Wakarimasu ka? Rangers starting to learn Japanese Print
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Friday, 29 February 2008 00:32
MLB Headline News

 SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) -With an open translation book in his hands, Texas Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson shared a Japanese phrase with Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the catcher then went to new teammate Kazuo Fukumori to try it out.
With the Southern-born Saltalmacchia's drawl, the results were a bit comical, but he was successful with ``ohayo gozaimasu'' - or good morning.
The short lesson in the clubhouse Thursday morning is part of Wilson's plan for Rangers pitchers and catchers to learn a couple of new Japanese words each day to better communicate with Fukumori, who is pitching in the United States for the first time after 13 professional seasons in Japan.
Just another way for the Rangers to say ``Irasshaimase'' - or welcome.
Wilson is admittedly fascinated with Japanese culture and language, which he studied while in college. He once took a monthlong vacation to Japan.
When Akinori Otsuka got traded from San Diego to Texas and pitched for the Rangers the past two years, Wilson realized how difficult communication was at times for the Japanese reliever who had already been in America for two years. He wants to ensure that Fukumori has a smoother transition.
``It helps that I'm already comfortable with Japanese,'' Wilson said. ``Aki's first year here, I was fascinated with how hard it was for him to do that. ... Kazuo's fresh and he's really a great guy.''
Fukumori signed a $3 million, two-year deal with Texas that includes a team option for 2010. When introduced in December, he introduced himself, then added, ``Call me Kaz.''
While Wilson doesn't need ``Instant Japanese'' for common phrases, he expects the small handbook to become a learning tool for pitchers and catchers, in the clubhouse or for relievers in the bullpen during countless hours waiting their turn to pitch.
``It started yesterday. There is a way to go,'' Fukumori said, with a smile, through his translator.
Hajime Watabe, Fukumori's translator, said the Rangers are obviously comfortable with and understand Japanese character.
``It's neat,'' Watabe said. ``Some people say 'ohayo gozaimasu' every morning or at the start of practice. He's so happy to hear it. He also tries to speak English now.''
Manager Ron Washington hasn't learned any Japanese yet, but said he may try to pick up some this season. He sees the impromptu language lessons as an indication of teammates coming together and helping Fukumori relax in new surroundings.
Plus, Washington and his coaches are indirectly teaching a few English words to Fukumori.
``Each day that he goes through the fundamentals, I think he's picking up more and more,'' Washington said. ``When he hears words shouted, I think he's beginning to understand what they mean.''
Maybe even a few four-letter and unprintable words?
``I don't know if anybody's been teaching him,'' Washington said.
Saltalamacchia said Fukumori understands some English, and that there is always sign language. Take waving his mitt and hand downward as a signal for Fukumori to get his pitches down.
The language barrier hasn't kept the Rangers from getting to know the 31-year-old but much younger looking Fukumori, who was 34-42 with a 3.72 ERA and 72 saves in 377 games (47 starts) in Japan
``He's got a good sense of humor, you can tell. ... We're trying to corrupt him a little bit,'' Wilson said.
``I think he's a funny dude that we don't know,'' Saltalamacchia said. ``I think he's hilarious, but we just don't know it. We don't understand what he's saying, but I'm sure he's pretty funny.''
Fukumori is quick with a smile, like he was when Saltalamacchia was handed a Japanese newspaper and scanned over it trying to figure if he could read any of it.
``Hold on, I'm going to translate,'' Wilson said, pulling out the book. ``It may take a while.''
Notes: Rangers owner Tom Hicks said Thursday that he'd never be tempted to sign free agent Barry Bonds, the career home run leader. ``We want character players,'' Hicks said. ``That's part of the plan.'' What if new team president Nolan Ryan proposed such a move? Hicks said that won't happen, but added, ``There are very few things that I would probably veto Nolan for ever recommending. That would be one of them.'' ... RHP Kevin Millwood, bothered by a nagging right hamstring, threw long toss Thursday and said he felt fine. He's still not sure when he'll return to the mound. ... Rusty Greer and Mark McLemore, who both played on the Rangers' only three AL West Division championship teams in the 1990s, were in uniform and on the field Thursday for the first of three days working with the team. ``It feels good being out here with a glove,'' Greer said. Just don't expect him to make diving catches like he did when he was playing. ``I may pick up a bat and see if I can still hit,'' he said.
 

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