This is the first blog post in a series of posts I’ll be writing during my trip to Japan in my role as Vice President of Red Sox Nation.
Our JAL 747, loaded with excited Red Sox fans from across the U.S., took off from Logan Airport at 7:30am on Saturday morning and headed northwest. Destination: Tokyo, Japan.
But the trip to MLB’s Opening Day had a scheduled pit stop at the very edge of North America in the shadow of the continent’s highest peak, Mount McKinley (which can be seen on the horizon in this photo). After soaring over some of the planet’s most spectacular scenery during our approach into Anchorage International Airport, we touched down at 10:15am local time and de-planed while the plane was refueled.
Then, it was time to play some baseball.
At first, no one took my offer of playing catch seriously. I mean, who packs two Rawlings baseball gloves and a ball in their carry-on luggage for a 16-hour flight to the Far East? (Those of you out there who are either related to me, or know me from high school or college, know “Rob does.”) Before long, we had a crowd of people taking turns playing catch on the airport’s observation deck (which was, curiously, shaped exactly like a bullpen). And I gotta tell you, it was truly a rush to throw around a baseball in the 27-degree Alaska air at the foot of one of the most breathtaking mountain ranges any of us has ever seen.
“This is the first time the Red Sox have had Spring Training in Alaska!” quipped Red Sox COO Mike Dee, who threw some pretty nasty curveballs in his first baseball workout of the spring. Other front office folks took turns, including Chuck Steedman, Joe Januszewski, and Sam Kennedy, as did several members of Red Sox Nation, such as Dave Ross and Kevin Kempskie, both of whom work for EMC. I’m happy to report that all participants made accurate throws and skillful catches – despite the imposing distraction of Mount McKinley looming off to the north.
“When will I ever play another game of catch in Alaska?” reflected Steedman. Answer: never again. Is this the beginning of a string of once-in-a-lifetime experiences for the gang of Red Sox fans making the long trip to Opening Day in Japan? Answer: stay tuned.
I saw Papelbon and Big Papi in the lobby as we arrived. They appeared relaxed and comfortable in their new environment. “Hey, Regular Rob, what’s going on?” said Pap. “Yo Reg, how was your flight, man?” said Papi. (Actually, they looked right through me as we walked past each other.)
Tonight, we head to the Tokyo Dome for an exhibition game versus the Yomiuri Giants. I’m excited to see Japanese baseball first-hand, for the first time, and to meet members of Red Sox Nation from The Land of the Rising Sun…