July 24, 2009
Notre Dame, Ind – A couple of leftovers from Thursday night’s dinner at Gonpachi – two birthday cakes appeared on behalf of players Kris Haines, who celebrated his 52nd on Thursday, and Anthony Brannan, who celebrates his 31st on Monday.
Meanwhile, Tim Brown and the five former Irish captains headed elsewhere for an appearance on a local sports talk show, followed by a late dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant.
Today’s planned 7:30 a.m. helicopter trip to Camp Zama for a group of players and coaches was scratched by high winds and rain. It marked the fourth straight day of overcast skies and at least some rain. Umbrellas (many of them clear so you can hold it and still see where you’re going on a crowded street) end up being a critical part of the culture here, sometimes to deal with rain while others use them against the sun and heat.
The Tokyo fish market continued to be a popular stop for members of the Notre Dame party – with most leaving the hotel about 5:00 a.m. and returning by about 7:00 a.m.
The players had the morning off, prior to an 11:00 a.m. walk to a nearby restaurant for an early lunch. Then, it was off by bus to the Tokyo Dome at 1:30 p.m. The rain squashed plans for an outdoor team picture in front of the dome, so instead the Irish replicated that inside.
The Irish didn’t work out at all. In fact, the field had not yet been prepared for the football game. The Yomiuri Giants baseball squad had a workout slated for Saturday night, so the pitching mound was still intact, with four orange cones around it. Befitting the Giants’ color scheme, both the pitching mound and home plate at the dome are orange.
The Tokyo Dome is actually part of a huge amusement complex, so there were plenty of people in the area.
The air conditioning was off in the dome during the Notre Dame visit — and the heat and humidity were intense. The air conditioning should be on for the game Saturday, but reports suggest it will still be warm inside.
The Irish heard from Lou Holtz, then spent most of their stay taking photos – with many family members, spouses and significant others in attendance.
After returning to the hotel Holtz spent the rest of the afternoon signing football and others items for the Notre Dame team members.
The New Sanno Hotel (a U.S. military hotel that requires passports for admittance) was the site of dinner, sponsored by the Notre Dame Club of Japan, with around 350 in attendance.
The voice of Notre Dame Stadium, Mike Collins, served as master of ceremonies.
Bobby Valentine, current manager of the Chiba Lotte team in the Japanese pro baseball league, spoke briefly and identified himself as the only person to be a manager in the American and National Leagues and the Japan League and to go to World Series in both countries. He also noted he had been fired from all three stops.
Valentine talked about his football recruiting trip to Notre Dame (he eventually went to USC) as a 5-10, 185-pound running back from Stamford, Conn. He stayed with Joe Theismann on his visit and recalled Ara Parseghian telling him, “You don’t have to sell a Cadillac. We are a Cadillac.”
At one point in the winter snow, Valentine recalled a corridor of Irish lineman in front of him, and Ara suggested (with the offense on the left and defense on the right) that if you come here you’ll be looking at the backsides of these guys. If you don’t you’ll be looking into the faces of these other guys. Valentine claimed his choice of USC started a 10-year family feud.
Holtz, Tony Rice and Brandon Hoyte presented Japanese event organizer Shinzo Yamada with a #1 Notre Dame jersey.
Notre Dame’s dean of the College of Science, Greg Crawford (his great-uncle played for Knute Rockne), made some brief remarks highlighting the latest academic advancements on campus.
Notre Dame club president Bill Moran introduced Ireland’s ambassador to Japan, Brendan Scannell, who presented Holtz with an Irish flag that had flown over the Irish embassy in Tokyo.
Holtz noted the 13th birthday of his grandson Chad with yet another cake and round of singing.
Then former Irish captains Rice, Hoyte, Derek Curry and Melvin Dansby made brief comments.
Finally, Holtz closed out the program and ended his remarks with his traditional tearing up and recreation of a USA Today section.
Collins closed the evening with a tribute to Rich O’Leary, Notre Dame’s longtime athletic staffer who died July 17.
Then it was back to the Ritz-Carlson where Holtz conducted his usual relaxation session with his players.
Tomorrow’s game was featured in today’s edition of Japan Times and the Daily Yomiuri, along with several Japanese-language papers.