The trip will be the first to Japan for La Russa while Gonzalez and Johnson both played there as part of an MLB All-Star Tour in 2000. Johnson also took part in the MLB All-Star Tour in 1990 where he combined to throw a no-hitter with Chuck Finley. Hall and Gonzalez were part of the D-backs contingent that visited in 2012.
"It has been a long-time bucket list item for me and I've always wanted to visit Japan," said La Russa. "I have heard so much about the culture, the people and the knowledgeable Japanese baseball fans and have had the honor of managing several Japanese players, including one of my favorites, So Taguchi, who I'm hoping to see on this trip."
The Roadshow on Aug. 17 is one of Major League Baseball's grassroots programs designed to give children an opportunity to experience baseball activities through fun and games. The Roadshow is an attraction-filled event that has been hosted in Europe, South America, Canada, and Asia. In Japan the Roadshow has traveled many prefectures starting in 2012. In 2015 it will be held in Tokyo, Ishikawa, Miyagi, Miyazaki, Chiba, Okinawa and Gifu Prefecture.
The MLB Roadshow has visited 14 countries on four continents including Australia, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Designed to be an interactive fan-driven experience that exposes kids to the fundamentals and excitement of the game, the Roadshow travels around and appears at schools, public centers and sporting events with batting cages, pitching tunnels, sliding attractions, video game tents, photo and dj booths. It also utilizes player appearances to allow the fans to interact with current and former MLB players.
The D-backs' history in Japan dates to before the franchise played its first game, when the General Manager, Joe Garagiola Jr., joined Manager Buck Showalter and Senior Advisor, Pacific Rim Operations Jim Marshall on a goodwill trip to Japan in 1997 that included watching the games in which Ichiro Suzuki played. Garagiola Jr. made numerous trips to Japan during his tenure as GM and in 2004, the team formalized a working relationship with the Nippon Ham Fighters, which included several additional visits by D-backs personnel to Japan and vice versa. Members of the Nippon front office shadowed members of the D-backs' front office and the Fighters held a D-backs Day in which Garagiola threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
In 2004, the club began hosting young players from Japan in Phoenix and sending young Valley residents for baseball trips to Japan, with one of those young players going on to play in the D-backs' farm system (Jake Williams).
The club employs a Director of Pacific Rim Operations, Makoto "Mack" Hayashi, who will take part in the trip. Marshall, who played for three seasons with the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League and managed for parts of four seasons in the big leagues before joining the D-backs as a Senior Advisor, Pacific Rim Operations in 1996, remains in that role to this day.
The D-backs' group will depart from Phoenix on August 12. A more complete schedule of events, including media availability for Hall, La Russa, Johnson and Gonzalez will be sent out closer to the departure.