by SID - The baseball team started practice again last week in preparation for the Japan/Hong Kong trip that will start this weekend.
For a great story on how the trip came about and the generous gift from Bill Kaye that made it happen, check out ace beat reporter David Boclair's article in the Nashville City Paper that ran on Monday.
The trip will be a unique experience for the team on and off the field. There are four games on the schedule in three days (Nov. 23-25) and the Commodores will experience a different style of baseball than what they are used to playing in the US.
I was fortunate enough to work with Coach Corbin and the 2006 USA Baseball National team and we played the Japanese National team six times that summer including a semifinal win at the World University Championships in Havana, Cuba.
One thing to expect next week from all four teams on the schedule is solid defensive and pitching fundamentals with good mechanics throughout. Since the Commodores face four different teams, they will also face each team's ace so low scoring games will be likely.
Offensively the 2006 Japanese squad relied on speed and timely hitting. While not as focused on power numbers, the team was challenged when facing hard-throwers like future first-rounders David Price and TCU's Jake Arrieta.
That summer we were able to play traveling series in the US with Chinese-Taipei (Taiwan) and Japan and we had the chance to stay at the same hotels as them on the road. Outside of the baseball diamond, it was easy to see that the Japanese seemed to enjoy the experience and were more relaxed than some of the other international teams we faced in the summer. While relaxed, they also showed dedication that was quite unique. On several occasions after games, most of the hitters would get back to the hotel and take their bats outside and take practice swings in the dark in the parking lot.
As Coach Corbin noted before the attention to details was obvious to see and that was due to the differences in practice rules from the US and Japan. While the NCAA has limits on practice time during a week, in Japan there are none.
So I would expect some closely contested contests with solid pitching and good defense from both sides. The games will come down to which side gets the timely hit, yet whatever the results on the field will be, the Vanderbilt players will have an experience they will never forget.
We plan to have daily reports and photos from the trip from senior catcher Andrew Giobbi and baseball operations czar Daniel Harris. Check back later this week as well for interviews with Giobbi and sophomore hurler Sonny Gray. Gray played for the 2009 USA team this summer in Japan and has his own take on what to expect.