ISHINOMAKI, Japan -- Members of the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners got a firsthand look at the devastation from the earthquake and tsunami on Tuesday when they visited one of the towns hit hardest by last year's disaster in Japan.Eight players and coaches from the Mariners and Athletics went to Ishinomaki on the northeast coast and later put on a baseball clinic for students affected by the catastrophe.More than 19,000 people in Japan were killed by the disaster on March 11, 2011. About 46 percent of Ishinomaki, a city of 150,000, was inundated by up 32 feet of water.Much of the city remains in ruins. Destroyed cars are stacked five or six high next to huge piles of wreckage that have yet to be cleared away. Many homes near the shoreline were washed away."There is an air of silence you have in the car when you drive through it and see it," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "That's just a small stretch. You picture that times 150 miles and its just pure devastation."Major League Baseball made a donation of 500,000 to the city to help in reconstruction efforts.After a bus tour of the disaster zone, the players conducted a baseball clinic with students from the area, many of whom had homes destroyed or lost family members."Of all the things I had to do here this is the one I wanted to do most," Oakland pitcher Tommy Milone said. "Obviously, we do clinics back home, but to be able to give back to these kids who have lost homes and family members is something special."Seattle pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, who played last season in Sendai, the city closest to the disaster zone, got the biggest round of applause when the players were introduced at Ishinomaki Municipal Stadium."Meeting Iwakuma was awesome," said 11-year-old pitcher Masayuki Kondo. "He praised my pitching and told me I was doing a good job."The teams are in Japan to open MLB's 2012 season with games on Wednesday and Thursday at Tokyo Dome.
New A’s president Dave Kaval said Friday in a press conference that the team would do everything in its power to make up for the loss of revenue-sharing money from Major League Baseball, but he did not address how the team’s payroll would be impacted for the time being.
Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement eliminates the hefty annual check the A’s have received from the more prosperous clubs, reportedly around $35 million last year. That money will be incrementally reduced, with the A’s receiving 25 percent less each of the next four years until it’s phased out completely.
Kaval said the loss of that money simply underscores the importance of the A’s identifying a new ballpark site in Oakland so they can build a stadium to open up new streams of cash. Kaval said he’s walked all of the sites the team is considering around the city, but he didn’t offer a timetable for when a site would be chosen or when construction might begin.
In the meantime, the A’s president stressed repeatedly in a media conference call Friday that all of the revenue the team does generate going forward will be invested back either into the on-field product or the fan experience at The Coliseum.
“I think the key thing is being smart about deploying resources,” Kaval said. “There’s no silver bullet. You have to address a variety of aspects with folks’ interaction with the club.”
He added that could include everything from broadcasting to “the hot dog you eat to players you watch.”
Until a new ballpark becomes reality, the challenge is how the A’s can generate the revenue they’re losing from MLB while still playing in the antiquated Oakland Coliseum, which hardly entices fans to come out and has become the butt of national jokes for numerous plumbing issues.
Kaval mentioned boosting ticket sales and improving sponsorship deals at The Coliseum as two potential revenue streams, though he adamantly declared the A’s won’t be raising ticket prices.
As for how payroll will be affected, if at all, Kaval only said that he’s dedicated “to providing all the tools needed for Billy Beane and David Forst and our baseball operations staff.”
Last season the A’s had an Opening Day payroll of $86.8 million, according to the Cot’s Baseball Contracts website. There’s speculation that that total will shrink due to the loss in revenue sharing.
It’s undeniable that the A’s financial future is tied to finally getting a new ballpark. They’re considering rebuilding on the current Coliseum site, which is complicated until the Raiders’ situation gets resolved, but are also considering locations at Howard Terminal and near Laney College.
Kaval, also president of the San Jose Earthquakes, was instrumental in getting a soccer stadium built for that team. Without talking specific sites, he said he’s spent lots of time driving around and walking all the locations the A’s are considering.
“It’s been exciting to visit the locations, walk them, squint and kind of envision where the stadium would be and the views. And how it could transform the different communities (around) the site.”
He maintains his belief that a “ballpark village” type environment is critical so that fans have motivation to visit the area even when games aren’t being played. Kaval has also said he thinks such a development is possible at The Coliseum.
He was asked if there was a renewed sense of urgency to the ballpark search given the elimination of revenue sharing.
“I think building a ballpark is something you do one time in your life. It’s a generational thing. I think it’s something we want to be very thoughtful about and make the right decision.”
WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals have reacquired catcher Derek Norris from the San Diego Padres for minor league right-hander Pedro Avila.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo announced the trade Friday.
Norris, a 2007 first-round pick of the Nationals, hit .186 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs last season for San Diego. The 27-year-old is a career .233 hitter in five major league seasons with the Oakland Athletics and Padres.
Washington sent Norris to Oakland for left-hander Gio Gonzalez in 2011. He returns to the Nationals, who avoided arbitration with catcher Jose Lobaton on Thursday.
All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos is a free agent who will miss the start of the season after knee surgery.
Avila, 19, went 7-7 with a 3.48 ERA in 20 starts for Single-A Hagerstown last season.