Waking up at a relatively normal time on Thursday makes me think that perhaps I am really catching up to this jet lag thing. It makes sense that I would do that just in time for a scheduled wakeup on Friday before four in the morning. Maybe I’ve really got this all figured out (obviously not at all). But I don’t need to get to the early wakeup yet. I’ll save that for tomorrow.

I headed for breakfast and was the first one there this time, so I actually must have been up earlier than I thought. Usually the people who get there first opt to sit on the floor because it seems more authentically Japanese and they are embracing the culture, but really it kind of hurts my back and my knees, and getting up and down for water is just a hassle, especially when you have to go past another person in order to do so. Maybe I am just over the whole authenticity thing. So instead, I opted to sit at a table. There are tables in the restaurant, and they’ve been there the entire time we’ve stayed at Kazo Center Hotel but for whatever reason, no one wants to use them until the floor seats are all taken. I switched it up.

I just like this picture of the team from practice at Kazo Center Municipal Sports Center.

I just like this picture of the team from practice at Kazo Center Municipal Sports Center. I’ve used it before.

At breakfast Rena, the team’s Kazo translator, informed Andre that there would be no exhibition game that day. It had rained too much and the grounds were wet and unplayable, but she said the team would be able find a place to practice indoors instead. That seemed to suit the manager but he inquired as to whether the barbeque would still happen, because the team the Canadian Women’s National Team was supposed to match up against was also planning on hosting a post-game event for the squad from north of the border. That, as far as Rena knew, was still on.

When breakfast was over and I had eaten my usual piece of toast and bun and maybe a small bit of the eggs on the plate they served every single day, I went with Sean to get some lunch. He said he knew a good sushi stand that has everything ready in the morning for people to pick up food on their way to work and take it with them for their lunch so I thought I would see if they had anything edible for me, just in case lunch was not so great again. I am not sure I can live off of just white bread and white rice for much longer. Plus a little part of me wanted something more for breakfast and was thinking about just diving into whatever I found.

We learned just before we left for the sushi stand that the lunch option was going to be McDonald’s, so we were making a wise choice. Everyone ended up vetoing that anyway so it was going to be a free for all for the second meal of the day, but still. We got to the sushi place, which was really close to our hotel, and I found some giant rolls with what appeared to be cooked tuna in them. And that is, in fact, what it was. So I got some of that and Sean ordered the same thing, plus some rice balls for Andre and some dessert thing. Sean offered to hold onto everything until lunchtime instead of each of us carting around our individual portions throughout the morning. I felt as though this was the only way I wasn’t going to eat everything immediately, so I graciously agreed to this plan.

Everyone took off for the diamond not much longer. We all headed back to the place we had been at for the first two days in Kazo City so it was familiar territory for me. When we got there, Rena (I think) took Andre for a tour of the gymnasium where the practice was supposed to be held. It wasn’t quite up to snuff so we all sat around in the parking lot for a while so that other people could figure out the team’s options. While the players played some solid team-building games, I did short tossing with Kate Psota, the squad’s first baseman. She had an early thumb injury and was just starting to test it out, so as a soft thrower, I was a good candidate for a partner.

Eventually they decided just to use the field at the Kazo City Municipal Sports Center, because it really wasn’t all that wet and it was better than the gym. But the team also used the gym for some indoor drills, and had to switch into shoes the facility made available when they were in there. Interesting concept.

Oh you know, why not another picture of the Tokyo Dome?

Oh you know, why not another picture of the Tokyo Dome?

I headed into the office at the field and got some work done and did some picture uploading. I also got a chance to talk to Rena about the Yomiuri Giants game at the Tokyo Dome. I think the original plan was for her to come with us to the game but Hiroko was kind enough to give her a night away from us – I think she needed it – and sent her to a spa instead. Rena seemed interested in the game though and had never been to one before so I showed her the pictures I had taken as I uploaded them to the Baseball Canada Facebook page. I also asked her how much our tickets would have been worth, because they were decent seats, and the price on them was about forty dollars. It was very similar to the cost for the value at Rogers Centre at home.

When practice ended I went out to the diamond to find Jen Gilroy. Earlier in the trip she had talked to me a little bit about her volunteer work back at home in Toronto with Ve’ahavta, working with the homeless and even experiencing two days of legitimately living on the street. She even had her shoes stolen while she was sleeping, and they were tied to her backpack that she was using as a pillow. She had mentioned that she wanted to give tickets for next year’s Pan American Games to some of the people she volunteers with to share her experience with them. I found it all very interesting.

