CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The televisions in the clubhouse were tuned to the American League game being played on another continent. Though it started at 6 a.m. on the East Coast, as most players were rolling out of bed, it was a baseball game that counted, and that was enough. So Taguchi saw the journey instead.
"It's tough for the players from Boston and Oakland," said Taguchi. "That's a long trip. I hope they had big seats." Taguchi, who spends his offseason in Kobe, Japan, described the odyssey that is a trip to the United States, when his family visited St. Louis. "Kobe to Tokyo to Chicago to St. Louis," Taguchi said. "That is not easy." Though he spent eight years playing for the Orix Blue Wave in the Pacific League, Taguchi never had to travel 17 hours by plane for a series. He doesn't mind exhibition games, like when the Dodgers and Padres went to China earlier this month, but he is leery of regular-season games. Tom Gordon can attest to the effect on a player. He made this trip in 2004, when the Yankees and Rays opened the season there in 2004. "When we went over there to open the season, I was run down, and it was hard to get our bodies set for the games," said Gordon, who pitched an inning in the second game. "Spring Training had just ended, then we had that long flight and a game."
Returning posed the same problem.That said, Gordon said he was grateful for the trip. He got to see a part of the world he never imagined, experience a different culture and develop a taste for sushi. "That ranks among some of my favorite experiences in baseball," he said. "I would never had a chance to go to Tokyo and play. It was a thrill and I'd like to go back, maybe after I retire. I'd take my whole family over there, all the way down to my uncles. Everybody has to go. That would be at least 200 people. We'd take over." Despite learning about another lifestyle, Gordon acknowledged one aspect of his trip that reminded him of home. "McDonald's," he said, with a laugh. "I don't walk to McDonald's too often, but that was fun. I couldn't help myself."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.