TOP 10 : 43000 Opening night in the Tokyo Dome!
9. FIRST Mound (I have ever seen) constructed from volcanic ash (actually harder clay was installed under the surface coat of ash because it would not harden like clay.. but the top coat was electrifying. (bet the clubbies didn?t like it)
7. Working inside the domes?no rain or in climate weather
6. Providing a gift of new field maintenance tools to each stadium?s ground crew! They loved the metal bottom tamps
5. Live hitting out of two batting cages simultaneously!
4. MLB All stars going 6-0? first time in like ever!!!
3. Comparing the MLB all star dugout to the Japan all star dugout cleanliness immediately after the game. They kicked or but in this area!
2. The organization an overall tidiness of the Japanese ground crews was extremely impressive.
NUMBER 1 Making some life long friends.
Building a MLB/NPB ( Nippon Professional Baseball) level mound in Osaka has been tough but I have to take my hat off to the crew at Osaka stadium. They brought out the big equipment at the last minute and had a few guys that are considered top Japanese Zen gardeners. They could swing a mean rake that’s all I can say! I knew they meant business when they donned the hard hats. We just finished the mounds an they turned out great considering all of the different materials, crews etc…That was a big sigh you just heard!
The Osaka dome is pretty cool…45,000+ seating, 100 meters to the left and right field fence an 396 feet to center. ( still not big enough for Mr Howards blasts!! The one he hit the other night in the tokyo dome was well over 470 feet as the ball hit the bottom of the video board)
A big video board in Osaka sports the news and scoreboard alternating both boards on the same jumbotron. The ceiling reminds me of a spaceship. Almost a "close encounters" feel to the stadium. Looking forward to the next two games. We had to lay out the clay bricks to get them to dry a little before installing…after wards we put blowers on them and they were ready to install. It has been quiet the process!
We started the mound and plate renovations in Osaka for the Japan All-star tour this morning and got quiet a bit completed before the end of the day. There was an event that would’nt allow us to start the main mound until tomorrow. Fukuoka mounds were completed yesterday so the stadiums are about ready for the final 2 games. We approach the japan stadiums and there ground crews with a message that there mounds are different from what we have in the states…not bad …just different.
Building relationships with Japanese nationals while tearing down there mounds can be tough. All of that aside, Its been great to be so well received this year over previous years. I believe it has a lot to do with the fact more and more Japanese players are playing for teams in the US and when they return to Japan they try to relay field conditions to management. They are requesting the "western" style mound over the "Asian" style. ( One is dry and beachy and the other moist and pliable)
Today in Osaka was one of those occasions where the ground crew was very eager to try new clay installations for there mounds. That makes this job so much fun! Basically we were able to locate a brick factory in Nagoya that pulled bricks off the belt before they are baked. We use this product over there existing clays. The product is pretty good and far better than the loose soils the local guys currently throw off of. The tools they use for mounds are pretty cool. Many things different than what we use in the states. I wish we could play in an outdoor stadium in Japan. Maybe in 2008 you never know. There are only three natural turf stadiums in Japan.
We start the main mound in the early AM at Osaka…which is an off day for the team.
The first game of the Japan All-Star Series ends in a 7-7 tie and the new mounds held up beautifully thanks to a great group of Tokyo Dome groundskeepers. Made up of a couple guys Masato and Kichiri who have been with the Egg for many years, the rest of the crew are youngsters…that work like seasoned pros!
MLB and Japan?s baseball history goes back over 100 years. The All-Star program dates the series back to 1931. Ty Cobb even came over here to show his baseball abilities many years ago. Playing in the Tokyo Dome better know as the ?egg? is very unique in itself. The venue holds many events each year including NFL football games, concerts and monster truck shows. The Yomuri Giants call the egg there home field. Interesting facts about the baseball facility include. Bullpens under the stadium. The pitchers actually watch the game on monitors inside the bullpen area. There is no warning track area around the entire field. The mound is retractable.
Japanese teams have developed a very efficient way to increase the amount of Batting practice time. They use 2 batting cages at the same time. Two pitchers etc… It is well choreographed. Many of the MLB coaches mentioned the various stations and training areas throughout the day. Every player is involved in some activity throughout the entire session. No rest. One coach stated it perfectly…"even with all the gadgets and workout stations that are used, its still a simple game."
Three more games here then off to Osaka and fukuoka. Erik Frey one of our PD’s is in Fukuoka assisting the next group with field preps.