Weary but excited, A's arrive in Tokyo

Weary but excited, A's arrive in Tokyo

TOKYO -- As the front of the huge Hotel New Otani came into view, an American flag whipping in the wind high above, a tired sense of relief seemed to wash over those within the buses that were carrying the 150-plus-person Oakland A's contingent to their final destination after the long journey from Phoenix to Japan.

The exciting but laborious first day -- or was it days? -- for the A's, who are here to kick off the regular season with a two-game series against the defending World Series champion Red Sox on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome as part of Opening Series Japan 2008, was almost at its end.

Much of the traveling party was weary and bleary-eyed after split-squad getaway games in Arizona, a lengthy security screening for a delayed charter flight out of town and roughly 12 hours in the air before passing through customs and another hour on the bus from the airport, but Oakland manager Bob Geren was typically upbeat, declaring the journey a smooth success.

"It was a long one, no doubt, but I think Major League Baseball and Mickey [Morabito, Oakland's director of travel] did a tremendous job," Geren said. "Everything went as planned, everyone got where they needed to be, and here we are. I'm tired, but I'm still pumped up."

The A's players were pumped up when told that they'd be getting some slack regarding the team's dress code for road trips. They were allowed to wear team sweatsuits -- gray with green-and-white piping -- onto the plane in Phoenix and required to change into coats and ties only upon arriving in Japan, where a small group of fans and media greeted them at about midnight local time.

"Comfortable is good, especially for a 12-hour flight," A's first baseman/designated hitter Mike Sweeney said while waiting for the security line to start in Phoenix. "But you have to look nice when you get off the plane and check into the hotel."

Comfort didn't seem to be a problem for anybody aboard the charter flight, on which the team's top dogs -- general manager Billy Beane and company -- sat in the opulent 12-seat first-class section, players occupied the cushy executive class seats and the rest of the party spread out across the back of the 400-seat plane. Those in economy class, i.e. family, media and assorted team employees, had little problem finding a three-seat row to claim for their own.

"You don't do something this huge and not do it right," Geren said before picking up his room keys with his family and heading for bed. "And they did it right. I can't wait for tomorrow.

"Or is tomorrow today already?"

The A's left Phoenix at about 6:30 p.m. PT on Wednesday, and as Geren spoke, it was early in the morning -- Tokyo time -- on Friday.

"It doesn't matter what day it is," he said. "This is gonna be a blast."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.