Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Japanese Experience

     Since February 9th, I have been in Okinawa, Japan along with the rest of my teammates participating in daily workouts. Spring training is officially in full gear as the season is approaching quickly. That may seem a little exaggerated, but with March 29 being our opener, it gives pitchers like myself only a limited amount of outings to fine tune everything. This means every day is very crucial to ensure you are ready to go, ready for when it counts. Two days ago I got my first game-action and it went relatively well considering it's been almost 6 months since my last outing. It always brings upon a few nerves, but they quickly fade away as soon as you throw your first pitch. Our team is very talented and I cannot stress how excited I am to compete with this group.
     As each day goes by, I will say that I get more and more comfortable. I think that getting placed on a new team with new teammates requires a lot of observation and patience as well. Every year, a baseball player meets new guys and has to bond as best as he can with these new acquaintances. It is no different here, only with a culture and language barrier to complicate the process. The first couple weeks I was as friendly as possible while trying to feel things out along the way. Now, I can say that I am developing relationships with a lot of guys and it makes everything that much more enjoyable. My teammates are awesome and couldn't be more helpful to someone who is 9,000 miles from home. This team is now my family.
     All baseball aside, Okinawa has been quite the experience thus far. Today was an off day for us so about 15 of us players and coaches took the 75 minute ride to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, the second biggest in the world. I can't imagine how much upkeep has to go into this place because it covers so much ground. Besides the actual indoor aquarium, there are gardens, outdoor tanks, and other exhibits covering acres and acres. My personal favorite was the dolphin show although I couldn't understand a word of what the trainers were saying. I took a video on my phone of jumping dolphins, pretty impressive. I'm a big fan of Sea World in the United States and this show was similar to those put on there. They had manatees, sea turtles and 3 giant Whale Sharks which were swimming around inside a massive tank indoors. There also were some Yellowfin Tuna swimming around in there and I would love nothing more to be able to cast a nice line out there and reel one of them in!
     We've also had two more off days up until this point. The first day consisted of a trip to Naha, the biggest city here to walk around and check out the scene. Some guys shopped a little bit, but I was busy looking at the bottles of liquor they have here with Pit Vipers in the liquid. So inside of the bottle is a fierce looking snake, dead as can be. I'm still debating on whether or not I need to bring a bottle back with me to the USA. I also had a fantastic crepe in Naha stuffed with bananas, chocolate and caramel ice cream. I've never been afraid to sample the dessert menu when ice cream is involved. I only purchased some batteries and an external hard drive at the local "Best Buy". I can't get over how nice the workers are in these stores always bowing to me and smiling, immediately putting you in a more pleasant mood.
     The other day was spent relaxing at the hotel and walking into town for dinner with just Josh Bell, my other American teammate. It started to rain on the walk there of course so we were soaked by time we got to the restaurant. As we walked in, we sat down and didn't get served for 15-20 minutes. I don't know why it took so long but it ended with me stuffing my face with tuna sushi and chicken teriyaki. Our last off day is this coming Wednesday and Josh and I plan on getting our snorkels ready. We want to get wet somewhere in the East China Sea. The lobby of the hotel has several small excursions to pick from and the middle of town has no shortage of dive shops so we should be fine. Maybe I'll get lucky enough to find one that offers spear fishing. That way I can open my own sushi restaurant here in town where we take people's orders in less than 20 minutes. Pictures are sure to follow if we do go.
     While I am in Japan, I've brought my little piece of the USA with me, Netflix. I watch several episodes of Always Sunny in Philadelphia daily, quoting from every one. Between that and the country music I have pumping at 7:30 AM, I'd say I'm getting by just fine. Nothing like some Eric Paslay in the morning (he's a new favorite). Last night, we had our best dinner yet, Korean BBQ. For those unfamiliar with it, its a bunch of raw meat put out into separate bowls or plates to choose from. We had the choice of 3 different types of beef, chicken, lamb, pork, hot dogs, and scallops. I was a sucker for scallops and a lot of them at that. You bring the meat back and cook it yourself at a grill located in the table. I've attached a picture of my view from the table. Also attached is a picture of Josh and I outside the massive aquarium. Tomorrow is another opportunity to get better and get myself ready to go. Until next time...

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