Results tagged ‘ Rob Wooten ’
Earlier this week, I caught up with a jet-lagged Rob Wooten who recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Japan that included stops in Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Sapporo and Okinawa.
In addition to getting a crash course on the food and culture, Rob was pitching for the MLB All-Stars in the Japan All-Star Series.
In case you missed it (and you may have since most of the games were aired in the States overnight due to the time difference), the 2014 MLB Japan All-Star Series was a championship held in a best-of-five format (plus two exhibition games) between a team comprised of an elite group MLB players and Japan’s national team (Samurai Japan). Held for the first time since 2006, this year’s championship took place from Friday, November 14 through Tuesday, November 18, with Samurai Japan winning the series, 3-2.
If you follow Rob Wooten on Twitter (@RobWooten35) and I suggest you do, you may have already seen many of the great photos that he tweeted out during his time overseas, but I had the chance to chat with Rob and get a little more background on his travels, what it is like to pitch in another country with a very unique stadium environment, and the game of “Dare” going around the team which led to players photobombing, serenading, and eating fish guts.
Read on as I dissect his timeline and take you beyond 140 characters.
Back in June, the MLB Players Association began asking which players might be interested in participating in the Japan All-Star Series. Rob put his name in and got a call shortly after the season ended saying he had made the team.
Although Rob knew Jerry Blevins, a pitcher for the Washington Nationals, a little bit as a friend of a friend back when Rob was in Triple-A, he had not played with any of his MLB All-Star teammates during his career, but had played against most of them. However, in this type of environment, especially with his bullpen mates, it was easy to form bonds.
Saturday, November 8: The Team Departs for Osaka
On Thursday, November 6, Rob and his wife Katie boarded a plane from North Carolina, where they reside in the offseason, to Los Angeles. The MLB All-Stars worked out November 7-8 and took a team photo before boarding a 12 hour and 45 minute flight to Osaka.
This is a photo of Koshien Stadium in Osaka, which has an all-dirt infield.
“When Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, when that team went over in 1934, that’s where they played. So it’s kind of like their Fenway. It’s a really old ballpark, but it’s pretty neat….I hadn’t played on an all-dirt infield since Little League, so it was different in that aspect. Even from the mound to home plate, it looked very different, being all dirt,” Rob said.
For their first game, MLB All-Stars played an exhibition game here on Tuesday, November 11 vs. the Hanshin Tigers/Yomiuri Giants. The MLB team won the exhibition game 8-7.
The next night, they played Game 1 of the Japan Series at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka. They were defeated 2-0.
Here’s a photo of Rob and Katie at a party hosted by the Yomiuri Giants.
If you follow Rob on Twitter, you know he’s a big fan of Starbucks. “I was very excited. There was one right across from our hotel in Osaka,” he said, noting that he found Starbucks in both Osaka and Tokyo, but not the other cities he visited in Japan. He was also surprised to find many of the Starbucks employees he encountered were able to have a conversation with him in English.
Thursday, November 13: Kyoto
The team had an off-day in Kyoto, so Rob had the chance to explore a bit. He took in a few temple tours and then had a lunch set up with a geisha show before the team took headed to the next city.
“It was only for us and it was nice to get a peek into their culture,” Rob said.
“They have a lot of shows on the field before games, too…. I would usually only catch the end of it, but I would walk out there and the stadium would be silent because everyone was watching the show that was on the field. It’s pretty neat.”
Friday, November 14: Tokyo
The team then traveled to Tokyo where they played the next three games of the series at the Tokyo Dome on Friday, November 14, Saturday, November 15 and Sunday, November 16.
That’s also where he got his first taste of what it was like to pitch in Japan, making appearances in the games on Friday and Sunday.
Once major difference? The bullpens there are not on the field. They are underneath, near the clubhouse.
“The first time you’re exposed to the atmosphere is when you’re on the mound. You’re in the bullpen and it is dead quiet and you’re watching the game on TV…and then all of a sudden you’re in mayhem, horns, drums all kinds of stuff.”
