Even though today is one of the happiest moments of my life, I fully understand that I have a lot of work ahead of me. I need to learn about my pitchers and I need to work hard to earn their trust. I will do everything I can to adjust to the Major Leagues and I hope that I can help the team get back into the playoffs.
Q: Did you hear any explanation [from the Mariners] that you will be the "regular" catcher?
A: There is competition to become a "regular" catcher. And I know that it is not easy. It is something that I have to go there and work for.
Q: How long is the contract?
A: I didn't negotiate myself, but [it's three years].
Q: What did you like about the city of Seattle?
A: It looks somewhat similar to Japan. The water is beautiful and they also have mountains. It was a little rainy during the time I was there but I heard that the weather is nice during the season.
Q: Did your family like [Seattle]?
A: My wife liked the Japanese supermarket, Uwajimaya.
Q: I heard that there are a lot of Japanese people living [in Seattle].
A: Yes, there are.
Q: What did you feel about the team facility?
[A] Good. It was beyond what I have imagined. I've seen a lot of Ichiro's games on TV, and Safeco Field is not unfamiliar. However, I re-recognized the beauty of that ballpark.
Q: Were you able to imagine yourself on the field [at Safeco]?
A: Not yet.
Q: When you came off the plane [from the US trip], you said you hadn't made up your mind yet. Now you have. What went on during that period?
A: I was able to explain everything to my family after I actually saw Seattle. So then I was able to have a family meeting to talk about everything.
Q: Did you decide not to travel to New York?
A: I thought that it is not necessary for me to go there.
Q: You had offers from six teams. Why did you not go [to visit those other teams]?
A: The Mariners really showed me that they wanted me. And as the first Japanese catcher to go the Major Leagues, I had no dissatisfaction in what they presented me. I did not want to try and run up the price.
Q: Isn't language going to be an issue for you?
A: There is no way I can fluently talk without an interpreter. However, I would like to make good communication with the pitcher. Of course, I will need the help of an interpreter on important occasions, but by showing sincerity/good faith to the pitcher, I think they will teach me English as a teammate. My English is not good yet, but I will make my best effort to improve.
Q: Do you have any anxiety [regarding the language barrier]?
A: Sure I have. But I will make my best effort. I will try and spend a lot of time with the pitcher and work to communicate the manager's "vision for baseball" to them.
Q: Today is the Hawks' end of season reception. How are you going to tell everyone about this?
[A] I have always said this but I have no complaint for the Hawks. So I have made all the protocols that I need to keep. I have reported and updated of where things are. I reported to Manager [Sadaharu] Oh and the team executive yesterday, and today I will tell Mr. Son [team owner].
Q: What did Mr. Oh say?
A: He seems like he scheduled things as if he had already thought I was someone gone from his team. He said, "Tell everyone in the US about the Hawks."
Q: Do you have a message to the fans?
A: I know I have been in the news a lot with all this recently ... I have been in Fukuoka for 11 years, and with the fans' support, I was able to gain this much stature and become a mature player, and that led me to this contract with an MLB team. The reason I was able to develop this much is because of the fans. I have no complaint or issues with the team or the city. That is the reason I spent so much time thinking about this move. But I've decided to make this challenge [to play in the MLB]. So though Mr. Oh told me to show the people in the US about the Hawks, I want to be representing Fukuoka. I want to be a great player and show the team.
Q: It was rather a quick negotiation period?
A: They gave me an offer that was enough for me. So if I went to New York, I may have seen something else, but that would mean that I am putting the Mariners' goodwill/sincerity to me as the first Japanese catcher in the MLB on a scale against other teams. I didn't want to put their goodwill/sincerity on a scale and disregard that attitude that they showed me.
Q: Did you decide everything while you were in Chicago?
A: I decided to prioritize my feelings.
Q: Did you meet Mr. Yamauchi while you were in the US?
Q: In what way did you feel the goodwill/sincerity of the Mariners?
A: The executives of the Mariners took me and my family to a meal and presented us with what is good about Seattle. They showed me that I am necessary for the team in many different ways. I can't specify one.
Q: As the first Japanese catcher in MLB what would you like to appeal?
A: [The Mariners] evaluated me for what I have achieved until now. So I have to do what I have done until now ... which is always difficult to do. I will gradually adjust myself to what MLB does but will try and keep my present style where it is necessary. Even though language may be a problem, I am sure that if I show sincerity, I will be able to get my message across. Communicating the managers' "vision of baseball" is a part of the catcher's job.
Q: The number of games in NPB and MLB is different ... how many games will you be out there?
A: What I have now is a contract and not a regular position in the team. There is no assurance or guarantee that I will be on the field on Opening Day. However, if I am able to wear the mask on Opening Day, I don't want to give that up to anyone. There is only one position for a catcher and I don't want to give it up.
Q: You had an average of about .300 in Japan. What are you thinking about in the US?
A: I don't know yet. But if I am thinking of negative results, I wouldn't be going [to the Majors]. I want to have a good result. I am not imagining of the negative.
Q: Did you hear anything about what number you are having on your uniform?
A: I haven't heard anything.
Q: There may be cases where you will have a difficult time communicating with not only Americans but other people, like Venezuelans. How are you going to deal with that?
A: I will think about it when it happens.
Q: Are you studying English?
A: I have a tutor provided from the Mariners, and starting the day after tomorrow, I will have lessons. Once I go [to the US], I will have a Japanese interpreter.
Q: What is your schedule after this?
A: There will be an official contract made and the press announcement may be made in December or January in Seattle.
Q: You said you have a three-year contract. Are you coming back to Fukuoka after that?
A: I want to retire in Fukuoka, but I don't know when that will be. I am not thinking of a "brief stop" at the MLB.
Q: What are you going to do about the World Baseball Classic?
A: I have had an offer. But the time of the tournament is when I need to get to know the team and when the team needs to get to know me. Mr. Oh said that, "Spring Camp is important, so use it for yourself". I don't think I will attend [the WBC].
Q: Did you make any contact with Ichiro upon making a step to MLB?
A: Not yet. I know he's also busy right now. But as a protocol, I will need to make a greeting to him.
Q: Did the fact that Ichiro plays in Seattle give any effect in your decision?
A: Not directly. But Seattle has an environment ready to accept Japanese [ballplayers]. And I think that environment was made by having Ichiro ... so I suppose it did give an effect in a way.
Q: Do you have any specific player you want to play against?
A: No one in specific. I've got to attend the Spring Camp and be able to imagine myself wearing the mask on Opening Day there. I want to be able to simulate myself playing out there with confidence.
Q: Why do you want to play in the Major Leagues?
A: All players want to be better. It's not a comparison with Japan and the US, but everyone wants to challenge higher goals. I think [the catcher position] is a good point about Japanese baseball. And if [a Japanese catcher] can gain success in the US, it will show Japanese baseball to the US fans.
US baseball has a long history with certain levels. I think it was natural for me to want a challenge. I don't know when I started to have that feeling, but in recent years I have had a strong will, and I want a new challenge.