Hideki Okajima was on hand Wednesday in Japan for the announcement of the sale of tickets for Major League’s Ricoh Japan Opening Series 2008 featuring the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics. Okajima talked about winning the World Series and how John Buck from the Kansas City Royals inducted him into MLB.
“I never really watched much major league baseball while growing up but to become the world’s best, or to reach the summit of baseball, was amazing,”
“To win that ring was a very proud moment for me.”
“When he hit that pitch out of the ground everything went blank before my eyes,” Okajima said with a sheepish grin.
“I thought ‘Uh oh!’ I studied the tapes that night — something I’d never done in Japan. It made me realize that the majors were even tougher than I’d thought.”
He also talks about adjusting to life in America.
“I think I had better numbers than I ever did in Japan,” smiled the former Yomiuri Giants reliever. “Maybe my stock has risen but it was a long and hard season.
“The traveling was tough but that’s part of the job. I think I adjusted to that. My English is poor and the food doesn’t agree with me always so there are still things to work on.”
The players who were participating in the Boston Red Sox rookie development program were on display yesterday at Boston College as they went through some workouts. The players in town for the program are pitchers Clay Buchholz, Devern Hansack, Michael Bowden, Hunter Jones, Justin Masterson, and Dustin Richardson; catcher Dusty Brown; infielders Aaron Bates, Chris Carter and Jed Lowrie; and outfielders Bubba Bell and Jonathan Van Every.
Buchholz took time to provide the media with thoughts about hopefully making the team in 2008, about bulking up and if he had to start the season in Triple-A with Pawtucket.
“I know what it’s going to take for me to have to stay on the team this year,” said Buchholz. “A lot of hard work and dedication goes into being prepared for 162 games and that was my offseason this year, that was [what] I put all the dedication toward. I think I’m right at 191 [pounds] right now actually. It’s better than the 178 I was last year.”
“That’s the goal,” Buchholz said. “I had a lot of goals coming into last year and that’s definitely my goal this year, but it’s all what the organization needs and who they want to have in the rotation. I would love to be there. I’m going to go into Spring Training and try to earn a spot, but if that doesn’t happen … that’s where I want to be, by the end of the season, by midseason.”
“I wouldn’t be disappointed,” said Buchholz. “Like I said, it’s their decision. I have goals. Last year, I managed to make all my goals, and if something happens and you don’t make that goal, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen some time during the season. I have hopes and wishes and goals, and that’s about all I can say for you right now.”
He definitely seems focused and intent on making the team. It should be a fun battle between him and Jon Lester during the abbreviated spring training in February and March.
Masterson and Lowrie also gave some insight on what it’s like to be included the Santana discussions.
“It’s humbling and I feel a little honored,” Masterson said. “I don’t know if I should be there. It’s kind of like, I don’t know if I’m at that level yet. You hear that, and I’m just one of four, 15, 20 names thrown out there. It’s kind of cool. It doesn’t really bother me too much. I’m with the Boston Red Sox, the greatest organization, so that’s fine.
“Oh yeah, that’s an honor to even have your name just thrown around with talent like that. There’s so many names in the Red Sox organization. I would be that player to be named later, the guy low on the totem pole,” quipped Masterson.
“It’s exciting, because you have a pitcher like a Johan Santana, who is one of the best in the game, to have your name mentioned in a trade like that is pretty flattering,” Lowrie said. “Boston is first class. If I had my choice, I’d love to stay with the Red Sox. But all the time, it’s not up to the players.”
It looks as though the development program is working on dealing with the Boston media.