“You really have to calm your emotions down real quick. If you let your emotions get to you, you’re going to be pretty jumpy out there. I actually think I did a pretty decent job of that and got right to work pretty quick. I think the first pitch I threw was a strike, so that calmed me down and then it was just baseball after that,” he said.
Samurai Japan took the first two games in Tokyo (including a combined no-hitter by four pitchers on Saturday), bringing the series to 3-1.
Besides the bullpen location, Rob also noted some differences in fan behavior.
“They have very good fans with a high baseball IQ. Everything is extremely different, but at the same time really similar as far as the game goes. I noticed most of the time it was really, really loud when they were hitting but when they were pitching it was pretty quiet. For instance, I noticed when it was two strikes and two outs and all they have to do is get one out to win the game and the series, nobody was standing. Nobody was clapping. It was extremely quiet—here in the States, your closer is on the mound and there are two outs, 40,000 people are standing and cheering to get that last out—but then once the out was made, everyone started standing up and clapping. But when they are hitting, it’s a whole different world. There’s cheering, people jumping around, there are horns, there are drums… it’s just, wow.”
While in Tokyo, the MLB All-Stars visited the U.S. Embassy.
“We got to see Caroline Kennedy, which was pretty sweet and Katie and I had the chance to hang out with the Aoki family as well,” Rob said. Of course, Rob is talking about his former Brewers teammate and favorite while he was here, Norichika Aoki.
“Nori was actually at the first game in Osaka, which is where I saw him first….In Japan, obviously, it is respectful to bow and everything, but he had an entourage of people around him, paparazzi, and I came up and gave him a great big bear hug,” Rob laughed. “It was good to see him there, but then it was nice to get to hang out more with him and his wife at the U.S. Embassy.”
Rob tweeted this photo of the national anthem which took place before the game on Sunday, November 16. Rob pitched a scoreless inning in that game, which resulted in a 6-1 win for the MLB All-Stars.
When in Japan. Rob said the sushi in Japan was very different than what he was accustomed to.
“It’s so good because it is so fresh. We’ve all grown up on the fried and cooked fish and that’s really good, but in Japan, you can’t really find that. Everything is raw. Also, the noodles were incredible over there,” he said.
He also noted that breakfast in Japan was not anything like what we’re used to in America. Although some of the hotels tried to provide an Americanized version, in Japan, you’re more likely to find raw fish, noodles and even salad for the morning meal.
Tuesday, November 18: Sapporo
The team then headed to Sapporo for the final game of the Japan Series.
“We only spent one day in Sapporo and it was really cold and snowing, actually,” Rob said.
The MLB All-Stars won that game 3-1, but lost the overall series, 3-2.
Here’s a photo that a fan tweeted of Rob signing autographs. Rob said that one of the best parts of the trip was all of the fans.
“The people over there were so polite. They welcomed us into their country with open arms,” Rob said. “Not one time did I feel uncomfortable. It’s crazy how much knowledge they have of the game and us. I’ve only been in the Big Leagues for parts of two seasons and everyone knew who I was. I’d be walking out of the hotel and there would be people everywhere asking for autographs. I signed pictures I had never seen before of myself. It was pretty wild. And I know with [Robinson] Cano and [Evan] Longoria, they got it even more than I did.”
Wednesday, November 19: Okinawa
Before heading home, the team had one more stop. They headed to Okinawa to play another game vs. Samurai Japan; however, this one was considered an exhibition. While they were there, Rob and his teammate Jerry Blevins from the Nationals, paid a visit to an all-boys orphanage where they posed for photographs and took part in a Q&A through an interpreter.
“They were really nice, really polite, but it was also very sad as well. I wish we could have stayed longer and done more for them,” Rob said. He noted that all of his teammates made similar appearances in the cities they visited, including places like hospitals and even tea parties.
He also had dinner at Sam’s, a steakhouse in Okinawa. It was at Sam’s that Rob completed a dare—but more on that later.
On Thursday, November 20, the teams played their final game. There was an impressive pregame ceremony for the finale.
“That was kind of like the grand finale of a fireworks show,” Rob said. “There were people coming out of every corner of the stadium with drums, instruments, costumes, it was really cool.”
Rob pitched a scoreless inning in that game, but Samurai Japan ended up winning 6-4.
