Henderson revels in sights and sounds of Tokyo

March 20th, 2019

TOKYO -- was back in an A’s uniform Wednesday. Bat in hand, the Hall of Famer stepped to the plate, adorned in abundant applause from an electrified crowd at the Tokyo Dome, and whiffed at the ceremonial first pitch.

Those were the orders, he said. Either take the pitch or swing and miss. And he wasn’t about to just stand there.

“What I really want to do is hit one out of here,” Henderson said, grinning.

Henderson nonetheless reveled in it all, the sights and sounds bringing to mind his last trip to Tokyo. It was one of historic proportions; Henderson and the Mets took on the Cubs at the Tokyo Dome in 2000, marking the first Major League regular-season game to be held outside North America.

“They just really love the game here,” Henderson said. “I think the Japanese people enjoy the game to me a lot more than most American people enjoy the game. It’s a great feeling to me no matter where you go and people recognize you and what you did for the game.”

Henderson stood in the box as two-time All-Star closer and 2000 American League Rookie of the Year Kazuhiro Sasaki threw out the first pitch to catcher Kenji Johjima. Come Thursday, when the A’s and Mariners close out this two-game Opening Series, Seattle great Ken Griffey Jr. will take his turn in the batter’s box.

“It’s great,” said Henderson, who serves as a special assistant to A’s president Dave Kaval. “I love the experience of being here. I’ve been walking around and trying to enjoy the atmosphere.”

And eat all the sushi.

“I love sushi,” he said, “but I think I’m about sushi’d out right now.”

Pinder bats fifth

The A's first lineup of the 2019 season not only saw draw the start in left field against Seattle lefty Marco Gonzales, but his name in the fifth spot for just the eighth time in his career. The move brought Matt Olson down to the sixth hole.

"He's had a really good spring, and if you're trying to get him up there against the lefty, you try to move him up a little bit in the order," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Five is a good spot for him. As long as a guy is swinging the bat well, you try to get him up there a little sooner than later."

Pinder went 2-for-4 in Oakland's 9-7 loss, while Mark Canha was the odd man out. Melvin will have to juggle playing time for both against lefties as Robbie Grossman handles the majority of right-handers. 

"That was the tough one, because Mark is usually in there against left-handed pitching," Melvin said, "and the choice today was Canha or Pinder, and Pinder's just swinging the bat a little bit better."

Grossman, a late offseason addition, entered the game in the seventh inning, striking for a single in his first at-bat of the season.