Ichiro’s “English for Special Purposes”

On top of his fine analytical and motor skills on the baseball field, Ichiro seems to possess the motivational skills necessary to manage an American baseball team, or so reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, who credits Ichiro’s motivational speeches for the American League’s string of wins in recent All-Star Games. Look for him to manage, say, the Chicago White Sox after he retires from playing.

“It’s why we win,” David Ortiz said.

He pointed to Ichiro Suzuki, the Seattle Mariners’ wisp of an outfielder, a man who still uses a translator to do interviews with English-speaking reporters – and happens to be baseball’s amalgam of Anthony Robbins and George Carlin. Every year, after the AL manager addresses his team, Ichiro bursts from his locker, a bundle of kinetic energy, and proceeds, in English, to disparage the National League with an H-bomb of F-bombs, stunning first-timers who had no idea Ichiro speaks the queen’s language fluently and making returnees happy that they had played well enough to see the pep talk again.

The tradition began in 2001, Ichiro’s first All-Star appearance, and the AL hasn’t lost a game since. Coincidence?

Um. No.

“I know how important it is to the game,” Ichiro said. “I’m more concentrated at that moment than I am in the game.”

A wide grin spread across his face. Ichiro’s secret had been exposed, so, hey, why not have fun with it?

He crafts his public portrayal similar to the image he projects on the field: a technician, a warrior, a Ph.D. in stoicism. In reality, Ichiro’s All-Star teammates love him for his wicked sense of humor and sly deceit, shown with a vocabulary far more expansive than he leads on.

All the first baseman around the AL know Ichiro speaks English, singles accounting for 1,393 of his 1,711 hits since joining Seattle in 2001. Generally, the conversation doesn’t move much past pleasantries, which makes the speech all the more shocking.

via Daniel Drezner

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Filed under baseball, Japan, language, U.S.

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