki on Thursday. As I’m ready for some sleeping in, my alarm will go off with a time that still has a three in the front of it. Can’t wait.
Moving on from the early pessimism in this post – sleep depravity makes me that way – I still got a chance to get some early work done before breakfast and was able to check in with the world a little bit. And by that I just mean heading to the Toronto Blue Jays website to see what the team has been doing since I’ve been gone. You know, the world. It’s really weird to me knowing that the team is at home at Rogers Centre and I’m not there, because this is the first homestand I have missed in my five years of working for the club. I don’t like it, but I love what I am doing instead.
Breakfast was a teeny tiny bit different on Tuesday. There was what appeared to look like ham instead of the not-very-cooked bacon and the eggs were cooked to look like they were sunny side up as opposed to coming scrambled, and they were without ketchup so that worked well for me. I brought an individual packet of peanut butter with me that I had taken from Moxie’s at the Vancouver airport, both because peanut butter is awesome and also because yesterday one of the little packets exploded in my backpack and got all over a whole bunch of my stuff so I want to make sure that doesn’t happen again and I don’t want to waste good peanut butter.
When breakfast was finished I had a little bit more time before the bus was scheduled to leave so I uploaded the pictures from the team’s visit to the temples that I didn’t manage to get to the night before. I have to say again that it was a pretty cool experience. No one but us would have been able to do such a thing.
The itinerary for Tuesday was a little bit different from the first couple of days in Kazo City. We travelled to Urawa so the Canadian Women’s National Team could play an exhibition game against Saitawa Sakae, the best high school program in the country for young Japanese women. Because the journey to get there took a significant amount of time, there was no practice held for the squad beforehand.
When we arrived to the stadium everyone was given lunch, which was a bowl of rice and something that was supposed to be beef but looked to me like another variety of mystery meat. A lot of the meat served here is very fatty, or at least it looks that way, so a lot of the Canadian women – including me – tend to stay away from it, though I find more reasons than just that one to do so. I actually did try a couple of pieces – I am hoping my mother is beaming with pride right now – but then I just opted out and ate the rice. Mystery meat is not for me.
While we “ate” lunch and before the team took the field, we got to watch the end of a game between two very young teams. I thought it was pretty awesome and I snapped a few pictures of them. They were young boys, probably about eight years old – though my age judgments are often incredibly poor – and they were really good. They had the fundamentals of baseball down pat. It was impressive.
When Team Canada made it out to the diamond, I headed to my post in the press box. At first and for the majority of the time I was alone in there so I utilized every single outlet I could to charge all of my technological devices and I got to work. It was going to be a big day and I didn’t want to miss out on capturing any of it. I got some more pictures uploaded and even more work done before the game began, so the day was off to a great start. Or whatever, since it was the afternoon.
Fellow Londoner Autumn Mills got the start for Canada and she was great. I snapped a few pictures throughout the game, excited to be on the other side of the field for once. For the first two exhibition games the team was in the third-base dugout but for this one they moved over to the first-base side. I tried to get as many pictures of the right-handed hitters that I had previously missed as I could.
Autumn went four innings in the game, which surprised me because I thought it was a lot for a warmup matchup, but she only threw 65 pitches and the righty was rolling so I guess it made sense. And I’m not a manager or a pitching coach obviously so I should just stick to writing the words. Her outing ended up being a huge boost for the team though because manager Andre Lachance ended up having to use four relievers in the game.
Heather Healey and Claire Eccles, two teenage rookie pitchers, made their Team Canada debuts on the mound and things didn’t go quite as anyone had hoped. They each ran into some trouble and in the end gave up six runs in the seventh inning. Saitawa Sakae eventually took the game by a score of 7-1. It was good for the two young hurlers to get the nerves out of the way before the Women’s Baseball World Cup is set to begin though, and they had an experience to learn and move forward from.
Shortstop Bradi Wall added another hit to her total in the exhibition series and rookie outfielder Kelsey Lalor drove in the only run for the Canadian women with a sacrifice fly, after walking and stealing second base in her first plate appearance of the day.
I was really proud of myself for taking a sweet picture after first baseman Amanda Asay came in for the run. I have really been trying to work on my photography skills and I am pretty sure they are getting better because I get to use them so much here. It’s awesome.
When the game ended, the two teams took another picture together. It is the norm around here apparently, at least during exhibition play, and this time the other team gave everyone a gift as well. They had made Team Canada paintings with our names and some meaningful Japanese symbols. They passed them all out and they had even made one for me, which of course I thought was pretty cool. I was really amped about it, but I tried to keep my excitement on the inside.
