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By Chase Lambin, Our American In Japan: "Pearls & Bulls"

By Jimmy Scott - Posted on 29 April 2009

Our (yours & my) good buddy, Chase Lambin, formerly in the Mets & Marlins farm systems and now playing in Japan for Bobby Valentine's Chibba Lotte Marines, has blogged before about his tryout in Japan for Bobby V.  You can read all about it HERE.  You can also hear about it HERE, since Chase was most wonderful enough to sit down and tell us (you & me) all about how his career led him to Japan in the first place.

Chase is in the midst (but not the mist, that would be wet) of starting his own website,  It's up but not really complete.  Meanwhile, Chase wrote about a spring training experiece he and teammate Gary Burnham went through this past February.  He sent it to me and thought you might find it interesting.  You will.  Not because I can read your minds but because it's interesting.  And I know interesting.  Why me?  Because I'm Jimmy Scott.  Besides, as you read, you'll realize this isn't something that happens in the Grapefruit or Cactus Leagues every February.  Very few bullfights going on down there.  Oops.  I don't want to give anything more away.  Read.  Enjoy.  It's Chase Lambin, once again on Jimmy Scott's High & Tight.

Pearls & Bulls

By Chase Lambin

So it's time for another off day in Ishigaki (every fifth day we have a day off, its great!)  Benny Agbayani and Brian Sakorski (our two American veterans) invite me and Gary outf or dinner the night before the off-day.  They take us to a really nice Yakiniku restaurant.  (It's the type where you cook the food on the little grill in front of you.) It's freakin awsome as always.  Tons of beef of all kinds, salad, miso soup, beer, the works.  We have a great time and get to bed at a reasonable hour since we would be having a full day tomorrow. 

We wake up around 9 and eat breakfast outside on the beach with Bobby.  No big deal.  ha. Just normal stuff here in the"Gaki".  We discuss politics, hitting, food, etc. I still can't believe I'm on a tropical island getting paid to play baseball and learn from Bobby Valentine.  Anyway, we were asked a couple days ago by our public relations guy if we would like to go visit Kabira Bay on our off-day.  (Kabira Bay is on the North side of the island and is the top tourist attraction spot on the island.  It's one of the few places in the world that grows black pearls!  Not to mention it's absolutely gorgeous!)  Me and Gary say "Hell Yeah" and jump in the van not knowing what the heck we were getting always. 

We get there and we are greeted by ALL the media.  There must have been 15 camera-toting reporters to document our trip to Kabira Bay. Gary, "Thanks for the heads-up Go."  (Go, the PR guy, likes to keep me and Gary in the dark at all times)  We of course don't  mind the attention.  We are escorted into the Jewelry store that sells the black the pearls.  We are greeted with two HUGE bouquets of flowers!  (These people are so nice it doesn't make sense.)  We are then shuffled into a back room where we are sat down in a classroom type setup.  I still have no clue what's goin on.  I just smile and nod my head.  At my desk is a fake clam in a vice with tools spread out across the desk.  Gary, "Dude, are we gonna make pearls?"  The next thing you know, the instructor is giving a seminar on how to cultivate a pearl.  (It's pretty much artificially inseminating a clam)  You have to cut a little hole in the membrane and slide this little BB lookin thing into the same hole along with another little red thing that I still don't know what does. Once cultivated, they sit in the bay for two years before they are opened up again to reveal the shiny pearl!

So we watch the videos and practice a couple times on the fake clam and then it's time for the real deal!  Chase, "Oh shit, we are doin it on real clam?  I thought this was all just for posterity".  Gary goes first and starts cultivating while flash bulbs are lighting up the room.  You woulda thought he was cultivating Jennifer Aniston with the way the media was actin.  He does it successfully and then it's my turn.  I jump in the chair and start cuttin and
pokin.  I get the BB in with no problem, add the little red thing and I'm done.  I think I made the best pearl of all time.  We are given a little card with the serial number of OUR clam, so we can call in a year or two and check on it! ha.  Chase, "Don't think I won't call!"

On our way out of the Jewelry store we pose for pics with the staff and the owner presents us with a gift.  It's black pearl cuff-links!!  How cool!  We thank him profusely and get on our way.  Once outside we finally get to see how beautiful the Bay is.  The most turquoise, green, and blue water I have ever seen.  With little islands sprinkled across the bay, and a backdrop of towering plush green mountains.  What a site!! 

The paparazzi escorts us up to the viewing deck and whips out two pieces of paper and a box of colored pencils! They say, "Draw!"  What?  (Since Gary is a very talented artist, the media has kept asking him to draw pictures kinda like the press keeps askin me about Sara and toilets. 

{Jimmy's Note: If you listen to our interview, you'll understand what it is about Japanese toilets that makes for great dinner conversation.  Okay, back to Chase.] 

I start sketchin what I see and feelin kinda pressured since these people seem to think we can just whip out a masterpiece.  We do our best considering we only had about 15 minutes.  They start snappin pics in a frenzy!  They then have us walk down to the beach for the interview.  We stand there holding our pictures answering a ton of questions.  In the meantime, since this is the number one tourist attraction, the tourists start gatherin around to see what all the fuss is about.  Before you know it, there are 60 people gathered around us takin pics and pointing at us like we are some kinda zoo animals!  It's a freaking mob scene.  We smile and answer the questions to the best of our ability and the interview ends after about 30 minutes.  We snap a couple pics for ourselves and head back to the van.  What a day! 

But it gets better!

