Team Japan catches up with big league countrymen

MESA, Ariz. -- Don and Charlie's is one of the most legendary Spring Training haunts around these parts, and while the specialties there are steaks, chops and ribs, the Scottsdale restaurant got a good helping of Japanese flavor on Wednesday night.

That's when Team Japan gathered for a meal on its first evening in the United States after wrapping up its third consecutive semifinal berth in the World Baseball Classic. And that's where the current members of the team, which does not feature a single active big league player, reunited with some of the Japanese Major League stalwarts who are in their Cactus League camps getting ready for Opening Day.

Indians pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, Cubs pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki, A's shortstop Hiroyuki Nakahima and Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma were on hand, and, as current Team Japan starter Masahiro Tanaka said, it was a gesture that meant a lot to the team.

"It was nice to see our fellow big leaguers," Tanaka said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "They're actually seniors of ours. We're the juniors to them. So that was very nice for them to come over, and they made us all happy."

Doug Miller is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.