A week after the big quake that rocked north eastern Japan, Japanese MLB players were understandably still struggling to come to grips with the whole situation.
On Monday in Fort Myers, Fla., Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, reliever Hideki Okajima and minor- leaguers Junichi Tazawa and Itsuki Shoda all made personal donations to the cause and accepted gifts from fans before the game against the Yankees. They’re doing the same before tonight’s game.
The Dodgers staged a “drive-through” fundraiser Tuesday night to raise money for the Red Cross Japan Tsunami Fund. The Yankees donated $100,000 and the Red Sox donated $50,000 towards relief efforts. The San Diego Padres will raise funds as part of their Japanese Heritage Night, scheduled for May 20 against the Seattle Mariners at PETCO Park. The Oakland Athletics will do the same on their Japanese Heritage Day April 3, also against the Mariners.
Former major-leaguer Kenji Johjima donated 10 million yen to relief efforts.
Thankfully, as of Wednesday, all 15 MLB players reported that their families were safe, though Milwaukee Brewers reliever Takashi Saito continues to hold out hope that his former high school teammate and family will be found. Despite initial scares — the A’s DH Hideki Matsui and the Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki were initially unable to contact their families, while Angels reliever Hisanori Takahashi was video-chatting with his wife and kids when the earthquake struck — baseball is providing an outlet for MLB’s Japanese players.
Unfortunately, overseas is a different story.
As aftershocks still rock the country, the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association (JPBPA) and NPB teams are all putting in their two yen concerning if the season should begin as scheduled on the 25th of this month. The JPBPA has plenty of members advocating a delayed start, citing rolling blackouts and the rising death toll as main reasons.
The Rakuten Eagles already know they can’t begin the season playing at Kleenex Stadium, which is located in Sendai, one of the hardest hit by the 9.0 quake. On the flip side, the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers as of Wednesday had maintained their position of starting the season on schedule — though concerns over the “bottom line” will most likely be overruled by the end of this week. I fully expect the NPB season to be delayed. That’s just the way Japan rolls.
“There are still people out there that are missing,” NPB all-star Yu Darvish said Tuesday. “I’d like to see as many people saved as possible. … There are a lot of people in need right now. I’m not sure if this is the time to be playing baseball. I’m a baseball player, but I’m also a person. This is a very difficult time for me… We’re no longer at the point where we can lift everyone’s spirits by playing some baseball…”
For those of you who want to donate, remember to check the Better Business Bureau first (bbb.org/charity) or stick with names you know, like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Zynga’s Farmville game on Facebook is also another way in which you can quickly donate.
Jordan Ikeda is a former Rafu Sports editor who writes from Torrance. He can be contacted at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.