As you can see, the Mariners’ luggage made it back at the Peoria Sports Complex, and so did the team, returning to their spring facilities here about an hour before I did. I had just a two hour or so flight to Phoenix from Seattle. The Mariners were in the air a little bit longer — their trip from Japan took exactly 9 hours and 16 minutes (I’m told Brendan Ryan kept the time down to the second), with the ballclub leaving Tokyo at about 4:40 Friday afternoon, and, through the wonder of the International Date Line, arriving in Phoenix a little after 10 Friday morning.
Walking around the complex here, you can tell the people who were on the flight. They’re the ones walking around in a slight daze, looking like they’re not quite oriented to being back on U.S. soil, and hadn’t slept for about a week. Kind of how I probably look, come to think of it, after two days of watching the Mariners in the wee hours, followed by an early wakeup call this morning to catch my flight.
Initially, the only player I saw was Casper Wells, munching on a hamburger. But because the best way to combat jet lag is to not take a nap, but rather stay up until normal.bed time (or so goes the popular wisdom), manager Eric Wedge is having the team gather back at the complex at 3 p.m. So after grabbing some lunch and maybe taking their suitcases back to their living quarters, the players are starting to trickle in. I saw a bleary-eyed Justin Smoak, as well as Ichiro, in the clubhouse during a brief walkthrough. I don’t think they’re going to actually work out, but they’re going to at least show up here for a little while before heading back out.
There’s no game today, mercifully (though the Mariners’ AA and AAA teams are playing against Padres affiliates right now on the back fields). The Mariners are scheduled to play a night game against the Padres here tomorrow, but I wouldn’t expect many, or any, of the players who made the Japan trip to participate. Kevin Millwood, who is in the Mariners’ rotation but didn’t go to Japan, will start the game. I expect we’ll see the likes of Vinnie Catricala, Luis Rodriguez, Carlos Triunfel and Trayvon Robinson, who were with the team most of spring but didn’t make the traveling squad to Japan.
In chatting with Ron Spellecy, the Mariners’ traveling secretary, he said that 145 people made the trip over on the Mariners’ charter, and 147 returned (they picked up two members of the Japanese media contingent that covers the Mariners). He said everything went remarkably smoothly, logistically.
“It went really well,” he said. “We didn’t have as many issues as we thought we would have. I think the hardest part for us is always getting there, because of all the work that comes with putting the trip together, from collecting passports, to getting the Japanese consul to give us the visas that are required, without knowing anything about what the travelling group is going to be. …Just trying to keep all of that straight.
“Once we got there, MLB just goes overboard. If there’s an issue, they throw more people at you so it fixes itself real quick — but we really didn’t have any issues. We were lucky.”