August 2, 2009
YOKOHAMA, Japan – Senior Molly Johnson will trade in the Blue and White for the Red, White and Blue this week as she represents the United States at the 2009 Japan Cup. Johnson was selected this summer as one of the members of the US Softball team for one of the final international events of the summer. Johnson and her teammates, which include five players from SEC rosters in 2009, will compete in a four-team tournament in Yokohama, Japan, beginning Friday, July 31st.
While in Japan, Johnson has kindly agreed to blog for UKathletics.com to keep the Big Blue nation up to speed on what she is doing across the world. Continue to check back daily for updates, photos and a word of the day from UK’s All-American shortstop and the No. 40 jersey wearing-US Softball team member.
August 2, 2009
Final Day in Sendai
Hey Cat Fans!
This is likely my last entry since I will be leaving in the morning. Today was our last day of competition and our last day in the city of Sendai. It started the same as every other, although today I actually slept until about 6:45 a.m. YES! The best part about sleeping later was we rolled out of bed put some USA gear on and headed straight to breakfast. After breakfast my roommate and I took a short stroll to the corner mart. It was a new experience! I got an iced latte, but it wasn’t in an aluminum can it was more of a milk carton, except a bit stronger. It was really interesting and of course delicious. Since it was a convenience store there wasn’t really anything in English and the clerk didn’t speak English so that made the experience even better! Our trip was quick, but we wanted an extra pick me up because we had our big game.
Our bus left the hotel around 11a.m. for the field and a 1:30 p.m. start time. We were all pumped for the game. We were playing Japan again and every time we play Japan it is a big game.
Today was the first time wearing the Red, White and Blue that we got to hear our National Anthem played. That was a special experience, the type that gives you chills.
Jennie Finch pitched for us and she threw GREAT! She was throwing hard and her pitches were working. She had a no hitter going into the seventh but lost it on a “I better protect myself swing” that found a hole, but the next three batters went down in succession.
I didn’t get to play in this game, but I was told before the game to be ready to hit. The opportunity never came, unfortunately. Our bats were a little cooler today than they had been so the base-runners weren’t as copious as our previous games. However, we scored two in the first and that was enough for Jennie. She was a jack of all trades today. She pitched a great game and she drove in the two winning runs! We won the game 2-0.
After the game they held an awards ceremony. It was a great feeling to be able to bring home first place. Jennie was named our MVP for the game, and she was very deserving!
Once that was done with we gathered our equipment and head back to the bus. Waiting to greet us outside was a large group of Japanese fans all wanting our autographs. Signing the autographs was a lot of fun, and the Japanese fans are spectacular! They always greet you with a grin from ear to ear and a wave. You can’t help but smile. They wave every chance they get, we would get waves before games, after games, and as our bus maneuvered the streets of Sendai. It was FANTASTIC!
We managed to make our way back to the hotel and the rest of the night was ours. Many of us opted to skip a shower (only for the time being) so we could shop more. My roommate and I headed back to our pottery store and on our way ran into my aunt and cousin, so they joined our shopping excursion. We made stops in three other stores and I had a lot of fun! We pretty much stuck to the stores we knew and every time we made a visit we found new trinkets. At one point we ran into some of our coaches and they found a store for the local baseball team, so we had them take us there. The store was completely dedicated to their baseball team the Rakuten Eagles. The neat part was they had apparel or other items for almost every player on the team, not just one or two. We spent close to a half hour in there (that was my fault I just couldn’t decide). That was our last stop of the night. I said farewell to my family as we headed back to the hotel for dinner.
After dinner it was time to pack and get everything organized.
The trip over here was LONG, but definitely worth it. I spent the week with some great people and family included. I was able to get some international playing experience under my belt and hopefully there is more in the future. Japan is a great atmosphere. The residents of Japan are all very friendly and they are awesome softball fans! I am not sure if I have ever played in an atmosphere quite like I did here, and I don’t think I have ever played anywhere where the fans so easily bring a smile to my face. Even though I am the type of person who smiles a lot (you can ask anyone who knows me) there is something special about this place that if you get a chance to experience it, DO IT! It was very special being able to play softball for my country and wear USA across my chest. It was an experience of a lifetime! While this was a great trip and we were able to come away with first place, I am ready to get back to Kentucky and start training with my CATS!
