TOKYO -- The A's week spent in Tokyo promises to be an eye-opener for players.
Their arrival Friday was an experience in itself.
The team's charter flight touched down at Narita Airport around 5 p.m. local time (1 a.m. PST), and the A's were greeted by a huge contingent of Japanese media. Camera flashes popped everywhere as players walked through the terminal and to the buses that transferred them to the New Otani hotel, located in Tokyo's upscale Akasaka district.
To A's left-hander Tommy Milone, it was straight out of a "TMZ" episode.
"You see it on TV, the lights flashing and everything," Milone said. "It was cool, but it's a little different. I'm used to being on the other side watching it."
The A's open their regular season Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners at the Tokyo Dome. By the time they fly home Thursday, they'll have a better understanding not only of Japanese culture but also of what sort of team they've assembled for 2012.
Their itinerary is busy leading up to that two-game series.
One group of players is visiting a nearby military base Sunday, while others will take part in an autograph session at a local store. On Tuesday, more A's players will take a bullet train ride to conduct a baseball clinic in an area that was hit hard by last year's earthquake and tsunami.
But baseball is primary on the agenda.
"You hear about different cultures and stuff," Milone said. "But to actually
Milone will make the start in Sunday's exhibition against the Yomiuri Giants, which is set for a 7:06 p.m. start local time (3:06 a.m. PST). The A's follow up with an exhibition against the Hanshin Tigers on Monday at 12:06 p.m. (8:06 p.m. Sunday PST).
Playing in front of Japanese fans will provide a unique experience as well. The atmosphere is more like a college football game, with fans in the outfield bleachers beating drums and belting out cheers in unison.
A's catcher Kurt Suzuki is the only player on the current trip who also made Oakland's 2008 journey to Japan to play the Boston Red Sox. For everyone else on the roster, the atmosphere inside the Tokyo Dome will be something new.
"We're excited to see what it's all about," reliever Grant Balfour said. "It's exciting for sure. There's a little unknown for guys who haven't been here. I look forward to it."
The A's were allowed to bring 30 players on the trip, but A's manager Bob Melvin and the rest of the front office staff must decide on a 25-man active roster to be turned in for the regular-season games against the Mariners.
The extra players are brought along to provide depth for the exhibitions, but there's strategy involved in selecting the 25-man roster, which can be changed from the first regular-season game to the second only if there's an injury.
The A's brought extra relievers on the trip, so they're likely to carry a larger bullpen than the standard seven-man unit they will have during the rest of the regular season.
Wednesday's opener will also be special in that it marks the A's debut for Cuban center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who signed a four-year $36 million contract March 3 and is expected to provide some much-needed offensive punch.