MLB players deal with impact of earthquake in Japan
Angels pitcher Hisanori Takahashi was video chatting with his wife, Yeyol, in Tokyo when the picture started shaking.
Japan was being rocked by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, the most powerful in that country’s history. Takahashi was watching it live.
But at least he had evidence that his family was safe. And as the effects of the devastating quake and the resulting tsunami rippled through spring training camps in Arizona and Florida early Friday, several other Japanese players spent frantic hours trying to account for friends and family members at home.
Former Dodgers pitcher Takashi Saito, now with the Milwaukee Brewers, left the team’s facility in Phoenix to search for information about family members who live near Sendai, the northeastern coastal city that was hit the hardest. By early afternoon Saito had reached his wife and three children as well as an uncle, who told the pitcher the rest of his family was safe.
In Tampa, the Yankees gave minor league pitcher Kei Igawa permission to leave camp. As of Friday afternoon, Igawa had not been able to reach his family in Ibaraki on Japan’s Pacific Coast, where the tsunami struck.
Other players who had trouble getting news about solid friends and relatives included Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, Boston Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajimi and Oakland Athletics designated hitter Hideki Matsui, a former Angel.
“I pray for the safety of all the people that have been affected and continue to be affected by this disaster,” said Matsui, who thought his family members were safe because most of them live in southwestern Japan, far from the most heavily damaged areas.
It took Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda most of the day Friday to learn that his brother was safe. His brother lives near Tokyo, about 240 miles south of the quake’s epicenter, but often travels north on business.
Kuroda was also concerned about friends on Sendai’s baseball team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Among the players on the Golden Eagles’ roster are former big league infielders Kaz Matsui and Akinori Iwamura.
“I’m worried about them and their families,” Kuroda said. “When I saw the pictures on TV I was really shocked. I didn’t expect that it was this big.”
Commissioner Bud Selig released a statement Friday extending Major League Baseball’s “deepest condolences to all those who have been affected” by the disaster while pledging to “provide aid with the relief efforts in the days and weeks ahead. We will do everything we can to help Japan.”
The Yankees on Friday made a $100,000 contribution to relief efforts, and the A’s are planning fundraisers around their early April series with the Mariners. Other teams are expected to organize similar efforts in the coming days.
In Tempe, fans and players observed a moment of silence before Friday’s Cactus League game between the Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks while Takahashi, who was given the afternoon off, tried to keep his mind on baseball.
“This morning, I checked the Internet again and I saw the video,” he said through interpreter Yoichi Terada. “So I called [my family] again. They’re fine.
“I’m fortunate. I worry about what happened in Japan, but I cannot do anything about it. So I’m just trying to focus on baseball.”
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.