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03/25/08 7:23 AM ET

Buchholz enjoys visit to U.S. Embassy

Before Sox kick off regular season, club makes cultural visit

TOKYO -- Clay Buchholz, all 23 years old of him, probably never imagined that in the span of one month, he would be a guest at both the White House and the United States Embassy in Tokyo.

"Two memorable trips right there," said Buchholz.

That is just the type of ride the Red Sox are on, fresh off winning their second World Series in four seasons, and now opening their title defense with two games in Japan against the Oakland Athletics.

Buchholz was just part of a Red Sox contingent at the embassy that had representatives from ownership (John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino), the front office (general manager Theo Epstein) and the dugout (manager Terry Francona and pitchers Buchholz, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester).

Along with members from the Oakland Athletics, the Sox were guests of United States Ambassador Thomas Schieffer at the residential portion of the embassy.

It was a quaint event at which Schieffer welcomed his guests, and they presented him with baseball uniforms.

The Red Sox gave Schieffer a visiting uniform with his last name stitched on the back.

"This is the room where Ambassador [Joseph] McGrew held a reception in 1934 for Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig," Schieffer told the assembled gathering. "If you look right there on that stand behind the couch, there is Lou Gehrig's glove that he played with while he was here in Japan. He actually lost his glove on the way over and the Japanese players chipped in and bought that glove."

It was a neat meeting between baseball and politics that took place just hours before the Red Sox-A's 2008 Major League Baseball season opener.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig also attended the luncheon.

"On behalf of Major League Baseball, it is a privilege and an honor to be here," said Selig. "This is the third time we've opened a season here, and each time it's gotten better."

The ambassador was no stranger to Selig or many of the other baseball officials gathered at his residence. Schieffer was a partner of President George W. Bush when he owned the Texas Rangers.

"[Schieffer] is a bona fide and passionate baseball fan, so it's great," said Lucchino. "This is a historic building. I really like the country and I like the culture a lot."

For the Red Sox, the trip has been rewarding from a cultural standpoint. Now, they're ready to shift their attention to baseball.

"It does seems like we're getting down to rug-cutting time, when the ceremonies are over and the cultural exploration is behind us, and now I think everyone is focused -- I'm sure our players are," said Lucchino.

Buchholz felt privileged to be a guest at an event with such meaning.

"It was pretty neat, actually," said Buchholz. "I didn't know what to expect. I had never been to an embassy. Everybody there was thankful, and on the other side, they were really nice people. The ambassador is a pretty neat guy, too. All in all, it was a good trip."

As different as the cultures of the United States and Japan are, baseball is clearly a bonding factor.

"Everyone here is drawn together by their love of baseball," said Werner. "We're so honored to play here, and we want to thank Bud [Selig] and [MLB president and chief operating officer] Bob Dupuy and [MLB Players Association chief operating officer] Gene Orza and the ambassador and everybody for making it such a terrific stay. It's so wonderful for us. I've talked to many of our players who are just so honored by the friendship and hospitality that's been shown here."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.