Since there was no game scheduled for Thursday anymore, that meant I could write a feature story for the Baseball Canada website instead of a game story. So I wanted to use the opportunity to write it on Jen and her plans for the Pan Am Games – the baseball portion of the Games being held in Ajax – and I knew she would be willing to do so.

Jen Gilroy, the subject of one of my feature stories for Baseball Canada.

Jen Gilroy, the subject of one of my feature stories for Baseball Canada.

As everyone was packing up to leave the field and walk back to the hotel, Jen was heading out to first base to take some extra ground balls from Sean, just in case she might be needed at the position sometime during the tournament. A regular catcher, that was the first time I had seen Jen in the infield. Sean offered me my lunch, which I happily took and ate while I was waiting for them to finish. It was great and I had already pretty much decided that when I got back to the hotel I would go back for more.

When they finished, Jen was more than willing to do the interview so we got her done right away. I originally thought it would make sense to do it as we walked back to the hotel but she wanted to stay and work out – a fact I misunderstood at first – so she wanted to do it at the field. We did and then I honestly wasn’t sure which way to go back to the hotel (we had been given a ride on every other occasion) so I said I would wait for her.

My misunderstanding led to me working out with Jen, Autumn Mills and Ella Matteucci. All I really wanted to do was walk back with some familiar faces but when they started talking about their workout, Autumn jokingly (pretty sure) asked if I wanted to join in. I didn’t want to look like a wimp so I said yes and opted in. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

We did a short 25-minute workout that I think was called Tabata, or something like that. We had to do sets of squats, rows, stairs, sit-ups and burpees. None of these activities are appealing, and they are especially hard when you’re doing them eight times in a row for 20 seconds each time with a 10-second break in between. It may not sound all that hard but let me tell you, it was hard.

I pushed myself throughout the entire workout because, duh, I didn’t want to look bad. I somehow managed to get through it but have no idea what they were thinking of me. I was too happy that it was over to worry about that by the end of it though. That workout is going to leave a mark though. It’s remarkable how out of shape I’ve gotten. I really need to step it up before the next marathon.

We all walked back together and I stopped to point out the sushi place where I had gotten my early version of lunch. They were impressed by the cooked tuna rolls and decided to head back for their own meals. I got more and took it to my room to try and write the story on Jen. The rolls were so big I couldn’t eat them all, but we did have tiny little fridges under our desks so I threw them in there. Depending on dinner, I figured I might need them later.

I got the story done on Jen and Ve’ahavta and the Pan Am Games, and it can be found here for your reading pleasure. Then I got into a little more writing before being informed that our schedule was changing and we were going to be leaving earlier than planned. That took away my option for a shower, but then with another knock at the door I was informed that we were back to the original plan so I didn’t have to smell it up for the barbeque. Fortunately for everyone else.

Before we gathered to leave, Andre called a staff meeting. At first, I felt important to be a part of it and then I just got worried that I was going to be in trouble for some reason. I don’t know why, but I guess being called into meetings has always made me nervous. But there was no reason to be in this case. Andre talked about who would deal with what going forward and my role is pretty well-defined so that was relatively simplistic.

Everyone set off for the barbeque shortly thereafter. The bus ride was an hour so I brought my tablet and tried to get some work done along the way. I did get through a little bit but not much. It’s tough on the bus.

The variety of jerseys made me think that the players were from two different teams. Jen Gilroy in the middle.

The variety of jerseys made me think that the players were from two different teams. Jen Gilroy in the middle.

When we arrived, it looked like there were two teams there to eat with us. Some had orange jerseys on and some had blue jerseys. They might have just been workout shirts or something but for the purpose of my description, we’re going to call them jerseys.

Welcome to the barbeque. For a while, I'm pretty sure no one knew what was really happening.

Welcome to the barbeque. For a while, I’m pretty sure no one knew what was really happening.

They were all split up among several different tables and we were told that we all needed to split up and join them. I went to a table with a lot of empty chairs because I figured that meant a lot of people I was familiar with would be joining me.

Other tables of people at the barbeque.

Other tables of people at the barbeque.

I was wrong. Ashley and Jen joined me but that was pretty much it. The rest of our table was Japanese, so we started things off by addressing the language barrier. And by that I mean we just talked amongst ourselves trying to sort through what few words in Japanese we knew. Our immediate goal was to figure out what the food was that we would be cooking. Much like the Chinese restaurant that we went to, we had trays of raw food, with a little grill in the middle of the table to cook our own food on.

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This was my table, but I was taking the picture.

