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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

SPORTS SCOPE

Whitesell making himself at home in new surroundings


When you really get down to it, the only things infielder Josh Whitesell needs to be comfortable are his bat, gloves and spikes.

Jason Coskrey

For the third time in three years Whitesell is starting his season off in a new location. The easygoing native of Durham, North Carolina, has found comfort amid transition, knowing that no matter where the game takes him — to the Chiba Lotte Marines this time — as long as he has his essentials everything else will fall into place.

"It's exciting," Whitesell said at QVC Marine Field. "To be with a new group of guys. Everyone has been really nice and made me feel at home here. We're off to a good start as a team which is always a good thing."

Whitesell began 2009 in the Arizona Diamondbacks orginazation, making 46 appearances with the top team. He signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals the next year, starting out in Triple-A Syracuse.

He moved to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows later that season, hitting .309 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs in 68 games with the Central League club. Whitesell spent the entire 2011 campaign with Yakult and signed with Lotte as a free agent in the offseason.

Whitesell has helped the Marines, who won five straight to begin the season, get off to a good start this year. He hasn't let the new environment affect the way he carries himself on the field.

"I just try to stay focused and go to work everyday and prepare myself fully to play," Whitesell said. "As long as I'm strapping on the cleats and putting on the uniform, it doesn't really matter where, just make sure I'm ready to go."

Switching teams is a normal part of professional sports. Most times when players change teams, they discover past teammates or players with similar backgrounds in their new surroundings.

The transition is different for foreign players in Japan, who join a new group of players, almost none of whom come from the same cultural background.

Despite that, and the impediment the language barrier presents, many players are able to forge relationships with their Japanese teammates after a few months of playing together.

Changing teams means starting the process all over again, while also making an adjustment to new surroundings and a new organizational culture.

So it's always helpful to have a familiar face around when possible.

Whitesell has that in pitcher Seth Greisinger. Like Whitesell, Greisinger is in his first year in Chiba, joining the team after spending his first five years in Japan with the Swallows and Yomiuri Giants.

News photo
Welcome to town: The Chiba Lotte Marines are hoping for a productive year from new infielder Josh Whitesell this season. Whitesell is in his first season with Lotte. AP

"Obviously with the Giants being in Tokyo, I'd had dinner with Seth, we'd hung out," said Whitesell. "It was comforting knowing somebody coming over here and being familiar with him makes the transition easier. I think all my teammates here have been great and it's made it an easy transition."

Aside from adjusting to new teammates, Whitesell is also adjusting to Pacific League pitching. He's isn't a total stranger to PL teams after facing them during interleague play, but he doesn't have much experience against them.

"With interleague, it's only four games against each team," Whitesell said. "So you really only get a small glimpse of the pitches the other side is offering. Baseball's a game of adjustments, and throughout the season I'll be having to make adjustments and they'll be making adjustments. It's a little chess game like that. I'm confident I'll be able to do well."

Professional athletes, baseball players especially, are often creatures of habit. What will aid Whitesell this season is his ability to assimilate himself into a new environment.

He's got his bat, his gloves, and his spikes. So, if nothing else, the adaptable infielder is off to a good start.



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