A's having fun at press conferences
Everyone getting into the act and enjoying Japan
TOKYO -- For slamming an RBI double that snapped a 2-2 tie in the ninth inning and helped the A's beat the host Yomiuri Giants on Saturday night, A's catcher Rob Bowen was asked to represent the team at the formal postgame press conference at the Tokyo Dome.
There, Bowen got a feel for the unfamiliar scene that a handful of his teammates got to experience a few days earlier at a "presser" that kicked off Opening Series Japan 2008.
"It was a little awkward," Bowen said Sunday before the A's faced the Hanshin Tigers in another exhibition game. "Being respectful and polite is so important here, and I didn't want to mess anything up. I was just kind of feeling my way around.
"I have a tendency to ramble on and on when you get me going, so I had to be real careful. The hardest part is waiting for the interpreter to finish doing her thing."
Second baseman Mark Ellis found that out the hard way during the introductory press conference, at which he appeared with closer Huston Street, shortstop Bobby Crosby and catcher Kurt Suzuki.
When a question is posed first in English, it must be translated into Japanese before the American player is expected to answer. Not easy, Ellis said.
"I interrupted her twice," he said with a laugh. "I felt bad."
Ellis felt bad because, as Bowen noted, being polite is paramount here, a way of life.
"The people are just so friendly, so respectful," Ellis said. "We could learn a lot from them as far as how to treat each other."
Protocol aside, there's been plenty of room for laughs and smiles at the press conferences. Crosby, in particular, seemed to get a kick out of watching his teammates, when a question was being posed to them in Japanese, lock in on the questioner and nod their heads as though they understood exactly what was being said.
He also had some fun at Ellis' expense while one of Ellis' answers was being translated into Japanese.
"I leaned over and said, 'I think she's misquoting you, dude,'" Crosby said, smiling and nodding in Ellis' direction in the home clubhouse Sunday morning. "We had a great time, though. It's part of the whole experience of being over here. That's what makes it so fun."
A's general manager Billy Beane certainly appeared to enjoy himself when he took the stage alongside owner Lew Wolff and manager Bob Geren earlier in the week. Like Ellis, he nodded attentively at a Japanese reporter while being asked a question in Japanese, and when the reporter was finished, Beane eagerly leaned into the microphone and made eye contact with the translator before she could start.
"Do you want me to answer that in English or in Japanese?" Beane asked.
Later in the press conference, when a reporter wondered if the A's had a "new strategy" to counter what a reporter suggested was something of a "Moneyball" copycat thing going on in big league ball, Beane broke into a sly smile.
"We do," he said earnestly, "but I'd have to tell you about it in private. I can't say it up here."
Even Wolff got into the act. After talking seriously about the business opportunities that the trip to Japan represents and the need to continue exploring international talent pools, he suggested that there was another motive for opening the season against the Red Sox in Japan.
"Tickets are so hard to get to the Red Sox games back home; that's why we came here." Wolff cracked.
To which Beane countered, "I wish you'd have left Boston at home and brought someone else [for the A's to play]. It would have been a much more fun series for us."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.