Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis, fresh off two years pitching in Japan, talked about his time there with ESPN Dallas. Here's what he had to say:
Q: What was something you experienced in Japan that you didn't expect?
A: How clean it is. I heard about it, but it's very clean. There's no trash in the streets. You drink a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you throw it away at Starbucks. There's hardly any trash cans on the streets and there's no garbage in the streets. If you sit down and eat, you sit down and eat. There's hardly any to go. You'll see some people do it, but they go straight home. The recycling is unbelievable. They have PET bottles, like a plastic bottle, and they would take the cap and wrapper off of it and it goes in a separate place. The only thing you throw away is a paper sack with your scraps. Everything else is recycled. You put it in a separate bag and each day the garbage truck comes by and one day it's plastics and the next it's bottles.
Q: Did you learn to speak Japanese?
A: I started to pick up a little. I was better when people talked to me, but it was hard to have a conversation. I could tell a cab driver where to go and could order food. We had three translators that we could always call and hand the phone to them and they would talk.
Q: What is the competition like over there?
A: The best way to explain it is that it's between Triple-A and the big leagues here. You might face a team that has four or five guys that could play at the big league player and a kid might step in the box that's a Double-A player. It all depends on the team, really. For me, I look at it like you have to go do your job no matter what it is.
Q: They use a different baseball in Japan. Talk about that.
A: It's the same dimensions, but the texture is different. They talk about how the ball jumps in the Tokyo Dome. They have two Mizuno balls, a Zett ball. In Hiroshima, we were a Mizuno club, so we used that ball. They are all about taking care of their sponsorships. One good thing about that is what they call "fight money." Let's say you pitch well and you come out of the game and a couple of days later, they give you $500 to $1,000 in cash. It comes from the sponsors. If you do well over there, you hardly touch your paycheck. If you are an MVP of the month in each league, you can make $6,000 to $10,000. I won it one month my first year. It's crazy. It seems like they just hand it out over there. I think it's like other jobs where if you do well, you get a bonus.
Q: How seriously do their fans take the game?
A: The fans are awesome. Trumpets, each guy has his own chant that the crowd does. They chant your name. They would say "good luck" or "do your best" in Japanese to me. I would hear that a lot. There was one guy where the crowd would get real quiet and one trumpet would play a little deal and the crowd would go crazy. It was pretty cool.
Q: How did you like the food?
A: I dabbled in everything. I wanted to try it. My dad was over and they had a big street fare for opening of the summer and he was trying everything and thought it was awesome. If you go to Tokyo, they have TGI Friday's and Outback and stuff, so you can get other things. There was Korean Barbecue at some places and we at that a lot.