* With a little translation help from Naoko Sato, a Nikkan Sports News writer, Bob Elliott spoke with Blue Jays infielder Munenori Kawasaki recently about a number of topics, including how well his English has improved. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
SEATTLE -- Playing second base behind Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey Wednesday night was the crowd fave of Rogers Centre faithful.
And apparently, he doubles as the people’s choice of the Blue Jays fans from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
With the help of Naoko Sato, the lovely and talented Nikkan Sports News scribe, we spoke to Kawasaki before the finale of the three-game series.
Kawasaki played 11 seasons in Japan, his final season in 2011 with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks before he came to North America to play for the Mariners.
Iwakuma pitched 11 years for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan’s Pacific League before the M’s signed him as a free agent.
Now, on some questions, we needed help from Sato.
On others, Kawasaki answered himself, for his English has made great strides since his “I am Japanese!” interview after his walk-off hit against the Baltimore Orioles, and he has been interviewed by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar of the MLB Network.
His sense of humour remains intact.
Question: How has he done in the past facing Iwakuma?
Kawasaki: “Probably 0-for-50, maybe I had one single against him. We played in the same league in Japan.”
Q: Who are the best pitchers from Japan this season?
Q: If Kuroda is better than Tanaka, how come the Yankees gave him a seven-year $155 million deal?
Kawasaki: “In our culture, the eldest gets the most respect. Kuroda is the oldest.”
Q: What if we didn’t go by age?
Kawasaki: “Oh, if we didn’t go we by age? The same.”
Q: You seemed to have developed quite a relationship with Millar, the ex-Jays, former Boston Red Sox and co-host of International Talk?
Kawasaki: “He’s my best friend.”
Q: Have you ever met him?
Kawasaki: “No, just on TV. He’s my best TV friend.”
Q: Your English has improved, some Latin players have told us they sharpen their language skills by watching cartoons. Tony Fernandez and Fred Manrique watched the Three Stooges. Do you watch much TV?
Kawasaki: “No, I have two books.”
Q: Yes, but you don’t have any books right now and you are doing very well.
Kawasaki: “I talk to people. Players in the clubhouse help me with my English.”
Q: Have you had friends and family come to the Rogers Centre?
Kawasaki: “Yes. Many.”
Q: Are they surprised by how popular you are?
Kawasaki: “I was more popular in Japan. They were surprised how popular I am in Toronto. I am popular here.”
And the night before, the crowd chanted “Kawasaki! Kawasaki! Kawasaki!”
Q: What was your greatest moment in a Jays uniform, the walk-off double against Baltimore?
Kawasaki: “The past is the past, I forget about the past. Once it is gone, it is gone. I can only think back two games. Three games ago? I don’t remember.”
Q: Who speaks the best English in the clubhouse?
Kawasaki: “Jose Bautista.”
Q: Better than Adam Lind?
Kawasaki: “Yes, I think so.”
Q: Who is the worst?
Kawasaki: “Me. Melky Cabrera is little better than me.”
Q: How come the Yankees have a translator for Suzuki, another for Kuroda, and another for Tanaka, and you don’t have one?
Kawasaki: “The Blue Jays thought a translator was not needed and I don’t have enough money to pay one.”
Just then, Antony Suzuki, Iwakuma’s translator, stopped by. He said his salary is paid by the Mariners.
Kawasaki: “Maybe the Blue Jays need to hire a translator for me next year.”
Q: Earlier this season, I heard on the Tim and Sid Show how the Yankees will be at the Rogers Centre with three translators, one for Tanaka, one for Kuroda and one for Suzuki ... and the Jays would have a translator for their Texican manager John Gibbons. Do you understand the manager?
Kawasaki, shaking his head quickly; “No, never.”
And Jays fans chant the name of the agile infielder who can play shortstop, third or second. Down 6-3 with a man on against M’s closer Fernando Rodney Wednesday, Kawasaki almost lined the ball over the head of left fielder Dustin Ackley.
It is an international game.