“Hi Oakland, my name is Hiroyuki Nakajima, but you can call me Hiro. I am honored to be here today. Thank you very much, Mr. Beane.”
Those were the first words uttered by the new Oakland Athletics shortstop in this afternoon’s introductory press conference. What initially appeared as the typically polite Japanese manners from Nakajima quickly evolved into jokes, smiles, and laughter all throughout the press room. Speaking mostly through an interpreter save for his opening and closing statements, carefully delivered in assuredly well practiced English, Nakajima came off as very cool, calm and collected and easy going. Hiro was presented with his green-and-gold Athletics cap, and crisp white Athletics jersey with the familiar number 3 on the back. Of course most A’s fans will associate that number with long time third baseman Eric Chavez, but most recently that number was used by third base coach Mike Gallego who agreed to relinquish it to Nakajima.
Nakajima’s true personality and confidence shone through once the questions from the media began to come forth. When asked what drew him to the Athletics, he cited the obvious team chemistry, but also noted that he signed because GM Billy Beane was “sexy and cool” which drew laughter throughout the press corps and Billy Beane himself (who later echoed Hiro’s sentiment, noting Nakajima’s own coolness and sexiness).
Nakajima described himself as a once offensive minded player who has evolved into one who values his defense more. He looks forward to showing off what he can do in the field.
He stated that he was not planning on participating in the upcoming World Baseball Classic for the 2 time defending champion Japanese, he certainly has enough to deal with while adjusting to a new country, new teammates, a new league, and an entirely new life. It’s good to see that he’s focused on the Athletics now that he’s a member of the team.
If this press conference is any indication, Nakajima will fit in perfectly with the strong team chemistry that brought him here. His youthful exuberance and his clear confidence (the only adjustment that worries him is the lack of bath tubs in America, not facing Jered Weaver) will immediately make him one of the guys, but may also thrust him into something of a leadership role on this still very young team. If he produces, he’ll be an integral part of the team’s hopeful 2013 success.
He closed the conference with another statement in English: “I will do my best for the team, but I also want to do the ‘Bernie Dance’ with Oakland.” I may already have my new favorite Athletic. I cannot wait for the Athletics to bring their sexy back to the AL West to defend their crown.