He's agreed to share his thoughts in a weekly story on devilrays.com, entitled Aki's Diary. Here's the first installment:
On Sunday (April 1), we boarded our charter plane at the St. Petersburg airport heading for New York. I was very excited to be playing my first Major League game at Yankee Stadium. It was also my first trip to New York City. My father flew in from Japan and arrived Monday morning just before the game that afternoon. The Yankee Stadium crowd was crazy, but it made for a very exciting atmosphere. We played well and had a lead, but the Yankees came back and won it. I singled to left field in the sixth inning for my first hit and the ball was retrieved for me, but it was not as happy a day as I would have liked it to be, because we lost.
That night, I met my father and a friend of his for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. It was great to see him. We were off the next day and my father flew from New York to St. Petersburg to see the townhouse I had recently purchased. He saw my wife, Misaki, and her mother at the house, then flew back to New York later that day. He didn't mind the 2 1/2-hour flight each way. Meanwhile, I spent a good part of the day shopping in the city and bought clothes, including a new jacket.
On Wednesday morning, I took the second team bus to the ballpark (we have two buses, one left at 8:30 a.m. ET and the other at 9:30 a.m.). We were supposed to play another afternoon game, but it rained all morning and at 11 a.m. the Yankees called the game off. We took batting practice in the batting cages underneath Yankee Stadium. I took the team bus back to the hotel and just rested for the remainder of the day. It rained almost all day. That night, I went out to dinner with a friend visiting from my hometown of Uwajima. We had a nice dinner at a sushi bar, then went out and enjoyed a nice evening in the city.
We played a night game on Thursday and it was cold. Some of my teammates wore ski caps to try to stay warm, and midway through the game it snowed. We were facing Andy Pettitte and the Yankee fans were very excited at his return to the team. We battled the Yankees all night and after a while I don't think any of us felt the cold. We were concentrating on beating the Yankees.
We were tied in the eighth inning and I was fortunate enough to hit a double. B.J. Upton, our second baseman, singled me to third, and then I scored on a wild pitch with what proved to be the winning run. It was a great feeling to win our first game. We didn't quit. I am starting to feel more comfortable at the plate. The Yankees were pitching me outside and I was trying to hit the ball up the middle. There were a lot of Japanese media waiting for me after the game and I barely made it out to the bus before it left at 11:30 p.m.
We left New York that night after the game and with the weather being as bad as it was, we didn't get back to St. Petersburg until 4 a.m. I was glad to be back in my new home, but we didn't get a lot of sleep. I was at Tropicana Field at 3:30 p.m. the next day to get ready for our first home game against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was a sellout and it was great to have all of these fans cheering for us. The ballpark looked great.
The game was even better than I could have hoped for. We won and I got four hits, including my first home run off a tough left-hander, Gustavo Chacin. I got the ball after the game from the fan who caught it and gave him a few autographed things as a trade. The Japanese media filmed it all.
We were down 5-3 going into the ninth inning, but Delmon Young hit a two-run home run to tie the game. I was up next and executed a bunt toward third base and made it safely to first. Elijah Dukes followed with a single and then B.J. Upton got an infield hit and I scored the winning run. We were celebrating so excitedly that my teammates fell on top of me. I was the smallest and I was on the bottom of the pile. It was awesome. Then, when I was talking with the American press in the clubhouse after the game, one of my teammates, James Shields, shoved a shaving cream pie in my face. It is ritual that the Devil Rays players like to do after a win. What a great way to end the evening and my first game at Tropicana Field.
Akinori Iwamura is a contributor to MLB.com. As told through interpreter Masanobu Koyanagi. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less