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03/22/08 7:55 AM ET

A's taking in Japanese culture

Team finds new experiences on and off the field

TOKYO -- With the bulk of their day freed up for sightseeing, the A's brass spent part of Saturday in Japan soaking up the local culture.

Before Oakland took on the Yomiuri Giants in the nightcap of a doubleheader that opened with an exhibition game between the Red Sox and Hanshin Tigers, general manager Billy Beane and manager Bob Geren received a guided tour that included a ride on the bullet train and lunch -- sans shoes, sitting on the floor -- at a traditional Japanese restaurant.

"It was great," said Beane, who is here with his daughter Casey. "Just a gorgeous spring day, too. We had a blast."

Many of the A's players and coaches took advantage of the free time by leaving the cozy confines of the team hotel, and by all accounts a fine time was had by all. Outfielder Travis Buck is among the many players who brought his digital camera on the trip, and his memory card figures to be full by the time he gets back home.

"It holds two-hundred-something," Buck said. "It'll definitely be full."

The cultural experience didn't end with the free time, either. Upon arriving at Tokyo Dome, the A's seemed astounded by the sight of Yomiuri's batting-practice procedure. There were not one but two batting cages in use, simultaneously, so baserunners had to track two hitters on their way around the bags, and at various times there were up to three coaches hitting ground balls to infielders.

"Wow," said first baseman Daric Barton. "I've gotta get a picture of this."

Rookie lefty Dana Eveland sat in the A's dugout and marveled at the fact that the two pitchers, working out of the stretch, were throwing considerably harder than BP pitchers throw in the big leagues.

"They make my 90 [mph] look like 85!" Eveland said, shaking his head with a huge smile.

The exhibition games are part of Opening Series Japan 2008, which culminates in a two-game series between the defending champion Red Sox and A's that officially opens the regular season. Those games are set for Tuesday and Wednesday, with both games beginning at 3:05 a.m. PT/6:05 a.m. ET.

An official welcome reception, featuring a traditional sake barrel-breaking ceremony, was held Friday night, with Beane, Geren, Huston Street and Kurt Suzuki among those asked to don kimonos and help with the honors.

"I didn't know if I was really supposed to break it or what," Geren said before Saturday's game. "I got splashed a little bit when it broke."

Also before Saturday's game, a Japanese fan behind the Oakland dugout holding a stunning color portrait of Oakland first baseman/designated hitter Mike Sweeney got a warm greeting from Sweeney when he emerged from the clubhouse, and A's play-by-play man Ken Korach got a surprise of sorts when his voice boomed over the public-address system as accompaniment to a package of Oakland highlights on the big screen

Said Korach, "I've finally made it in Tokyo."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.