All in all, Japan won the official five-game set 3-2. And the teams split the two exhibitions.
“Everybody has asked me what was my favorite part of the trip…just to be associated with the team that I was with and just being in the clubhouse with those guys was really neat for me….As far as one particular moment, I don’t know if there is one. Everything was so great from the start.
“Interacting with the fans over there was something I’ll never forget. It was kind of difficult to carry on a conversation, but just the one-on-one, even for two seconds, you could see that we were making a difference in their lives and they in ours. We don’t go over there often and they were so excited for us to come and they rolled out the red carpet everywhere we went. Just the fans and the people over there were unbelievable,” Rob recalled.
Twitter Truth or Dare-Minus the Truth Part
Aside from baseball, appearances and sightseeing, one other thing kept the MLB All-Stars occupied during their time in Japan: a giant game of Twitter Truth or Dare—minus the Truth part. Basically, players began daring each other to do things and they had to prove they had completed the dare by filming it and posting it to Twitter.
Here are few examples:
Rob dared Jerry Blevins of the Nationals to eat “fish guts pickled in salt of the tuna,” a menu item at one of the restaurants where they dined:
Here’s Jerry completing the dare:
“He struggled to get it down, but he did it,” Rob said. So, in turn, Jerry dared Rob…
…who held up his end of the bargain:
“There was no English, so I had to somehow get them to let me get in the middle of them and take a picture. It ended up working out pretty easily. They had a good time with it. They were excited,” Rob recounted.
For your viewing pleasure, here are some of the other dares that were pretty amusing:
Rob said he enjoyed bonding with his teammates and it certainly seems like all of the players had a great time in Japan.
It was great to connect with Rob. He was blown away by the fans in Japan, as well as the country’s cleanliness and beauty. I could tell just how much he enjoyed the trip and cherished this special experience and opportunity, but I also know just how much he, like us, is looking forward to 2015.
“As fun as this was, as great as this was, my focus is now completely on 2015,” he said.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Rob’s trip as much as he enjoyed taking it and I enjoyed hearing about it. It’s certainly always great to have a little extra baseball to tide us over until Spring Training.
As part of tonight’s Fan Appreciation Night presented by Chevrolet, Brewers players were escorted on golf carts throughout the parking lots to surprise fans with gifts as a way of thanking everyone for their season-long support. After batting practice, the players hopped on the carts and went for the ride.
Every Brewers player and coach handed out Brewers goodies to fans in the parking lots to show appreciation for their support. Many posed for selfies and shook hands with the fans:
Will Smith, Jimmy Nelson and Matt Clark decided to start a game of bags with some fans and they even enjoyed some cookies from the group.
The gesture caught most fans by surprise as they really didn’t really expect to see Brewers players cruising through the lots on golf carts. It was a fun treat to see the reaction of the fans when they saw the players. There were a lot of double takes! It was also fun to see the reaction of the players, some of whom had never seen the extravagant tailgating that goes on before every Brewers game.
Were you in the parking lots tonight? Share your story with us in the comments section below!
In town for a show tonight, country music star Chase Rice paid a visit to Miller Park this afternoon where he took a tour of the ballpark and had the chance to take a little batting practice from assistant coach Joe Crawford.
He is best known for his song “Ready Set Roll” and also co-wrote the number one single performed by Florida Georgia Line, “Cruise.”
Chase told me that he’s had the opportunity to stop at quite a few ballparks and stadiums on his tour.A college football player during his time at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he’s a very athletic guy and had some fun in the cage.
We have a lot of country music fans on the Brewers roster this season and a few of them had the chance to hang out with him for a bit, including Will Smith, Zach Duke and fellow former Tar Heel, Rob Wooten:
Thanks to Chase and his crew for swinging by. We hope you enjoyed your time with us–have a great show tonight!
I’ve said it before. When your name is Will Smith, you have to have a good sense of humor….to put up with people like me who think they are so funny and original:
But earlier this season, when I stumbled across this promotion that the State College Spikes were hosting, even Will himself couldn’t help but get excited:
Yes, to commemorate “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” the timeless ’90s sitcom that really put the “other” Will Smith on the map, on June 29, the Spikes, a Class-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, located in Pennsylvania, wore funky, graffiti-inspired jerseys and hosted Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton, Will’s cousin on the show.
