MARYVALE, Ariz. – Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Takashi Saito, who hails from the earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged region of Sendai, was visibly shaken on Saturday by the reports following Japan’s largest ever recorded quake.
“I was raised in Sendai over 22 years. When I hear the names of places (in news reports), I start to imagine all the faces of my friends that I know from there. There are no words for this,” said Saito, his voice quavering, in his first press conference since the 9.0-magnitude quake struck at 2:46 p.m. on Friday.
Saito confirmed the safety of his parents and other extended family members back in Japan on the day of the quake. He spoke with his older brother on the phone on Saturday morning.
“I confirmed that they are able to carry out their daily lives at home, but even as we were talking there was a quake,” Saito said.
The 41-year-old Saito was exempt from practice on Saturday. His most pressing concern right now is whether or not to have his wife and three daughters, who live in Yokohama, come to the United States or have them take in his extended family from Sendai.
“Honestly, I don’t really know what I should do.”
General manager Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke have said that Saito is free to leave the team to return to Japan if necessary.
“He wants to get his parents and his brothers in a safe area, and once he does that, mentally, he’s going to feel better about coming back to the baseball part of it,” Roenicke said.
Elsewhere, New York Yankees minor league pitcher Kei Igawa left spring training camp in Tampa, Fla., heading back to Japan after the massive tsunami, which washed through his hometown of Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture.
“I was able to confirm the safety of my family after speaking with my wife on the phone, but I haven’t spoken with my parents and I want to see them face to face,” Igawa said.
Neither his home nor his parents’ house was destroyed in the quake, but there was significant damage inside.
“Things were scattered all over the place in the houses and most of the dishware was broken. Every time there is an aftershock, my family jumps into the car to get ready to run. They are spending the whole time feeling unnerved,” he said.
Igawa, 31, plans to stay in Japan for about one week, but he still has no idea how he will travel to Oarai.
“We can’t use the highways and the trains are not running, so I am looking for a way to get there right now,” he said.