Outfielder Jeff Fiorentino spent parts of three seasons with the Baysox in 2006, 2007 and 2008. His best year was 2008, when he hit .282 with 15 home runs and 65 RBIs. He made his major league debut May 12, 2005, and spent parts of four years in the Major Leagues with the Orioles and the Oakland Athletics. Fiorentino recently took some time to talk about playing in Japan and his plans for the future.
How has your off-season been so far?
Very good, very good. I took a little time to relax, and to get used to being back in the states. I'm lifting, throwing and getting ready for next year. I got home Oct. 2.
How did you wind up playing in Japan last year?
I got a phone call saying that they were interested. They made me an offer, I thought it was a great opportunity and I jumped on it.
Were you paid in U.S. dollars or yen?
U.S. dollars. The contract was made in U.S. dollars, so whatever the [exchange] rate was didn't matter.
Will you be returning to Japan for 2011?
I did not receive another offer from them. I had a one-year contract and I wound up not getting a whole lot of playing time over there. Things didn't work out, so I'm back over here.
Do you know where you will play this year?
That is still up in the air. I am a free agent right now.
What are some of the differences between playing in the States and playing Japan?
They treat every game like it is a 0-0 ballgame no matter what inning. Leadoff guy gets on, and they are trying to bunt him over, or they are trying to hit-and-run. They are slashing, they are stealing, they are picking off and they will do it over and over again until they see you have no advantage or you are timid out on the bases. They play a lot of small ball.
How long does it take to get over there?
With the time change it took a day and a half. I left on a Tuesday at 7 a.m. and got in Wednesday night at 9 p.m.
How long did it take you to recover from jetlag?
It actually wasn't too bad, because it is completely on the other side of the day. When you are up in the plane for that long and you are sleeping and stuff, when I woke up I really wasn't messed up. I got in at 9 p.m. and I went to bed about 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. or something like that and the next day I woke up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. and I never really was too bad off schedule. On the way back it was a lot tougher. I don't know if it was that I was excited to go over there, or too excited to get back. I don't know what it was, but I had more trouble when I got back.
Does the team help you find housing?
They were great, they were very accommodating with everything. We had four or five foreigners on the team and we had two translators to help us out the best they could. They helped us out with housing. We were right in the middle of downtown Hiroshima, so you had plenty of places to eat. It wasn't exactly all my favorite foods, but there were so many places that if you wanted Italian you could find Italian. If you wanted Mexican, you could find Mexican. They had everything.
Did you have to change your diet when you were living there?
I definitely did. The eating is different and the portions are different. Me and this kid Justin Huber, we went out one time and I put in the order and the lady walks away. I'm like, 'Excuse me, we're not done.' And she's like, 'No?' and I say 'He still has to order.' Oh man, and the people next to us started laughing. They're not used to foreigners, we eat a lot more. You ask for a glass of water and they give you a six or maybe eight ounce glass of water. We're going to need three or four of those, and that's just if you don't want us to sit here. It's the same with their portions. They bring out the food and it's a lot smaller portions, so we're getting two or three or four dinners when we're going out.
How do the post-game spreads differ between Japan and the U.S.?
There wasn't one. There were a bunch of changes [from playing in the U.S.]. When you go to the field, you are going in your uniform. There is no [clubhouse manager] or nothing like that, so when you go to the field you are already dressed in uniform and you do whatever you have to do while you're there. When you leave, you leave in your uniform, get back on the bus and you shower in your hotel room. It's different. You take your clothes off and you leave them in the hallway. That's one thing over there, they are very respectful, very polite people. There's not a whole lot of crime. You just throw your stuff out in the hallway in the states, and there is a real good chance there is going to be some fan running by taking some jerseys. In this place, nothing.
How did you keep in touch with your family and your friends?
Skype. I had a phone, also, you get a phone when you are over in Japan. It's not the cheapest way to talk but if you need to get a hold of somebody you can always call them. Skype was the best way. My family knew what time to work around my schedule, when they could find me on the computer, and we would go on there. It was good because you can see them and talk to them and everything, just like you do in person.
Did your family get to see you play at all?
My mom did. My mom came over at the end of April, the beginning of May.
How do the fans react to you?
Fans are amazing over there. They stay until the ninth inning of every single game. They sell out, not every single game, but they sell out a lot of games and everywhere you go on the street they recognize you and know who you are.
Do you visit any other countries while you are there?
Nope. All over Japan, from the northernmost point to the southernmost point, but I didn't go to any other countries.
How long is the travel between cities?
Not bad at all. When you are in your own division, the furthest you have is a three and a half hour train ride, most of them are an hour or an hour and a half train rides.
Were there any other American players out there?
Yeah, quite a few. Freddie Bynum was out there, and John Bale. Todd Lindon, Randy Ruiz, there were a bunch of guys out there.
How big is the league?
Not big at all. There are 12 teams and the rosters can be confusing. It is a 27-man roster, but if you are a starting pitcher you do not have to be on the roster for that day. If you are in the starting rotation, and you are not throwing, say you threw yesterday, the next day you are not on the roster. It doesn't really count as a transaction for them. It's like the person who is starting the next day goes on and the guy who started yesterday comes off. For the position players it stays the same.
Do you keep in touch with any of your former teammates?
Absolutely. I just spoke to Bob McCrory a day or two ago. He's on his way over to Japan.
Do you have any memories from your time playing in Bowie?
I've got a ton of memories. One of my first ones was Adam Loewen almost throwing a no-hitter there. I'd never seen a no-hitter, not in high school, college or nothing. I've been close a couple times, not me, but in the games, so that was cool for my first one. Then I almost got to see one, Daniel Cabrera almost threw one up at Yankee Stadium.
Where do you see your career going from here?
I have no idea. It's up to me because I have to go out there and perform, but it's not up to me. My whole past from pro ball to playing in the bigs, I've been very fortunate. I've been in the right place in the right time, and that's all I can continue to hope for. Even two years ago when I was back in Norfolk, I was having a great season, well I thought I was having a great season and one of my better years all year, but there were no opportunities. You can sit there and hope all you want, but if there is no opportunity you're not really going to get the chance. Then at the end of the year there were a couple of injuries and I got to play. Right now I'm just hoping to get picked up, I'm going to go out there and play my hardest. If I pick the right team to go with, with the best opportunity and things work out, awesome. If they don't I have to continue to work to get my opportunity again.
The Baysox 2010 campaign has come to an end. The Baysox open the 2011 season on the road in Harrisburg Thursday, April 7. They play their first game at Prince George's Stadium Thursday, April 14, at 7:05 p.m. Baysox ticket packages are now available. Click HERE for more information on 2011 ticket packages.
Do you have any plans for your post-playing days?
No, I'm hoping I've still got a little more time to think about it. I have about a year, maybe a year and a half left of college if I wanted to finish school. Then I really don't have an idea.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.