03/25/2004 7:39 PM ET
Yankees head Far East to face Rays
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
TAMPA -- The Yankees embarked on the journey of a lifetime Thursday, travelling halfway across the world for their season-opening series against the Devil Rays in Tokyo.
|Hideki Matsui watches his two-run double in the first inning Thursday. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Getting there will be the biggest challenge for this group of world-class athletes, who will attempt to overcome the effects of an 18-hour trip in time to play big-league baseball.
"The thing that we're most concerned and curious about is what the travel will do to us, physically," said manager Joe Torre. "It has the potential to disrupt."
To make the trip as smooth as possible, team trainer Gene Monahan has put together a detailed plan for the Yankees, giving players and coaches various tips to make the ride as pleasant as it can be.
"When they wake up (on Friday), we want them to feel somewhat on their time, as if they went to bed in Japan the night before."
Tokyo is 14 hours ahead of Tampa, a fact that the players have been made aware of by the two clocks hanging in the Legends Field clubhouse that read "Tokyo Time."
Monahan, who has been the Yankees' trainer for 32 years, stressed the importance of fluids on the flight, telling players to drink 16 ounces of water or Gatorade per hour. Alcohol will not be permitted, as it accelerates dehydration, which can lead to muscle cramps and eventually strains.
"We're pushing fluids on this trip. It's very important to eliminate dehydration. I will be going around with water and Gatorade, force-feeding them, keeping track of who is drinking water and who's not," Monahan said. "I'll sit there and watch them drink it. They've got to stay hydrated. We have to be very careful about that."
"I trust that man," Torre said of Monahan. "It's a nice feeling. He's the best I've ever been around, and I've been around some good ones."
The team will also be given several small meals throughout the trip, from a menu that has been carefully planned. In fact, the menus for all meals at the Tokyo Dome -- for workouts, the exhibition games and the two games against Tampa Bay -- have already been planned.
"The meals are planned according to the people we hired, the experts," said Monahan. "It's several small meals spread out through the entire trip."
With a flight of this magnitude, it's only natural that players will want to sleep. The entire trip is approximately 18 hours.
Players will be on their own in terms of sleep on the first leg, but Monahan wants them to get about five or six hours of sleep at the start of the flight to Tokyo.
"We've recommended things they enjoy," Monahan said. "Ballplayers like DVDs, so they can load up on movies they like. Reading helps you sleep, and the exercise will help with that, too. Make it as much like home as you can all the whole way there and back."
Players will then be urged to stay awake for the final seven or eight hours of the trip, allowing them to sleep when they arrive in Japan, sometime between 12:00 and 2:00 am.
"When we open the season, we should pretty much be on Japan time, with everyone recovered from their activity so they're sharp," Monahan said.
Just as the Yankees are adjusting to Japan time, Monahan will be keeping it in the back of their minds that they will be back in Tampa in just a few days. The team will put up clocks in the clubhouse that show Tampa time, readjusting to East Coast hours at the conclusion of the last game in Tokyo.
Monahan, who consulted trainers from the NBA, NFL and MLB that have taken teams to Japan, estimates that the recovery from the trip back to the United States is 30-to-50 percent tougher than the trip there.
A handful of players have made the trip, including Jason Giambi, who will be making his fifth visit to Japan.
"There is no good way to do it," Giambi said. "You just deal with it. It's a long haul, so you have to just suck it up."
"I have no idea what I'm going to do," said Mike Mussina, who has never been to Japan. "Sleep, eat, sleep some more, eat again. Then we'll be in Chicago."
Torre, who made his last trip to Japan in 1974, plans to stock up on DVDs (and batteries), and has purchased some extra decks of cards for his customary game of hearts with Monahan. Among Torre's DVD selections: A Few Good Men and the Godfather trilogy.
"I could watch A Few Good Men coast-to-coast. The acting in that movie is terrific," Torre said. "You have to be in the right frame of mind to watch the Godfather movies. Once you dig in, you're in for the long haul. Maybe this is the right trip to do it."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.