Bullet trains make travel a breeze for MLB stars

Big leaguers using 'Shinkansen' for three-city tour of Japan

November 14th, 2018

NAGOYA, Japan -- Transporting more than 100 people from city to city in a foreign country isn't easy, but with the help of the fastest high-speed rail in the world, this week's travel schedule was a cinch for the Major League traveling party.

The Japan All-Star Series featured games in three cities -- Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagoya -- but getting from point A to point B to point C required no air travel. Instead, the Major League All-Star team traveled by bullet train, a needle-nosed, lightning-fast mode of transportation that operates as a subway, sort of -- but without the delays, jam-packed train cars and lack of air conditioning that's so common for public transportation in the United States.

In fact, traveling via bullet train is probably more comparable to an airplane flight than an actual mainstream train, given that the ride is smooth enough to where passengers feel like they're barely moving.

"It feels like you're on the moon," Reds third baseman said. "It's so smooth. It's unbelievable how fast it goes. It's amazing."

Bullet trains -- known in Japan is Shinkansen -- travel at around 200 mph, quadruple what a New York subway reaches at its highest speed. Bullet trains are used for long-distance travel between cities, they're also utilized by the locals as a commuter rail network meant largely for business travelers with shorter travel requirements.

And, get this, New Yorkers -- the average delay of a bullet train? Thirty-six seconds.

Yes. Seconds.

"It's cool how they combine the train aspect with the subway system schedule," said Phillies slugger , who experienced bullet trains for the first time last year while vacationing in China. "Everything runs on time. They seem to have it figured out over here."

The trip from Tokyo to Hiroshima, a distance of 420 miles, took four hours on the bullet train. Nagoya, located between the two cities, required 250 miles of traveling, and it took about two hours.

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During a normal road trip for a Major League team, it can take two hours just from the time the game ends to the plane actually taking off, never mind the hours of flying involved.

Bullet trains, currently unavailable in the United States (though California's efforts are ongoing), have received an enthusiastic review from everyone involved with the current All-Star tour through Japan.

And they wouldn't mind seeing it abundantly available in the States.

"When I first heard about it, I kind of expected it to be like a roller coaster," Royals infielder Whit Merrifield said, adding that he had prior experience riding bullet trains during overseas vacations. "But it's really smooth. You didn't know how fast you were going until you looked outside.

"I don't mind flying. But with how easy is to travel around on the bullet train, it's probably the easiest travel I've ever done."

Astros pitcher , an experienced world traveler, finds public transit systems one of his favorite things to explore when he's in a foreign country -- "to figure out what it is, and how to take it," he said. Thanks to the Japan trip, he can mark another transportation mode off the list.

"I live in Atlanta and Houston. so there's a not a ton of options when it comes to [public transit]," he said. "So I enjoy it when we get to do something like this."

The players surveyed agreed that California makes sense as a state that could benefit from a bullet train system, given how large it is and how many big cities are located there.

The Dallas-Houston commute was also mentioned, as was Cincinnati-Cleveland (that suggestion came from Suarez).

But others are thinking bigger picture, such as Hoskins, who's all in favor of a Northeast-Midwest bullet-train commute and beyond.

"New York to Chicago, Chicago to Dallas. Dallas to San Francisco, L.A.," he said. "Some of those longer trips. Seems easy to me."