Yu Darvish of the Chicago Cubs was born in Japan and has pitched in Major League Baseball since 2012.
Despite being a veteran big league pitcher, Darvish recently did something at the ballpark for the very first time: he gave his first mass media interview in English.
Darvish has given interviews in Japanese throughout his baseball career, but never before solely in English, and he knew that it was time to put his English language lessons to good use.
“I want to speak better English,” Darvish told ESPN. “I understand what you guys [in the media] are asking, but when I get nervous – like now – my English gets stuck a little.”
“Dealing with reporters and the public in English takes away a level of protection,” Cubs president Theo Epstein observed. “It’s an attempt to make a more genuine connection…I think not using an interpreter is a brave thing to do.”
“He takes a lot of pride in his ability to speak English,” Epstein added. “When we met with him [during free agency], it was all in English.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon agreed. “I’ve had many conversations with Yu – in English.”
“The most important thing is you guys [in the media] understand what I’m saying because pitching can be hard to explain sometimes,” Darvish told the assembled journalists that cover the Cubs. “I’ll have to take my time [explaining].”
“[Little] by little I’ve been more comfortable,” Darvish concluded.