Whether I say konichiwa, aloha, or just hello, I hope you are all well. Last week I spent four days in Tokyo to promote the Classic, and then went to the island of O?ahu in Hawaii to promote the Classic too, as well as to make a few other speaking engagements. While in Tokyo, I got into a few good conversations about Hideki Matsui and Tadahito Iguchi not participating in the World Baseball Classic. I feel that playing in the Classic is an opportunity for those two stars to do something great for their country, and for baseball. Both have been good to those guys, and now they have the opportunity to give something back to their homeland, and to baseball. Also, the manager of the Japanese team, Sadaharu Oh, is a great baseball man, an even greater friend and a very proud man. Without those two stars on his roster, he won?t have the best possible team on the field next March during the tournament.
From Tokyo I went to Hawaii, which was outstanding. While there I stayed very busy. I spent an entire day visiting every television station, radio station and news paper office to spread the word about the Classic. There are tons of baseball fans in Hawaii, and they are getting very excited to see the Classic unfold. Many of them expressed interest in hosting a round of the Classic in 2010.
The next day I went to Maui to speak at a baseball clinic hosted by the County of Maui and sponsored by Panda Restaurants. It was a huge success; over 400 kids spent an entire day learning how to play baseball. After lunch, I spoke to the kids and delivered a message about what it will take for them to make it in life. I tried to impress upon them these three lessons: First, never take illegal drugs. Drugs will do nothing but harm your body, they are illegal and they will lead you down the path of destruction. Second, make sure to get a good education, which is something that they will have forever. An education will open many more doors of opportunity than baseball ever will. Third, always show their parents nothing but love and respect.
My next stop in Hawaii was at the Schofield Barracks where I had the honor and privilege to speak at the welcome-home party for the U.S. Army Reserve’s 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry. This speech was one of the great thrills of my life. They had just returned from one year of service in Iraq, and I am very proud of their accomplishments and sacrifices. I learned that they were responsible for staging two violence-free elections, as well as neutralizing four insurgent cells. It was a very emotional afternoon because of the respect and admiration I have for the men and women who wear the uniform of the greatest country in the world, the United States of America. We should all say a prayer for the safe return of all our troops.
My last stop in Hawaii was at a fundraiser dinner for the University of Hawaii baseball team. Coach Mike Trapasso asked me to do this fundraiser in conjunction with the university bestowing upon me my sixth honorary doctorate degree. I was very thankful to receive such an illustrious honor, as well as for the opportunity to speak to the team; they are a talented group of young men who I know are bound for the College World Series in Omaha.
Hello from Tokyo. I am in Japan, surrounded by many of the most passionate baseball fans in the world. The only thing on their minds is how their team will fare in the World Baseball Classic. I have been to Japan to spread the word baseball many, many times, and I am always so pleased with the warm reception the people give me. They are very respectful, generous and warm, and I will always appreciate their kindness.
So far, the tour has been a tremendous success. I began this adventure in San Diego on the first day of ticket sales. I appeared on every local TV station, and on local radio stations to promote awareness of the Classic. At the end of the day, 20,000 fans bought tickets to the finals and semi-finals.
San Diego is a great place. It has a beautiful new ball park, lots of enthusiastic baseball fans and one of the best Italian restaurants in the country, Busalacchi’s, which, of course, I visited for lunch.
Our second stop on the tour was Seattle, which was another success. Included in my duties as ambassador of the Classic, I have to continue to reinforce the point that this tournament is international, and it will feature the best players in the world playing for their home countries. The Classic is a reminder of how large baseball has become around the world, as well as serving as another vehicle to bring people from different backgrounds together through a common love, baseball. In Seattle, there are many Japanese baseball fans that love the Mariners, and love Ichiro. Another reason this tournament is so great is when Mariner fans go to Phoenix to follow their team during Spring Training, they can also see part of the first round of the Classic, which is also being played in Phoenix. I?m really excited about this.
But don?t think it was all work and no fun in Seattle. I too time to visit the Pike Place Market. While I was there, I sampled some smoked salmon, which was delicious, but I also had the opportunity to catch a fish, literally.
For more information about the World Baseball Classic, make sure to visit www.worldbaseballclassic.com.