You did not have to speak Japanese to understand Takashi Saito’s fear, his frustration and his downright fatigue. After two long days and nights trying to account for the safety of his extended family amid earthquake and tsunami devastation in Japan, you could see it on his face.
“I feel powerless and not able to do anything,” Saito said. “Being away from my family, it’s very tough.”
General manager Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke have told Saito he is free to leave the team to return home to Japan if necessary. His wife and three daughters are safe in Yokohama, south of the area devastated by the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan, but his parents, brothers and other extended family members are in Sendai, the city north of Tokyo hardest hit. By midday Friday, Saito was sure that everybody was alive, but little else.
Saito wants to evacuate his family from Sendai, but communication is next to impossible. If he does travel home to Japan, he might not be able to get to his family.
“I’m not sure what my next best decision is,” he said through translator Kosuke Inaji, whose own extended family is safe on Japan’s western coast.
Information has been painfully hard to come by. Saito learned about the earthquake late Thursday night in Phoenix. He was able to reach his wife, Yukiko, and their three daughters, 16, 13 and 15 months, in Yokohama, where Saito lives in the offseason. His wife and girls have been experiencing some of the aftershocks that have rattled Japan in the days since the big hit.
“I heard that they are safe, but I don’t really know what they need or what they are missing,” Saito said. “I don’t know anything about that.”
He does know one thing.
“I could tell they are really scared,” Saito said, his eyes down.
It’s his extended family that has Saito really worried. His parents, two older brothers and a number of aunts, uncles and cousins live on low ground in Sendai, the city north of Tokyo hit hardest by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the tsunami that followed.
Most of Saito’s family is together, at one of his brother’s house. But there is no electricity, and when he finally received a call from his oldest brother at 6 a.m. MST, the conversation lasted for only five minutes of battery life.
“All I know is they are alive,” Saito said.