We thought we were getting somewhere with our new friends when we discovered that one of the meat sources was chicken, but then there was some discrepancy as to whether or not the remaining two protein items were lamb, beef, pork, or any combination of the above. And when we realized that we weren’t sure what was going on with that, we also discovered that we may or may not have been wrong about deducing the first meat as chicken. It was a complicated process.

Everyone was told at the beginning that we had to eat everything that we took because it was rude not to and we didn’t want to upset anyone. That worried me more than anything because if I don’t like a food item, I am not really the kind of eater who can just choke it down and take one for the team. And it didn’t look like I was going to be a fan of much of the items we were being dealt.

Honestly we really only took this picture to try and get a shot of the girl wearing the 'Dirt' name tag.

Honestly we really only took this picture to try and get a shot of the girl wearing the ‘Dirt’ name tag. Nailed it.

But eventually I was saved. They brought over white rice and I ate two bowls of that, plus Jen demolished the food we had to finish at our table. When they brought out a second tray to our section of the barbeque, I had just looked at Jen and Ashley and said, “I can’t do it.” Ashley laughed and Jen stepped up to help out. I might have also offered her anything she wanted in the world if I didn’t have to eat any more of what they were dishing out. So now I owe Jen a t-shirt. That was what she decided on.

This is what we were cooking our food on. This picture actually happened as a poor attempt to take a shot of the woman wearing the 'Dirt' name tag.

This is what we were cooking our food on. This picture actually happened as a poor attempt to take a shot of the woman wearing the ‘Dirt’ name tag.

After the eating was finished, we all started playing games at our tables. The one we began with was the same as one of the ones that I considered to be team-building from earlier in the day but it’s really hard to explain so I am just going to tell you that it involved a lot of clapping and everyone was involved and we worked it out through the Japanese-English problems we had been having.

The Japanese teams decided that after learning a Canadian game or two, they wanted the women’s team to play one of theirs. We later found out this fun little event was called Japanese Russian Roulette. Yep, that’s right.

A game that I would consider to be normal, brought to you by the Canadian team.

A game that I would consider to be normal, brought to you by the Canadian team.

How it works – or appears to – is that they bring out deep fried balls of which no one knows the contents inside. Some have rice, some have chocolate, some have some other relatively normal stuff, and some are filled with wasabi. Yes, that is also right.

Several people jumped into the middle of the circle and chose their own deep-fried ball from the selection and then once everyone had one – there was no chance I was doing this, in case you were wondering – they all put them into their mouths at the same time and then everyone around basically just watches and laughs as one or more of the participants suffers through a mouth full of wasabi. It was pretty funny and completely pointless and none of us could really figure out how they considered it a game, but there we were.

Japanese Russian Roulette, just before half of the people spit out what was in their mouths immediately upon ingesting.

Japanese Russian Roulette, just before half of the people spit out what was in their mouths immediately upon ingesting.

After the games, the other teams presented the Canadian players and staff with hats and they took a couple of pictures all together. They also surprised one of their own teammates whose birthday happened to be on Thursday, by launching several plates full of whipped cream into her face.

Before we left I had to go to the bathroom and I have to tell you, it is weird to have a warm toilet seat. I know they’re designed that way but I don’t like it because it just makes me think someone was on that same toilet right before me for a lengthy period of time. I can’t deal with the toilet differences in Japan. I just won’t get used to it.

As we walked out of the building we had to go through a tunnel of high fives. It was kind of awesome but a little different at the same time. They were just really happy to hang out with us I guess. Or maybe happy to see us leave. But it was a great night. Despite being picky with my food and nervous about eating anything and everything, it could not have been a better way to end the trip to Kazo before moving on to Miyazaki.

Everyone together at the end of the night.

Everyone together at the end of the night.

I was really tired on the bus ride back to the hotel and I tried to sleep but it didn’t happen. Plus an interviewer from Newfoundland was scheduled to call my phone for a radio spot with Heather Healey so I needed to be up for that. She did a great job with it even though it was a little bit of a tough interview.

One more from the barbeque, where I actually made it into a picture of our table.

One more from the barbeque, where I actually made it into a picture of our table.

When we got back I had to pack up my suitcase and get set to leave. Regrettably, I had to set my alarm for quarter to four in the morning, not a time I like to be familiar with. I was worried about getting everything into my bags and then worried that my luggage would be overweight – of course it would – so that was a little stressful, but I held out hope for the morning and tried to get what little sleep I could.

Next stop, Miyazaki.

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The pieces you're reading are written by a baseball enthusiast who can completely confirm the notion that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. That's me. I never know what day of the week it is, but I always know who's starting tomorrow. There are no limits, but there are plenty of rain delays and extra innings...just embrace them.

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