Quite the sideshow coming off the field this morning as Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma attempted to return to the clubhouse. Iwakuma was literally besieged by Japanese and American fans alike. He patiently signed each and every autograph requests, then posed for photos with Japanese fans. Some of the fans would get their pictures snapped with him, then run about 25 feet away to gather a bat, or a poster, run back and have Iwakuma sign them.
After a while, a Mariners media relations representative had to come and start easing Iwakuma away. Needless to say, it was a pretty big day for the Japanese pitcher, who should slot in at No. 3 in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas. Iwakuma had wanted to pitch in the majors last season after Oakland posted the winning bid for his services.
But the A’s and Iwakuma could not reach a deal and he was forced to stay in Japan.
Now, he’s finally out on a major league field.
“This is the first time I’ve seen that many people around me wanting to talk and get my autograph,” Iwakuma said, through interpreter Daisuke Sekiba. “I’ll try to do it as much as I can. As long as I have time, though.”
Iwakuma admitted his first day was unlike any other he had in Japan.
“This was my first time wearing the uniform. I’m really excited to play with the pitchers and catchers and position players. So, it was a lot of fun.”
Iwakuma did notice a difference between training camp here and in Japan. At least, the first-day stuff.
“I felt like it was pretty easy,” he said. “Because we spent two hours just for the warmup in Japan. And we do a lot of stuff, just with fundamentals. I felt this was really good for my first day as a major leaguer.”