Isn’t it nice to know that once you go to a team in a new country for the first time, there’s someone there that can help you because they’ve experienced the same thing? Well, Masahiro Tanaka sure is lucky because his new teammate Hiroki Kuroda has taken him under his wing in order to help him adjust to being on the Yankees, the Major Leagues in general and his new life in the United States.
“It’s hard to even describe in words how big of a help he has been to me,” Tanaka said through his translator to the New York Daily News. “Hiroki will be a good help to me during the season.”
Of course, Hiroki Kuroda isn’t limited to just helping Tanaka. Kuroda also helps Ivan Nova from time to time with pitching questions. But with Kuroda helping Tanaka, there’s a sort of bond since they both had to become accustom to being in new place with a new language, new teammates and new work routines. Kuroda of course doesn’t mind helping Tanaka since being the new guy was him at one point in his career.
“I’ve been through this in my first year where I had a lot of help from my teammates,” Kuroda said through his translator. “Whatever he needs, I would love to help.”
Tanaka is even making the effort to learn English so he can communicate with his new teammates.
“Even though he can’t speak the language yet, I can see that he’s making a big effort to get comfortable in this environment,” said Kuroda. “I think he has the stuff to compete in New York. It’s a matter of getting used to his new environment.
Tanaka learning English reminds me of another story of a player who didn’t know English before coming to the United States: Mariano Rivera. Rivera eventually learned the language (and it’s hard to believe he didn’t know it back then since he speaks it so fluently), so if Tanaka really wants to learn, there’s no reason he can’t. He said one sentence in English during his press conference and it was pretty good.
Masahiro Tanaka got through Spring Training just fine, but now it’s a whole new ball game: he has to play 162-games on five days rest, a big adjustment from being in Japan.
“Because of his personality, I think he’s making a good transition,” Larry Rothschild said. “We’ll see as we go. You’re not going to know until there are some bumps in the road, then you adjust to it.”