3/17/2014 6:00 A.M. ET
Wary of being weary, Dodgers see the light
Special bulbs designed for NASA should mitigate effects of jet lag in Australia
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
EN ROUTE TO SYDNEY, Australia -- If the Dodgers and D-backs think this season-opening expedition across the Pacific is an ordeal, they should check out what the first Major League team to play in Australia went through.
That was the 1888 Chicago White Sox. They didn't have to worry about the jet lag of a 16-hour flight. They went by steamship, out of San Francisco. It took a month. And when they were finished in Australia, they went on to Ceylon, Egypt, Italy, France and England.
But the Dodgers are worried about jet lag, so much that they were intrigued when contacted by Robert Soler, directory of lighting research at Lighting Science Group, which teamed with NASA to mitigate the effects of jet lag for astronauts on the International Space Station.
Soler helped invent an LED lamp for producing biologically-corrected light that increases spectral opponence and minimizes melatonin suppression. It's a circadian rhythm thing. You can imagine how eyes glazed over when Soler and colleague Eliza Grove tried to explain their breakthrough in the clubhouse the other day.
But Soler got the players' attention when he translated techtalk to English. According to Soler, his light bulbs, which gradually change from white to sky blue, lessen the effects of jet lag by fooling the body clock into adjusting to the local time clock.
"It's a sleep aid for jet lag," said Soler, who also provided the bulbs to the United States Olympic Ski and Snowboard teams in Sochi. "You'd be surprised how well it works."
Soler demonstrated the bulbs to the club last week, then flew ahead to Sydney to install them in the hotel rooms of the Dodgers players and uniform staff. He also will fly to Los Angeles ahead of the Dodgers' return to provide his product for their homes to help them adjust back to Pacific Daylight Time.
The Dodgers also have employed some low-tech tips for the long flight. Everybody in the travel party was provided a cheat-sheet from team doctor Dana Sinclair for pre-flight preparations (go to bed later each night leading up to the trip), in-flight consumption (drink water constantly, avoid alcohol and caffeine) and move around the plane. Compression socks were distributed to prevent vein disorders.
Nobody on the club is impacted more by this trip than traveling secretary Scott Akasaki. Although Major League Baseball has assumed some of the heavy lifting, Akasaki still is faced with organizing a travel party that swelled to 185, compared to only 70 for a typical regular-season trip. The Dodgers and D-backs each are flying chartered Qantas 747s.
Everybody needs a visa, but the final manifest wasn't settled until the day of departure because of late roster decisions. Akasaki is in charge of passports and visas, too.
"The regulations are different," said Akasaki. "Australian Customs and Immigration are tough, especially with agricultural products."
The travel group includes guests of uniformed personnel that might not be familiar with the demands of Major League travel.
"There will be some people who aren't used to this type of travel," said Akasaki, who directed earlier Dodgers trips to China and Taiwan for exhibitions with much smaller manifests. "Everything moves fast. From bus to plane to bus to hotel to bus to workout. It's another challenge with this trip."
Taking off from Phoenix after midnight following Sunday's game at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers were to land Tuesday at 10 a.m. Sydney time, with a 4 p.m. workout at Sydney Cricket Ground designed to help the transition to local time.
There is a 4:30 p.m. workout on Wednesday, followed by an MLB Welcome Gala at the team hotel. Thursday night at 7 p.m., the Dodgers play Team Australia in an exhibition game. On Friday, there is a 1 p.m. workout, then a team dinner cruise of Sydney Harbor.
The games against Arizona are Saturday night at 7 p.m. (1 a.m. PT) and Sunday at 1 p.m. (Saturday, 7 p.m. PT). The charter flight home leaves following the Sunday game and is scheduled to arrive at LAX Sunday at 3 p.m. PT.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.