I reached out to Ben Love, producer of in-game entertainment for the Spikes and explained our special situation. A month later, this happened:
A special thanks to Ben and the SC Spikes for sending us a special #13 jersey for Will. It was very kind of you (especially since you are an affiliate of one of our biggest rivals!) and it made his day.
You may also recall that back in June, the entire bullpen was “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” in NYC at the MLB Fan Cave:
Brewers Bullpen Gets Jiggy Wit It at the MLB Fan Cave; Produces Rap Video Featuring Will Smith, Inspired by Will Smith
Earlier this month when the Crew visited NYC to take on the Mets, many members of the Brewers bullpen paid a visit to the MLB Fan Cave where they filmed a special video.
We teased it for you a bit on social media at the time….
…but now we’re excited to share the special video–starring Will Smith, Zach Duke, Mike Fiers, Wei-Chung Wang, and Rob Wooten– with you here:
When your name is Will Smith, you have to have a good sense of humor. And, since the Brewers bullpen seems to be the most music video-friendly group in Major League Baseball right now, the Crew took this opportunity to channel the 1990s rap scene with a montage/parody of some songs inspired by the “other” Will Smith:
“Here Come The Men in Blue”
“The Wild Midwest”
“The Fresh Prince of Brew City”
“Welcome to Milwaukee”
It was a great day hanging out at the Cave and in addition to the video, I also got a lot of fantastic behind-the-scenes photos to share with you here. Enjoy!
A huge thank you to the folks at MLB Fan Cave for putting this together; it turned out fantastic! Also, thank you to the guys for taking the time to do this; I know I had fun and I think they may have had a little, too. ;)
If you were following along with our #Brewers14in14 All-Fan Giveaway unveiling this offseason, then you know that for six Friday home games during the 2014 season, all fans will receive a Brewers t-shirt, featuring a unique design for each game ( NOTE: T-shirts will be available in Adult XL and Medium).
The first T-Shirt Friday will take place on Friday, June 13 when the Brewers return home to take on the Cincinnati Reds:
Here to model this retro Brewers tee are Brewers pitchers Rob Wooten and Will Smith. Work it, boys!
Now we’re down to the Final Four (On Wisconsin!), so we thought we’d post the updated brackets here so you can follow along with Brew Crew Bracketology below and see how their picks are “netting” out.
As you can see, even Hank and Bernie Brewer got in on the fun and Bernie has even correctly picked 3 of the Final Four! He’s got Wisconsin in the National Championship game, so let’s hope he’s right!
If you’ll notice, I filled out a bracket, too. Although I’m a Marquette girl and I’m bummed they aren’t in it, I am cheering Wisconsin on loudly and I really do love the excitement of this time of year–both on the basketball and baseball fronts.
Bracket busted? Never fear. Brewers season is underway!
Even Hank and Bernie Brewer got in on the fun!
As the next round begins on Thursday, we thought we’d post the updated brackets here so you can follow along with Brew Crew Bracketology below and see how their picks are “netting” out.
If you’ll notice, I filled out a bracket, too. Although I’m a Marquette girl and I’m bummed they aren’t in it, I do love the excitement of this time of year–both on the basketball and baseball fronts.
Bracket busted? Never fear. Opening Day (true March Madness!) is just 6 days away!
As the NCAA Basketball Tournament gets underway, we’re all feeling a little bit of that March Madness.
And, although both UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison are competing this year, the particular “March Madness” I’m referring to in this case is baseball related.
It’s been an especially long, tough winter and, all across the state, fans are suffering from major cases of cabin fever—and, much worse, Brewers fever. The ailment usually hits a crescendo, a state of madness, right about this time of year.
People started coming down with it in late January at Brewers On Deck. For one fleeting day, we got to see the Crew and get pumped up for the season. Then came Spring Training. Since mid-February, we’ve been teased by the sights of the steady string of warm, sunny days in Phoenix and the green grass, along with the sweet sounds of the crack of the bat, the ball smacking a leather glove, and Uecker‘s voice on the radio. These sights and sounds evoke an almost Pavlovian response from our other senses: We can almost smell the brats on the grill; we can almost taste the peanuts and Cracker Jack; and we can definitely feel the excitement in the air.
