03/24/12 9:00 AM ET
A's playing role of big league ambassadors
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
Timmons, doing his best to be friendly with their waitress, then decided to bust out one of the few Japanese words he knows. He politely smiled and offered a "Sayonara." Translation: "Goodbye."
"She laughed at me," Timmons said, with his own laugh. "I don't know if it was because I didn't have the right word or because I don't have the Japanese accent."
It's likely the former, but the language barrier isn't stopping Timmons or any of his teammates from soaking in an experience that A's general manager Billy Beane wishes all players could enjoy.
"The value that we get out of this -- not just the baseball, but the cultural exchange, the experiences that these guys get -- it's incredibly unique," Beane said. "The baseball's great, but for me, as a general manager, it's about the growth of the game and spreading the game, and I think this is part of that. I think it would be great if we saw more and more of these games."
The fans wouldn't mind either, it seems. They're enamored by American baseball and its players, evident not only in the flashbulb reception with which they loudly welcomed the A's upon their arrival at both the airport and hotel on Friday night, but in the way they've embraced players on the streets.
"I've got all these people wanting to touch my Mohawk," Jonny Gomes said. "I say, 'Sure, feel free to touch it. Don't hurt yourself, it doesn't bite.'"
"They kind of get shaky and nervous when they come up and ask for an autograph," Josh Donaldson said. "It's hard to know what to expect, but you can tell right away that this is all a really big deal to them. It's cool for us to see."
Donaldson drew a crowd of people while walking around Saturday morning, leading him to believe the fans must have thought he was Josh Reddick, whose Red Sox roots have made him quite the popular face around town.
"I wasn't expecting it, no," Reddick said. "I was obviously shocked. I had [Kurt] Suzuki walking behind me and Coco [Crisp] around me and thought, 'How come I'm the one getting yelled at right now?'" But the best part about the fans here is that they all know your name. Most people don't know your name in the States."
Reddick and the rest of the team took part in their first workout at the Tokyo Dome on Saturday afternoon, in preparation for exhibition games Sunday and Monday against the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants. Lefty Tommy Milone is scheduled to start Sunday's night contest, but it's a mystery who will join him on the field. Manager Bob Melvin was waiting to hear whether the opposing pitcher was a right-hander or left-hander to determine his lineup.
Reddick was to spend his night with Brandon Allen and Collin Cowgill showcasing his singing skills at a karaoke bar in front of Comcast Bay Area's camera crew. Allen is known to have quite the voice, which is usually shared with only his church choir and shower curtain, though Reddick deems himself a karaoke frequenter.
"I'll be singing country," the Georgia native said, "but I don't know if they have that here. I pretty much know all the country songs that come on the radio. If I can't find anything, I can't go wrong with Journey."
Crisp, meanwhile, is hoping his night proves less hectic than his morning, which was spent at the dentist's office with wife Maria, who had a problem with her braces. Gomes and Kila Ka'aihue are without their wives on the trip, so they're teaming up Saturday night to ride on a boat that will take them through the canals of Tokyo.
And Timmons, a non-roster invitee who has 998 Minor League games to his name but not one of the big-league variety, plans to take in all he can with his wife before he really does have to say, "Sayonara." It's unlikely he'll be part of the 25-man group eligible for the two regular-season games Wednesday and Thursday, but simply having traveled the nearly 6,000-mile journey has Timmons all sorts of thrilled.
"We've just been in awe the whole time," he said. "You hear stories about the big leagues. I know this isn't quite the big leagues yet, but I guess it's a pretty good glimpse of what goes on and what takes place. We kinda joked around, saying, 'If this is it, we kinda got a taste of what it was.' You can't tell your grandkids you ever made it, but you did have the trip to Japan."