There are lots of great Ichiro stories. The best ones seem to involve him surprising people with his language abilities. Ichiro's profanity-laced All-Star game pep talks, for instance, are things of legend.
Add this to your "Oh, that Ichiro" database: He's learned enough Spanish throughout his baseball career to talk trash Latin MLB players. Not many players pick up a new language to pester the opposition, but you know who will? Ichiro. And you know what else? The Latin players love it.
Wall Street Journal's Brad Lefton tells us more about Ichiro en Español:
Veteran first baseman Carlos Pena remembered one of his frequent encounters with Ichiro. He was defending first for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Ichiro had just arrived on one of his patented infield hits. Ichiro peered over at Pena and asked, "Que coño tu mira?," or, "What the hell are you looking at?" Pena clamped his lips together to prevent the laughter from bursting through.
Ichiro says he cannot carry a conversation in Spanish, which he has gradually picked up during his years in baseball. But, contrary to his stoic image, he feels compelled to engage Latin players.
"I feel a bond with them," he said. "We're all foreigners in a strange land. We've come over here and had to cope with some of the same trials and tribulations. When I throw a little Spanish out at them, they really seem to appreciate it and it seems to strengthen that bond. And besides, we don't really have curse words in Japanese, so I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can't."
There's probably a good amount of truth to that we're-all-imports-here brotherhood. But from a comedy standpoint, Ichiro speaking Spanish is undeniable. The funniest moments are the ones you don't expect, and a slap-hitter from Japan busting out Spanish when he's standing on first base is quite unexpected.
Most people (players even) might not know that Ichiro speaks English fairly well. He does interviews in Japanese and uses an interpreter still, but that's just because he wants his thoughts conveyed correctly to fans. Again, from the Wall Street Journal:
"When I'm being interviewed, presumably it's because people want to know how I feel about something or what my motivation is, not because they want to hear what I sound like in English. I wouldn't be true to the task if I responded in my unrefined English. It might be funny for a second to hear me bumble my way through, but I have to believe that they're asking because they sincerely want to know my thoughts. I'd rather respond, then, in my native tongue so I can most accurately express myself."
You have to figure Ichiro talks trash to other Japanese players in his native tongue. And if he's cursing in the clubhouse in English, he's talking smack on the field in English too. So for our money, being a trilingual trash talker is another crowning achievement in the career of Ichiro.
He has more than 4,000 hits between the U.S. and Japan, and he can tell you about it in three languages. Step your game up, every other baseball player.
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