August 1, 2009
Moshi-moshi Big Blue Nation!! (that is hello)
Today was all softball. We ate breakfast about 7:30 a.m., and we had to be ready to roll out of the hotel at 10:30. Since the stores (except corners marts) don’t open until 10 we really had no other choice than to relax in our room and get mentally prepared for our two games. Today was the first day where we played a complete game under the sun! However, that was short lived as overcast skies moved in for our second game. Today was a little warmer than the past couple of days but nothing we couldn’t handle.
Our first game was against Chinese Taipei and we came out victorious with a score of 10-2. I didn’t start, but I did pinch hit again and I had a sacrifice fly to right field that scored a run. We played with more energy than we did yesterday which was good. After the game we ate lunch at the field. They set up a little room for us so we could eat. Our lunch was a little interesting, it consisted of rolls and croissants as well as bananas and apples (the apples were AMAZING).
Fortunately our trainer and assistant coaches planned ahead so they brought bread and peanut butter as well as granola bars. My roommate and I actually made PB&J’s in our room before we left so we had those for lunch. After we all ate we changed our uniforms and watched the end of the Australia vs. Chinese Taipei game.
Our second game was against Japan. I started at shortstop, and I got a lot of plays in the field and made them all! =)
In my first at bat I hit a grand slam! That was really exciting and I was happy I was able to put our team up by five runs. We had scored once already when one of our batters was hit by a pitch.
In my second at bat I had a base hit up the middle. Unfortunately, my last two at bats resulted in a line drive out to left field and a pop fly. I am just fortunate I was able to come through in my first two at bats.
We beat Japan 6-1, and will play them again tomorrow in the championship game at 1:30 p.m. (local time).
That is all I have for you tonight. Tomorrow should be more exciting as we should have some free time after our game.
Good night from Sendai!
July 31, 2009
Hello from Sendai!
Word of the day: Oyasumi Nasai = good night
Today started much the same as the past couple of days. Even though I am beginning to get on the time schedule here I was still up before 6 a.m. So, I had over an hour to do nothing before breakfast. Fortunately for me, my roommate hasn’t been sleeping very late either. Last night we enjoyed our shopping excursion so much we decided to head back out again this morning after breakfast just so we weren’t laying around the room. Our favorite store has been this pottery store. We visited it last night and we made a return trip this morning and spent a good hour looking and of course picking up souvenirs. We were the first people in the store; we arrived just as it was opening. The people who work there are very nice and polite (which is a common theme among the Japanese culture it seems because everyone has been very nice and they don’t hesitate to help). Another store we have grown fond of is the Japanese version of a dollar store. They are like six stories with a different department on each floor (so the first floor was candy/food and so on). We headed back to the hotel for lunch and to prepare for our first game.
We played Australia and won 11-3, in five innings. It was a great first experience wearing the Red, White and Blue. It was an honor to be able to represent my country. Softball is big deal out here, and I think USA softball is also very popular. Whenever I walk outside the hotel people ask for our autographs and take pictures with their phones. Leaving the field there are fans waiting to get your autograph, it was great! The young girls who are in the stands will make their way to the fence to wave and say hi to any USA softball player, however I think the fan favorite is probably Jennie Finch and I don’t blame them. She is such a great athlete and an equally great person. Riding the bus people on the street wave, smile and some of the younger Japanese kids give us the peace sign accompanied with a grin from ear to ear (unlike in the States the windows on the buses aren’t tinted so people can see you).
In our game today I didn’t start, but I did pinch hit and I got a hit and an RBI. It was a blast being able to play alongside so many great athletes and getting to play for our country.