The team had to shower at the field, all taking turns in one of just four stalls, because we were halfway between our hotel and downtown Tokyo, where we were headed for a trip to the Embassy of Canada and then to the Tokyo Dome, so it didn’t make sense to go back to Kazo City for showers.
While the team was doing that I tried to get the game story done so that it wouldn’t have to wait until we got back from the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers game. I interviewed Andre an Autumn and actually managed to finish most of it before the team was set to take off. I also got most of the game’s pictures uploaded to Facebook before we left, so that was a big plus. I didn’t want that to wait any longer than it had to.
Eventually, I finished what I had left of the story on the bus and it can be found here.
I actually enjoyed the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo a whole lot more than I thought I would. We met up with Laurie Peters right off the bat, who does public relations at the embassy and she explained a lot about the history of the building and all kinds of other things to us as she gave us a tour of the place. The building was built by a Japanese-Canadian architect and the idea was for it to fit into the neighbourhood but to have a very Canadian feel.
The Canadian Embassy actually starts on the fourth floor of the building. It holds a very prestigious address and at the time it was built, there was a big economic boom and the real estate was incredibly valuable. They solicited people who would build for free in exchange for the first three floors of the building for 30 years. It was the first time Canadian taxpayers didn’t pay a cent on a foreign mission. The architect was inspired by both the elevated ground floor of Canada’s portion of the building and by his childhood treehouse and wanted to build it “in the treetops”, so on the way up to the fourth floor, the escalator is open to a beautiful little landscaped forest.
Around the outside balcony portion of the fourth floor, there are sculptures – they looked like rocks to me, but “sculptures” was the word used in the description – meant to represent the different parts of Canada symbolically. There are Inuit rocks in one corner and then a place where you “cross the Pacific Ocean”. I took pictures of everything, things I understood and things I did not.
There were also a lot of giant cardboard cut outs of Royal Canadian Mounted Police everywhere. I thought they were pretty awesome and I’m pretty sure I want to have one in my future house, should I ever be fortunate enough to be able to have a home of my own.
We continued the tour with the embassy’s gallery, theatre and library. Everything in the place is free to the public when it’s open. It was not actually open when we went there but they made an exception for the Women’s National Team. They’re kind of a big deal. The library is the most popular place in the building, with people coming often to look up post-secondary institutions to travel to in Canada. They love going to school in Canada because the country is not known for having heavy accents – considering the most popular destinations are Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, I can see that – it is safe, and it is affordable for them.
Before we left, the kind people at the embassy brought everyone up to the staff room for refreshments, offering a Canadian beer to everyone. They also had vending machines with french fries and hot dogs in them. I found that to be especially interesting so of course I took a picture. I also tried one of the fries from the machine because Sean bought a package of them for Penny. They weren’t bad.
While everyone had their beer I talked to one of the guys who had been walking around with us. He actually was just there as a volunteer and his regular job is doing work for a huge marketing company in Japan. Originally from Edmonton, he is also a lawyer – WHAT – but he said he gets bored easily so he needs other stuff to keep him interested. Also important to note is that he lives in an eight-hundred-square-foot apartment in downtown Tokyo and rent is six thousand dollars a month. If you’re wondering if you read that right, yeah you did. SIX THOUSAND. His company pays for it and he said if they didn’t, he would live in a place that was only two thousand bucks a month. Only.
We left the embassy to head straight to the Tokyo Dome, which wasn’t too far away from where we were. I had been in communication with Giants closer and Canadian Scott Mathieson throughout the day, trying to figure out whether the team could meet him before or after the game against the Tigers. He was super nice about it even though we didn’t really have a well-thought-out plan and didn’t have passes to get on the field or anything. He said he would meet us after the game wherever he could. He tried to arrange to have dinner with the coaches and staff but since we are staying in Kazo and not Tokyo, it couldn’t happen.
Upon arriving outside of the dome, my first impression of the area was that it was pretty awesome. There were a lot of baseball shops and restaurants and other things outside the dome, plus an amusement park with huge rides and other stuff. It was kind of like an outdoor mall and it was a pretty awesome place for a ballpark.
Going through the gates reminded me of the airport, just from the way it looked. I tried to stick with other people from the team because I was really afraid of getting completely lost during the game and/or not even being able to find my seat in the first place because our tickets were in Japanese. We all went the wrong way when we got inside at first, heading up to the second level only to be told we had to go back to the first. Our tickets were better than we thought.