We’re now less than two weeks from Brewers Baseball returning to Milwaukee and the madness has hit full tilt. We’re ready for the Boys of Summer to return from Arizona and at least bring a little bit of spring back with them. We’re ready for America’s Pastime done the Wisconsin way, with tailgating, Sausage Races and Bernie’s slides. And the barrel? Oh yes, it’s ready to be rolled out. Just say when!
How will we cope the next two weeks? Well, we’ve got a few more Spring Training games that we can watch and listen to, plus two Exhibition Games at Miller Park. In addition to that, there’s that other March Madness that I alluded to, an entertaining diversion that makes that time until Opening Day go by quicker.
Like most of America, we’re sure you found time to fill out a bracket. That’s why we asked some of the Crew to do the same.
A few of the participants, like Brewers infielder Rickie Weeks and Brewers reliever Rob Wooten, really get into it. Rickie is a big basketball fan and Wooten in particular is a diehard fan of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
So big, in fact, that he even associates his teammate’s name with a rival team-Zach Duke who has nothing to do with the University, other than sharing a name:
Others, like Brewers pitchers Kyle Lohse and Wei-Chung Wang, really don’t follow basketball all that closely, but it’s still fun to participate in the bracket challenge.
Lohse says he “flipped a coin” and Wang, a 21-year-old from Taiwan, got help from some friends.
But that’s the thing with March Madness– the tourney can be so unpredictable that a basketball fanatic has just as much of a chance as a coin-flipper… or a dog.
Yep, that’s right, we even got the newest addition to the team, Hank the Ballpark Pup, and old friend Bernie Brewer in on the fun.
Bernie emailed their brackets to me this morning, noting for his: “I did an in-depth mascot analysis of each team; noting who I believe would win in a duel… oh and, in case you weren’t aware, I always root for the home team(s).”
Hank also appears to have taken team mascots into account; however, with a Final Four comprised of the Albany Great Danes, Connecticut Huskies, Gonzaga Bulldogs and Wofford Terriers, he appears to have stuck with his species.
“He’s also picked a lot of upsets in the other games… it appears Hank consistently roots for the ‘underdog,'” Bernie wrote. “It’s a risky move for a newcomer, choosing species over his new home teams. But I bet people will forgive him. He didn’t even pick AZ teams to go very far.”
Follow along with Brew Crew Bracketology below and see how their picks “net” out.
If you’ll notice, I filled out a bracket, too. Although I’m a Marquette girl and I’m bummed they aren’t in it, I do love the excitement of this time of year–both on the basketball and baseball fronts.
Yep. March Madness has set in.
I’ve got Brewers Fever and the only prescription is more Brewers Baseball.
Ah, the rare off-day during Spring Training. Yesterday was the only one for the Crew this spring and many of the players marked the occasion by heading out to the golf course as there were two different golf events that were held.
The first was Bob Uecker’s inaugural Front Row Classic, which was held at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale.
A number of the Brewers players and coaches, along with several other celebrities participated in the event, which benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Here’s a slideshow!
Over on the Minor League side, a group took part in an event at Tres Rios Golf Course in Goodyear, benefiting the Special Olympics of Phoenix.
Each foursome was comprised of three folks from the Brewers (including scouts, front office staff and players) and one Special Olympic golfer and they played best ball. The theme this year was “Cowboy Golf ” and every golfer had to wear something that would depict the cowboy lifestyle (with a penalty of four strokes per team if a player had no cowboy gear on his person–but no boots, bad for greens!).
Participants included: Gord Ash, Mike Guerrero, Michael Reed, Jose Nunez, David Goforth, Drew Gagnon, Taylor Jungmann, Brooks Hall and scouts Andy Pratt and Ryan Thompson.
In the end, first, second, last place, long drives, closest to pens all donated their winnings to Special Olympics. To go with the $2000 donation check, they also gave a little over a $1000 more in cash. The scramble winners shot 8 under.