After our game we headed back to the hotel. Tonight we are just going to stay in, eat some good food and rest up for our two games tomorrow. Even though we are so far away from home we have some loyal fans/parents. A couple of parents made the trip as well as my aunt and cousin so we have an American based cheering section =)
Stop by tomorrow for the updates of our games verse Chinese Taipei and Japan.
Oyasumi nasai Cat Fans!!
July 30, 2009
Word of the Day: Konnichiwa (probably the most common phrase known among Americans) = Hello or Good Afternoon
Today started very early! Since we are all thrown off because of the time change my roommate and I were up by 5:15 a.m., and I mean wide awake. Since breakfast didn’t start until 7 a.m. we lounged in our room exploring everything and anything while watching CNN World (the only channel in English). We called to the front desk because I have one (of about four) chargers that is three pronged instead of two. For those who don’t know, most plugs in Japan have only two holes. They are not the crazy ones like in Europe so most chargers will fit. We also played with our alarm clock, which is really cool because it controls the lighting in the room as well as music. Our room is outfitted with a speaker in the ceiling so the music really radiates through the room.
This may sound funny, but here time doesn’t seem to fly by. That is okay with me; don’t get me wrong, it’s just a little different than I feel in the States.
Our breakfast was a wide variety of foods. We had traditional American cuisine like eggs, bacon, and sausage links as well as Japanese food. The Japanese food included miso soup, rice, and fish. YES! I said it- fish. I love fish, but I can’t say I have ever had it for breakfast. Breakfast also included yogurt and fruit and other foods you would find cross culturally. Our hotel is housing all four teams that are playing this week, so that was a new experience since they set up our meals in a banquet room for us.
After breakfast we had some down time. We probably had enough time to venture through the city a bit, but we didn’t think about that until our time was almost up. Around noon we headed down to grab a quick lunch which again was good variety. This time it was spaghetti and meat sauce, and I must say the fruit here is AMAZING!
Practice was short, but it was nice to get moving around. It has been overcast the entire time here, but hasn’t rained hard. It started to mist while we were practicing and that’s probably how it will be the rest of the week. The field we are playing on is a baseball stadium. I believe the professional team in Sendai plays there so it seats a lot, however it is turf. Since they fit it for softball our entire base path is on the turf and there are dirt patches that start about eight feet beyond our base. Also our pitchers mound is really awkward and should be interesting for pitchers because it is like a turf mat that they sprinkled dirt on.
After practice we had a lot of down time so my roommate and I walked down to the mall in town. It is an outdoor mall and it is HUGE! I think it definitely rivals the Mall of America in size. It had a store of almost every sort from convenience stores to Louis Vitton and everything in between. We shopped for a few hours and then came back for dinner.
Tomorrow we play our first game against Australia. I think that is all I have for all you Cat fans for now, check back tomorrow for another update.
July 29, 2009
Arrival in Japan
Word of the day: Arigato = Thank you (very important to be polite!)
Okay Cat fans here we go!!
Day one, well I’m not sure you can really call it “day one”, since it is just now finally coming to an end. I left the Bluegrass on the 28th and I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to start the day. I travelled all day and finally landed in Tokyo at 4:20 p.m. (July 29th), which was 3:30 a.m. in Lexington.
The airport was exciting because we had to go through customs and have our fingerprints taken. Then we could get our bags. Once you have your bags, you have more paper work to fill out regarding duty-free stuff. The team made our way out to the transportation area where we were greeted by our travel company. They swiftly collected our bags and put them on a truck to drive them to Sendai. We hung around the airport for a little while. Most of us used the time and exchanged some money and prepared for what we found out was a six-hour drive to Sendai. Our bus was really nice, very spacious and the seats reclined pretty far. I think we all slept for about five hours of the trip. We stopped at two rest areas. Rest areas here are pretty interesting. Vending machines are bright and play music. Incredible marketing as the machines just draw you in!!! Everyone here is really nice and is very helpful.
That is all I am going to write for now, I need to clean up after that long trip!
Molly Johnson’s USA Softball bio:
Home Site of USA Softball:
Official Site of the 2009 Japan Cup