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.
ANAHEIM — As Yonder Alonso was preparing for the 2017 season last winter, he was tackling another challenge too.
Over the course of three months, the A’s first baseman gathered his thoughts and pieced together a fascinating first-person account for The Players’ Tribune about his childhood experience defecting from Cuba with his parents and younger sister.
Alonso framed the article as him penning a letter to his 8-year-old self, describing the grueling struggle he and his family would go through while reassuring his younger self that it would all be worth it when he finally made it as a major leaguer. Alonso describes in vivid detail the hardships he went through, caring for his sister, Yainee, at night as they dined on meals of microwaved hot dogs and microwaved eggs, while his parents were away from home working multiple jobs to support their family.
Alonso goes on to describe how he would return from college baseball road trips, while he was attending the University of Miami, and immediately head to a night job to help his father clean warehouses and scrub bathrooms.
The story struck a chord within the A’s clubhouse but also among so many people from the Miami area, where Alonso’s family settled after they defected. Alonso said he’s received text messages from many of them.
“I think everybody in this locker room, or any locker room, they definitely have a story to tell,” Alonso said. “And I think it’s awesome when you see a guy just kind of open up a little bit. I’m (usually) not one to open up.”
Athletes are used to reporters peppering them with questions and trying to draw stories out of them. Seldom do athletes take to penning their own story.
Representatives from The Players’ Tribune, an online publication started by Derek Jeter in 2014, reached out to Alonso in early December about writing something. Alonso had a trip planned to Cuba for later that month, before any request for an article came, and his return visit to his native country helped persuade him to go through with it.
“I saw a lot of people,” he said. “For me it was very touching. For my wife as well.”
Alonso met with an editor from The Players’ Tribune during spring training, and they began hashing out ideas. Alonso said he wrote the story himself with assistance from the editor.
“We had ideas, different ways of going about it,” he said. “I think from day one I knew the way I wanted to write it and how I wanted it to come out, which is a letter to my younger self.”
Even after finishing the project three weeks ago, Alonso said he wasn’t sure he wanted to share it publicly. He showed the article to some friends and teammates, including A’s reliever Sean Doolittle and outfielder Matt Joyce. After reading the piece, Joyce strongly persuaded Alonso to carry through with it.
“I told him it was awesome,” Joyce said. “From my perspective, you don’t really get a good sense of what those guys go through, coming over to the States. You just see them later. So to kind of read it in his own words, it was a really cool perspective and a good story to see what a kid across the water, from a different country, goes through to get to this point. I think it’s a very powerful story and message.”
Alonso said his motivation was simple.
“Just letting my family know, and people in this world know, that if you want to strive for something, it can be tough at times. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
ANAHEIM — Sean Manaea is hopeful his left shoulder injury isn’t serious, but the A’s likely won’t have a full read on the starter’s condition for a couple days.
As of Wednesday night, no MRI was scheduled after Manaea left after just two innings of an eventual 8-5 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels with tightness in his shoulder.
“I felt it a little bit in the bullpen,” Manaea said. “I thought it was just one of those days where it took me longer to warm up, and that just wasn’t the case. It’s just really unfortunate.”
Just as the A’s are about to welcome Kendall Graveman back to the active roster Thursday, when he starts the series finale at Angel Stadium, and just as it appears Sonny Gray might be ready to come off the disabled list following one more rehab start, the A’s are hoping they don’t see Manaea subtracted from their rotation for any period of time.
Manager Bob Melvin said it was the top of Manaea’s shoulder that was bothering him.
“The velo was down, and it didn’t make sense to have him keep pitching,” Melvin said. “But we won’t know anything probably for a day or two, how he feels.”
Once he started throwing in the game, Manaea said he felt “kind of a little sharp pain. I mean, it’s nothing serious. I’ve dealt with it before and it only took me a few days to get back on the mound. To me, I’m not really worried about it.”
The pitcher added that he experienced a similar situation with his shoulder while a minor leaguer in Kansas City’s organization, toward the end of spring training, and he missed minimal time.
Things didn’t get better for the A’s (10-11) after Manaea exited, as they struck out 13 times and played sloppy defensively in dropping their third in a row. Catcher Stephen Vogt couldn’t handle Ryan Dull’s glove flip to the plate on a seventh-inning squeeze play, ending a streak of six errorless games for Oakland, but Melvin can live with occasional physical misplays. More problematic were occasions when right fielder Matt Joyce and center fielder Jaff Decker both seemed caught by surprise to see Angels runners take off for an extra base. Whether it was a lack of communication from infielders or the outfielders themselves needing to be more aware, the A’s can’t afford those kinds of mistakes.
“As a group, we can’t let that happen,” Melvin said. “We talk about it in advance meetings the way these guys run the bases. It’s not something we can do and expect to beat this team.”
Added Vogt: “We were on our heels quite a bit. This was obviously not the prettiest baseball game we’ve played.”