With the A’s very much playing the role of underdog during their first rodeo in Japan, this trip sees them playing as much more of a known quantity. Due to the regularity of televised A’s games in Japan during 2010, accredited to the presence of Japanese superstar Hideki Matsui, it appears Oakland now has their fair share of supporters this time around. Combine this with recent release of Moneyball, starring international superstar Brad Pitt who is so enamored in Japan that he was once persuaded to film a beer commercial in the country and you now have the makings of something special. In place of the Red Sox, the A’s are facing Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners who although may lack the success and star power of their previous opponents. They cannot be taken lightly. With Ichiro returning to Japan, fans will be out in full force to support their hero and it will be up to the A’s to quell any momentum that may provide.
As the last series featured saki toasts, and bouquet exchanges this series seems to be built on more of a somber note. In light of last years tragic events, A’s and Mariners players were dispatched to the Sendai region of Japan to visit the city of Ishinomaki to run a baseball clinic for the area’s youth many of whom lost their homes and family members in the aftermath of the tsunami last March. In an area still recovering from the earthquake and ensuing tsunami the players went out of their way to spend a few hours with the children who even though the language may prove to be a barrier the smiles and high fives definitely did not.
With expectations for the 2012 A’s high in the opinion of this humble writer, this time around seems a little different and it definitely means a little more.