Originally created 03/27/04

No translation needed: Yankees, Devil Rays fight jet jag as they arrive in Japan

TOKYO -- Nothing lost in translation here.

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays looked just plain pooped when they walked into their hotel in the middle of the night, fighting jet lag from their nearly daylong journeys.

Led by Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson, the Yankees pulled up in five buses a little bit past 2 a.m. Saturday (noon Friday EST). The Devil Rays, their opponent in Tuesday's season-opener, arrived almost an hour later, picked up their meal money and headed to their rooms.

"I think it's certainly interesting to go take a look at another culture. I just don't want to go 18 hours to do it," said Jackson, in Japan for the first time. "Who does? I mean, it's nice if I can snap my finger, but technology is not there yet. They're not quite where I want to be in terms of how I want to travel."

While Jackson dreamed of transporter beams, others faced the reality portrayed by Bill Murray in the hit movie "Lost in Translation," when he played a sleep-deprived actor who stumbled around the Grand Hyatt, a 10-minute taxi ride away.

"I think I stayed up enough," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "I didn't sleep a lot. That's the instructions we were given - a little bit, so you're tired when you get in. Yogi and I already are making breakfast plans."

Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella was thinking even further ahead.

"It will be fun for our group. We'll enjoy the hospitality," he said. "Hopefully, we'll win some baseball games."

While the Devil Rays wore casual clothes, the Yankees emerged from their Japan Airlines charter wearing jackets and ties, the same look they sported when they departed Florida on Thursday afternoon. On the flight, however, they wore sweat suits and slippers.

"Once we got on the plane, we did a Superman in the bathrooms," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

While the Yankees refueled in Chicago, the Devil Rays stopped in San Francisco. New York encountered a half-hour of turbulence during the trans-Pacific trek, more annoying than disturbing, according to Cashman.

When they arrived at Haneda Airport, the teams were greeted by flashbulb-popping photographers and a handful of fans outside seeking autographs. At the hotel, fewer than 50 fans waited for the arrival.

And while the teams breezed through customs, one item on the Yankees' flight didn't - drying material sent by the commissioner's office to reformulate the pitcher's mound in the Tokyo Dome. Jim Small, baseball's vice president of international market development, said he anticipated the dirt-like substance would be released over the weekend.

This two-game series is the Yankees' first trip outside North America in 49 years. New York's top three officials skipped the journey - owner George Steinbrenner, president Randy Levine and chief operating officer Lonn Trost.

Steve Swindal, a Yankees' general partner and Steinbrenner's son-in-law, explained the Boss' absence.

"It's a long trip. I'm sure he'll be watching," he said.

Tampa Bay owner Vince Naimoli headed his team's contingent. The Devil Rays had about 150 people on their flight.

"We had lot of room to spread out, excellent service," Naimoli said.

Players were faced with a busy schedule: a news conference, workouts and a party on Saturday, two days of exhibition games against the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers, visits to U.S. military bases and the U.S. ambassador, and then the first two games of the major league season.

Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui smiled and waved as he returned to his homeland. Others talked about the jet lag.

"I'm not too concerned. I came here in '96 with major league baseball and felt OK there," AL MVP Alex Rodriguez said. "It's going to take a day or two, probably."

Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi made it sound like the New York-to-Boston shuttle.

"I've made this flight plenty of times, so it's not bad," he said.

Notes: Torre and Swindal did not spend much time on the flight discussing a contract extension for the manager. "I don't think there has to be a deadline," Swindal said. "Both of us are going at a pretty fast pace here, and I think we're both of the mind-set to accomplish it." ... Yankees left behind, including No. 3 starter Javier Vazquez, CF Bernie Williams and injured pitchers Jon Lieber and Orlando Hernandez, worked out in Tampa, Fla., while their teammates traveled. "I guess you can say we're the lucky ones," Lieber joked. ... Williams went 1-for-5 with a double as the DH for Triple-A Columbus. He's 3-for-16 in three minor league games since his appendix was removed Feb. 26. "Still a work in progress," Williams said. "I'm still maybe a little bit behind as far as spring training conditioning goes." He could play in the outfield Monday for the first time this spring.


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