Pitcher Lee Zerrusen recently traveled to Japan, where his team played eight games against Japanese university and club teams and saw the sights of Tokyo and Osaka.
July 31, 2008
CHICAGO - Hey, Illini fans, Lee Zerrusen coming to you fresh off a week-long trip to Japan. During the spring, I was offered a spot on a team with players from colleges and high schools all over the country traveling overseas to play against Japanese university and club teams. I was able to play under fellow Illini Billy Barrett's high school coach Jim Hall.
We flew into Osaka early Saturday evening and immediately went to a banquet held for us by the Japanese baseball federation. Because of the 14-hour time difference, more than a few of my teammates could be found sleeping in the back corner of the room.
In Osaka, we played against four university teams. These players go to school and major in baseball, and it showed. They played flawless fundamental baseball. I started the first game and it was a reality check when the lead-off hitter fouled off seven straight pitches before I was able to get him out. After playing in Osaka, we bused to Tokyo for four more games against club teams.
The trip was not all baseball, though. We were able to see many of the sights of both cities. We were led around Osaka and Tokyo by our translator, who we called Shin because none of us could pronounce his whole name. We were even able to catch a Japanese professional game in the Tokyo Dome. This was a very different experience compared to an American game. People are constantly cheering, chanting and waving flags.
We finished 4-4 on the trip, which is not as good as we would have liked, but I came away with an experience I will never forget. It was great to see how the game was played in Japan and it was easy to see why most Japanese players are successful when they play over here.
After an 11-hour flight back into Chicago it is nice to be home and back playing with my summer team, the Crestwood Panthers.
Hope everyone's summer is going well and Go Illini!
Lee Zerrusen, #18