The Seibu Lions announced Wednesday that pitcher Reed Garrett would take part in his first practice the following day at the club’s alternate spring facility in Kochi, with the “B” training group, made up primarily of youngsters and rehabbing veterans.
This makes Garrett the Lions’ first returning import to report to camp. The Lions are one of three teams, along with the Pacific League rival Nippon Ham Fighters and the Central League’s DeNA BayStars, that have had the most difficulties getting returning imports into the country.
All Japan residents are free to enter during the current state of emergency but must undergo a two-week quarantine. Players have been able to enter Japan from Taiwan, which from the start was extremely diligent in containing the virus and has had only a handful of deaths.
The Lions, Fighters and BayStars will likely enter the season with most of their returning imports not yet ready to play.
Visa vici vini
In the Fighters’ case, players typically travel directly to Okinawa without going through Sapporo, and when the coronavirus restrictions were imposed, the club was unable to secure the visas in the same way it was accustomed to doing.
Japan’s local immigration offices can be very helpful when they want to be and very rule-bound and spitefully bureaucratic when they desire. Years ago, I worked in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and was technically required to travel about 80 kilometers to Yaizu, to go to the nearest office in the prefecture, when the closest office was half that distance, in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture.
All the teachers where I worked went there to renew our visas. Upon arriving, we received a lecture on why they were only doing it out of the kindness of their hearts when they had every right to turn us away and make us go 120 kilometers in the other direction. Then we received our visas.
This is probably the reason why three teams are getting hammered by the immigration process, although the Fighters may be in the toughest spot. I don’t mean to be rude, but Sapporo’s culture of anal-retentive adherence to rules would make most Swiss natives blow their top.