GOODYEAR, Ariz. — As a member of the Saitama Seibu Lions, Shogo Akiyama batted .301, earned two Pacific League Golden Glove Awards and played in five all-star games. The Japanese media wasn’t about to let him go to Goodyear alone.
“He has the single-season hit record, so everyone knows him around in Japan,” Kyodo News reporter Wataru Serizawa said Wednesday, referring to Akiyama’s 216-hit season in 2015.
Akiyama spent his first days at Reds camp accompanied by a gaggle of reporters from Japanese news agencies and his translator, Luke Shinoda, who helped him communicate with their American counterparts.
“Luckily, a lot of players and coaches try to use Japanese with me in the clubhouse, so that’s what I’m thankful for,” Akiyama said. “Every day, it’s been easy to hang out with everyone.”
“He’s going to have a great time here, a great experience,” added Reds manager David Bell. “It’s going to help him on the field, just that confidence of being able to communicate.”
The country and the language might be new to him, but the game isn’t. As soon as he got on the grass and began fielding ground balls, Akiyama settled in.
Teammate Mike Moustakas said the excitement around Akiyama’s arrival — one precipitated by a $21 million contract agreement — was palpable among players, Japanese reporters and members of the American media alike.
“The only thing I have similar experience to that is when I was in Kansas City,” he said. “We had Nori Aoki over there, and he had a good amount of people that followed him around, too, but this — it’s incredible. You know, it’s great for us. It’s great for baseball.”