The day before, we got invited to go to the local "Bull Fight".  Ummm...OK!  We decided it sounded like an adventure and we wouldn't miss it for the world.  We jump on the team bus after dinner not having a clue what we were getting into...of course.  About 15 or 20 of the players decided to partake.  We arrive at the venue and it's this little dirt circle arena with stands circling "the pit."  We are greeted with a hero's welcome and the live band starts playing the Chiba Lotte Marines song as we walk to our reserved section.  Everyone is waving and taking pictures of us.  The announcer starts announcing our names, so we stand up one at a time and wave to the rabid fans.  Me and Gary decide to ham it up and milk this experience for all it's worth.  They say our name and we wave and bow.  The atmosphere is electric.  You can hear the bulls groanin and snortin outside the arena, and the band is jammin! 

Gary and I sit on the front row, grab a beer, and wait  for the fight to start.  The next thing you know, this HUGE black bull is led into the ring, and he is PISSED!!  He starts snortin, groanin, and pawin the ground!  Me and Gary are geekin out.  The next bull is led in and he
is even BIGGER!  The two trainers lead the bulls to each other and once they see each other it's on!!  They put their massive heads together and start pushin.  (Its kinda like Sumo wrestling, but with bulls.  Once one bull refuses to fight anymore or gets pinned against the railing, it's over.) 

Me and Gary are cheerin our heads off as these two beasts push, until one bull gets bent to the side and loses his footing.  The other bull plows him into the railing and it's over.  The losing bull is shot on the spot!  Just  kidding.  He is led out while the winning bull gets a cape put on his back and makes a victory lap around the ring.  A couple minutes later another bull is brought in and does the same song and dance.  The opponent is led in and
this fight lasts about 2 seconds because the one bull wants no part of the other.  The one bull chases the other in circles around the ring and the winning bull is caped and it's on to the next fight. 

This continues on kinda like a boxing event, with a fight card, each fight gettin
steadily bigger, with the bulls getting bigger and more pissed!  Another cool thing is how the trainers, or coaches, motivate the bulls during the fight.  Their job is to fire up the bulls and they take it seriously.  They stomp and yell at the bulls until they are blue in the face.  They
scream so much they have be lifted for pinch-screamers!  Another guy will run in and take his place tryin to fire the bull up!  If he gets them goin, he stays, and if he doesn't the tag team partner comes back in and gives it another shot!  It's fascinating! 

Well after about the fifth fight, me and Gary are in a tizzy.  Right after this one bull beats the shit out of another, the trainer in the ring looks dead at me and waves for me to come into the ring!!!

""  As I point to myself, I don't know what the heck to do.  So I say screw it and hop the railing into the pit!  Why not trust this complete stranger with my life? (I figure if I die in a bull ring on Ishigaki Island it would be a bad-ass ending to bad-ass life.)  So the trainer is trying to tell me do something, but there is an obvious communication gap. From what I can decipher, he wants me to jump on the winning bull's back!  "Are you shittin me!!"  I'm already in this deep, so I say screw it again and hop right on the 2000 lb animals back!  The crowd goes nuts as I wave and clap and try not to think about the bulls horns ripping my face off!  Luckily the bull didn't snap and he politely let me sit on him for a good 20 seconds as I circled the ring.  I hop off at my section and run for the railing.  The crowd loves the crazy American.  My heart is pounding out of my chest as me and Gary die laughing. 

A couple fights later the same guy points at Gary and waves him into the ring.  Gary jumps in and hops on the winner's back.  He too gets circled around the ring and hops off safely and runs for the railing.  Ha.  What a hoot!  A couple times between fights these little kids (under
ten) go into the middle of the ring and do a Japanese dance.  It's damn cute, until some guy wraps a yellow towel around my head and points for me to go dance!  He does the same
to Gary, and the next thing you know, we are dancing our asses off in this pit with these kids in front of a couple hundred screaming fans!!  Nuts!

Then there's the finale.  The two biggest and baddest bulls on the island go head to head.  One has a huge Marines "M" painted on his side.  We of course are pulling for him.  They fight for a good ten minutes until finally the Marine bull plows the other one into the rails as the fans erupt for the Marine bull.  The band starts playin, and they wave their local hero down into the pit.  He is one of our young pitchers, who was drafted in the first round last year, and he is from Ishigaki Island!  His name is Ohmine.  He runs down and they wave for me to join him!!!  We jump into the ring and BOTH hop on the grand Champion bull!  The crowd stands and cheers their local hero and the Crazy American!  We get off safely and the night is over.  We fliter through the crowd back to our bus.  On the way, we get stopped every couple feet just to shake people's hands! They are so excited to meet a baseball player!  It is so crazy to think that these people REALLY adore us.  I'm just Chase from Houston, but in their eyes, I am much much more.  I am so completely thankful and greatful that I get this opportunity.  All I can do is shake my head, smile, and enjoy the ride....and I hope I never wake up. 

To be continued....



We wake up around 9 and eat breakfast outside on the beach with Bobby. No big deal. ha. Just normal stuff here in the"Gaki". We discuss politics, hitting, food, etc. I still can't believe I'm on a tropical island getting paid to play baseball and learn from Bobby Valentine. Sounds like a great time.

Another four-footed wrestler is the Tosa Inu, a breed of Japanese mastiff. These are huge dogs. The males range from 130-200 lbs. As with the bulls, dog matches are not supposed to end in injury or death. Superior tactics and techniques will score higher than aggression, which is considered a fault. A "pin" can result in victory,for example. Any vocalization by a dog results in immediate disqualification. Like their human counterparts, the dogs earn rankings based on tournament results. Here is a yokozuna (grand champion) wearing his ceremonial apron. Is he gorgeous, or what?

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