Tokyo Diary -- Japanese Fanfare


Tokyo Diary -- Japanese Fanfare

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kate Longworth is Tokyo-bound with the A's! Although it's not her standard practice to let strangers read her diary, she invites you to go behind the scenes with the A's up-and-coming players. Log on throughout the day for Kate's journal posts from Japan, and tune in nightly for her A's reports on SportsNet Central and NBC Bay Area. Whether the players are in the Tokyo Dome taking BP or trying exotic sushi, you can explore the streets of one of the most fascinating cities -- Comcast SportsNet is your ticket to Tokyo!
Tokyo Diary
Friday, March 23, 2012

"Lights, Camera, Action"
Actors and Actresses prepare for weeks before walking the red carpet, deploying special diets designer fittings. The Athletics? They endured 14-hours of air travel and patiently navigated customs before emerging in front of screaming fans and flashing bulbs in Japan.

After our 160-passenger charter cleared immigration, we made the 15-minute walk through the airport to the buses waiting to take us to our hotel. Once we passed the security checkpoint, hundreds of baseball fans were waiting, trying to get an up-close glimpse at Major League Baseball players.

Fans were loudly cheering and clapping as they held out baseballs, hoping for autographs, while players walked by arm in arm with the wives and girlfriends soaking it all in. It took me back to last September to the "green carpet" walk in Oakland for the "MoneyBall" premiere. Just as our American media lined up with video and still cameras to rapidly snap away at Brad Pitt, the A's players were bombarded with flashing lights and cheers.

"It was like the media reception Hideki Matsui got all last here from the Japanese media in the states," said a smiling Tyson Ross.

For those, like me, who choose a wardrobe of comfort versus fashion when traveling long distances, that is not the case when you are a pro. All the players were sporting suit jackets, and all of us on the charter had a strict dress code of "business travel."

"Not there Yet"
The best thing to do after you traveled for over half a day to get to your destination? Get on a bus! Yes, it was an anti-climatic arrival after such an incredible reception at the airport as we embarked on bus caravan No. 2. Just as we started Thursday in Arizona on buses traveling to the airport, a two-hour bus ride to our hotel awaited us Friday evening in Tokyo.

We flew into Norita Airport, which -- from what I gather -- is on the outskirts of the area. We left Arizona at 11 a.m. on Thursday. When we boarded the buses, it was 6 p.m on Friday.

"We Made It...and it was Worth the Wait"
We finally arrived at Hotel New Otani in downtown Tokyo.

"We (the players) all played a game on the way over here," Wes Timmons told me as he got off the bus. "What's your wish list to do first when you arrive -- shower, eat or sleep."

For those wondering at home -- eating won out for this team!

The New Otani hotel is like a miniature city in itself. Seriously, it is a campus of high rises boasting hundreds of room. We are on the 22nd floor of the third tower. I am afraid to leave our rooms, without another member of our group with me because I am not sure if I will find my way back -- and I have yet to even step outside into the city streets!

There are numerous restaurants, ranging from Japanese dining to American to steak houses. And there are shops around every corner as well; some are similar to lobby shops back home, but many more extravagant -- flower shops, jewelry, clothing, etc.

The entire hotel circles a traditional Japanese garden, depicting the traditional Japanese scene with red bridge and cherry blossom trees. It was incredible tonight in the rain and dark, and I can't wait to see it tomorrow.
"Making TV"
If you are wondering how you are getting behind the scenes access to your favorite A's players delivered to you -- all the way from Japan, every night -- here's the lowdown.

At 11:45 p.m. Friday in Japan, our CSN crew heads to the CNBC Bureau here in downtown Tokyo. It's 7 a.m. Friday back in San Francisco. Using the magic of technology, we send the video to Singapore than route it through New York and by 6 and 10:30 p.m. on SportsNet Central, you'll see exactly what our day entailed back home in the Bay Area.

"Saturday's Game Plan"
The team will take the field for its first workout at the Tokyo Dome. Tonight we will be featuring on Night on the Town in Japan with the A's players as we hit up an authentic Sushi Restaurant followed by some karaoke!

Vallejo-native, free agent-to-be Sabathia after Yankees loss: 'This is my home'


Vallejo-native, free agent-to-be Sabathia after Yankees loss: 'This is my home'

C.C. Sabathia couldn't save the Yankees' 2017 season. And now he has a decision to make.

After nine seasons in New York, the 37-year-old hits the free agent market this winter.

With career earnings nearing $250 million and a 2009 World Series ring already on his resume, would the Vallejo-native consider coming home to play for the A's? That's a question that was posed to Insider Joe Stiglich last week.

While it's a possibility, based on comments after Saturday's ALCS Game 7 loss to the Astros, it sounds like Sabathia doesn't want to leave The Bronx.

“I feel like this is a young team, and we will turn this into something great. This is my home, and I want to see this thing through," Sabathia told reporters, according to The Associated Press.

Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series


Astros win two straight vs Yankees, advance to take on Dodgers in World Series


HOUSTON -- Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Los Angeles opened as a narrow favorite, but Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the wild-card Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.

After going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, the Astros got on the board with no outs in the fourth with the 405-foot shot by Gattis off Sabathia which made it 1-0.

Altuve launched a ball off Tommy Kahnle into the seats in right field with one out in the fifth for his fifth homer this postseason. It took a while for him to see that it was going to get out, and held onto his bat until he was halfway to first base before flipping it and trotting around the bases as chants of "MVP" rained down on him.

Altuve finished 8 for 25 with two homers and four RBIs in the ALCS after hitting .533 with three homers and four RBIs in the ALDS against Boston.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit consecutive singles after that before Kahnle struck out Gattis. McCann's two-strike double, which rolled into the corner of right field, cleared the bases to push the lead to 4-0. Gurriel slid to avoid the tag and remained on his belly in a swimming pose at the plate for a few seconds after he was called safe.

It was just the second Game 7 in franchise history for the Astros, who dropped Game 7 to the Cardinals in the 2004 NLCS 13 years ago today.

Sabathia allowed five hits and one run while walking three in 3 1/3 innings. He wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in a Game 3 win and just 36 of the 65 pitches he threw were strikes.

Morton got into trouble in the fifth, and the Yankees had runners at the corners with one out. Bregman fielded a grounder hit by Todd Frazier and made a perfect throw home to allow McCann to tag Greg Bird and preserve Houston's lead. McCann held onto the ball despite Bird's cleat banging into his forearm. Chase Headley grounded out after that to end the inning.

A night after Springer kept Frazier from extra-bases with a leaping catch, Judge returned the favor on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel. Judge sprinted, jumped and reached into the stands to grab his long fly ball before crashing into the wall and falling to the ground for the first out of the second inning.

Springer had another nifty catch in this one, jumping in front of Marwin Gonzalez at the wall in left-center to grab a ball hit by Bird for the first out of the seventh inning.