Mariners, Athletics tour disaster zone in Japan - NBC Sports

Mariners, Athletics tour disaster zone in Japan
Teams will open Major League Baseball season with 2 games on Wednesday, Thursday
AFP - Getty Images
Seattle Mariners rookie pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma is greeted by Ishinomaki residents upon his arrival at the Ishinomaki Municipal Stadium, Miyagi prefecture on Tuesday. The Mariners and Oakland Athletics are here to hold a clinic and serve "tonjiru" stew, or miso-pork stew, to youths affected by the 2011 tsunami disaster in the city of Ishinomaki.
March 27, 2012, 9:03 am

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 March 11 disaster.

More than 19,000 people in Japan were killed by the disasters. About 46 percent of Ishinomaki, a city of 150,000, was inundated by tsunamis up to 10 meters (32 feet) high.

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."

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Image: Stomper

Some of the best images as the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics prepare to open the Major League Baseball season with two games on Wednesday and Thursday.

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.

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