We found our seats and were quickly informed that the team was going to be on the video board at the end of the third inning, so everyone had to stay in them until then. I got some pictures of the welcome on the board and promptly left to do a little exploring afterward. I wanted to get some souvenirs to take home for my family and according to the signs I found, I had to go downstairs into what I thought was the basement in order to do that.
I tried to get a Mathieson shirt but the women I was trying to speak with didn’t understand anything I was saying and we couldn’t make it happen. I ended up buying three shirts, even though I thought I was only purchasing two, and had no idea what sizes they were or what they said on them or even what they looked like because they were in tiny plastic packages with Japanese characters on the labels. Also as a side note, one of the women I was trying to deal with had an eye patch. The whole thing was an adventure. I got some keychains for my cousins and a few other small things and left not really sure about what had happened. If only I could read or speak Japanese.
Adjacent to the stand where I had purchased my souvenirs, I found crepes with what appeared to be bananas and chocolate inside of them, at least according to the picture. I wanted to get a message across to the vendor that I didn’t want whipped cream on mine, so I tried to point to it and use makeshift sign language, but as it turns out the guy understood me anyway. What a jerk I am, making assumptions like that. Right next to the crepe stand was a popcorn vendor with souvenir cups, so obviously I had to buy that too. It came full of caramel corn and I am not really into caramel corn so it might have been a waste, minus the container it came in. The cup is awesome and honestly could probably double as a purse, since it has a handle. Not bad.
O my way back to my seat I ran into a dude who looked pretty North American so I said hello and he extended a greeting in return. It was as if we knew each other. I guess that’s what happens when you finally find someone who speaks your own language on the other side of the world. Minus the crepe guy who spoke English. And the team. You get the idea.
I made it back upstairs with all of my freshly-purchased goods and joined everyone in the seats. I shared my great food choices with them, pretty proud of what I accomplished during my brief mid-inning shopping trip. Other people had found hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fries and other things that looked good but no one truly knew if they were what we thought they were. I learned that a couple of the players had also tried the roller coaster outside of the stadium before coming in for the game too and apparently it was an enjoyable experience.
The Yomiuri Giants were losing for the entire game before eventually walking it off in the bottom of the ninth. The atmosphere the entire time was absolutely crazy and amazing. There were more than fifty thousand fans, it was a packed house, everyone was cheering and wearing jerseys and making noise and it was really cool. In left field, there was an entire outfield section dedicated to the visiting fans, who cheered, played music, sang and yelled throughout every Tigers at-bat, on their feet the entire time. When the home team came up to the plate, a dedicated section in right field with flags and noisemakers and all kinds of crazy instruments made noise for them. Here’s a quick video.
When the Giants mounted their comeback, the fans got even crazier, if you can imagine. And when they finally walked it off, it was nuts. Here’s a quick video of that. Then, oddly enough after the game they picked the player or players of the matchup (I think) and brought them out to a portable stage in the middle of the field to ask them questions and give them a giant teddy bear version of the mascot as a kind of trophy. It was weird but kind of awesome at the same time.
Leaving the stadium was a little nuts too. It was crazy busy of course, but then when we walked through the entry on the way out, we were blown out the door by a strong gust of wind, apparently because of the pressure in the dome. I assume that’s what shooting out of a rocket feels like, and I hope to never really know.
We walked over to the Baseball Café to meet Scott, because he had agreed to find us there post-game. He talked about his experiences with Team Canada and how great it was for him and how much he cherished his moments with Baseball Canada. He said he hopes to someday play for the national squad again, and also mentioned that he loves the fact that baseball can take you places like Japan and all over the world. He was great.
A few times while Scott was talking to the team, young boys would walk up and try to join the group, taking pictures of him or waving or waiting for his autograph. He mentioned that in Tokyo he can usually get around without too much hassle, not always being stopped by fans, but in the other cities in the league his presence is more obvious.
I wanted to interview him for a story for the Baseball Canada website but we were already rushing to return to our hotel in Kazo and presumably he needed to get home as well. I should have recorded the whole talk that he had with the team but I was on the outskirts of the semicircle and I couldn’t hear everything and wouldn’t have been able to record it all. I asked him if I could email some questions afterward though and he said he would be happy to answer. What a guy.
We found our bus shortly thereafter and took the hour-long (ish) ride back to the hotel, where I promptly passed out for the night. It was a big day.