I just got back from the town of Ishinomaki, where the A’s and Mariners gave a youth baseball clinic in one of the areas hit hardest by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. It was a pretty sobering and inspiring experience all at the same time. We took a 90-minute bullet train ride from Tokyo to Sendai, then embarked on an hour-long bus ride to Ishinomaki. Along the way, we saw the lasting effects of the destruction in the city – entire blocks that once contained rows of houses that are now leveled flat; an auto junkyard where stacks of totaled cars are piled on top of each other; the sight where a schoolhouse once stood before being completely destroyed.
And then to see the joy on these kids’ faces when the A’s and Mariners players showed up. They formed a long greeting line outside Ishinomaki Stadium and cheered when the players got off the bus and made their way through. Once inside the stadium, the kids hammed it up for reporters and photographers. The day left a lasting impact on A’s pitchers Tyson Ross, Tom Milone and Evan Scribner, not to mention numerous team officials who made the trip.
“We can’t be in their shoes,” Milone said. “We can’t feel what they felt a year ago when the tsunami hit. But you can kind of get a feeling for the kind of people that they are. They come out here and they’re still smiling even though something devastating like that happens.”
I’ll have a full online story up a bit later. I posted some photos on twitter (@joestiglich) and I’m hoping to get those shots on our websites before long, as well as some video footage.