Players react to disaster in Japan

Hideki Matsui learned of the earthquake in Japan while surfing the Internet on Thursday night. He turned on his television and watched the horrific images from his native country until falling asleep about at about midnight MT.

Though Matsui had not reached his family as of Friday morning, he said that none of his relatives lived in the area most affected in northeast Japan. Naturally, however, he was disturbed by the news from his homeland.

"It’s difficult to watch," Matsui said inside the Oakland Athletics’ clubhouse Thursday morning, with his interpreter, Roger Kahlon, translating. "The situation seems like it has really escalated. That was really my reaction – surprise."

Matsui later said in a statement released by the A’s, “I am deeply concerned and affected by what is happening in Japan. I pray for the safety of all the people that have been affected and continue to be affected by this disaster."

The A’s said they will be working closely with Hiroshi Inomata, San Francisco’s Japanese Consul-General, and other community leaders in their efforts to support the tsunami victims.

The two televisions at the opposite ends of the A’s clubhouse were tuned not to sports channels on Friday morning, but to CNN. Many players stopped, expressing shock and concern. But for the most part, they went about their normal business, working out, eating breakfast, reading newspapers, doing crossword puzzles.

The baseball world has grown smaller in recent decades due to an influx of players from Asia and Latin and Central America. Many teams feature at least one Japanese player, and the earthquake hit home, one way or another, in spring-training clubhouses in Florida and Arizona. reports that Brewers reliever Takashi Saito left Spring Training camp to attempt to contact loved ones.

According to the report, Saito was able to contact his wife, Yukiko, and three daughters, but has not heard from his parents. Early Friday morning, he received permission to be leave spring training for an indefinite period of time.

Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, just beginning his first season in the U.S., hadn’t heard of the news until arriving at the ballpark in Ft. Myers, Fla.,’s Jon Paul Morosi reports.

“I usually don’t watch TV or read the Internet before I come to the ballpark, so once I stepped into the clubhouse, all my teammates and staff wondered if my family was all right. That’s when I first noticed that a huge earthquake had hit Japan. I was able to get ahold of my wife after. She mentioned how severe the situation is,” Nishioka said, with his interpreter, Ryo Shinkawa, translating.

Nishioka started at second base in the Twins’ 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. He went 1-for-2 with a walk.

He was asked if he considered sitting out the game, so he could contact more friends and family members.

“That came across my mind at first,” he said. “But since I am here, challenging in the United States as a Japanese person, I understand that I am in an occupation where I can relay dreams and hope and energy back to Japan. I wanted to be on the field and think about people back home and give all out on the field, to give some of that back.”

A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki phoned his parents, who live in Maui, Hawaii. A tsunami reportedly was headed for Hawaii, but his parents told Suzuki not to worry, that any impact likely would occur away from their home.

Suzuki, however, said he also has relatives in Fukushima, Japan, and had not heard about them yet. Fukushima was seriously affected by the earthquake; a nuclear power plant in that prefecture is under a state of emergency.

Kahlon, Matsui’s longtime interpreter, said his older brother, Ranjit, lives in Tokyo, while his father lives between Tokyo and Sendai, one of the cities hit hardest by the earthquake. Kahlon received text messages from both with the news overnight, then phoned them in the morning.

Kahlon spoke with his brother as Ranjit sat in traffic; Japanese authorities closed highways in Tokyo, fearing they would collapse. Kahlon’s father told him that he was in a parking lot when the earthquake hit, and that it was one of the most frightening experiences of his life.

The A’s announced in a statement that they will add a fundraising component for their 2011 season series opener vs. the Seattle Mariners.

Details of the benefit game, which will feature two of Japan’s greatest modern-day players in Oakland’s Hideki Matsui and Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki, will be announced at a later date.