MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire arrived at Saturday afternoon's press conference at Target Field holding a book. It was titled, "Survival Japanese."Gardenhire said the book, along with a CD to help learn the language, were gifts from the Twins organization this past week. With new Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka making the transition not only to the Major Leagues but also to American culture, Gardenhire is eager to make the player he's already calling "Nishi" feel as much at home with the Twins as he can, and that includes learning some Japanese. "There is the unknown of how he's going to be able to handle everything, how long it's going to take him to adjust," Gardenhire said. "But it's kind of a neat thing for the organization to have him here. It's something very different and I look forward to it, honestly. I think we'll have some fun with it." The Twins understand that the upcoming season will be an adjustment for Nishioka, and it's a new thing for the club as well. Nishioka, 26, is the first Japanese League player that the club has signed, having agreed to a three-year, $9.25 million contract with the infielder on Friday, and they have sought some advice from others as to how to handle the transition. "I have talked to a number of a number of general managers, I have talked to agents and I have talked to anybody who I thought might be able to help us prepare for this," said Twins general manager Bill Smith.
"We want to do everything we can to make Tsuyoshi and his wife comfortable here. At the same time, we are a very close team and one of the things we expressed throughout the negotiations was that we're a family. We do not want a family of two, being one player and an interpreter, and then a group of 24. We are still looking to maintain a group, a family of 25 guys in the clubhouse."Smith and the others in the club's front office have spent the past few days getting Nishioka and his wife, Naoko, to feel like a part of the Twins family. Since the couple arrived in the Twin Cities on Thursday morning to finalize the deal, the club has tried to make the couple feel comfortable with the area that will be their new home. The organization has made a strong effort to welcome Nishioka on this initial visit, and it's sure he'll be greeted with the same sort of enthusiasm by his teammates. It's possible that Nishioka could meet his new teammates for the first time in January at TwinsFest, as he's expressed interest in coming to the event. "We have great chemistry on this club, and in talking with Gardy and in talking with a few of our players, we are very confident that our players are going to embrace Tsuyoshi as a new player, but also as a teammate and as a partner on this team," Smith said.
"We're very confident that we'll do the right things to make him comfortable. We also know that he is going to take major steps to try and fit in and be a big part of this team."There are still some details for the Twins to work out in the transition. David Yamamoto served as the translator for Nishioka during Saturday's press conference to introduce the club's new infielder and helped with communication throughout this initial trip. But Yamamoto, who was a translator for Japanese infielder Tadahito Iguchi for a few seasons in the Majors, will not be Nishioka's interpreter during the season. The Twins are still in the process of hiring an official interpreter for Nishioka, Twins president Dave St. Peter said. The interpreter will be there to help Nishioka, whether it's doing so on the field for batting practice, in the clubhouse or in the community. Nishioka acknowledged that it will indeed take some time for him to adjust completely to making the move to both Major League Baseball and America. That includes adjusting to the language barrier, although he's already working to learn English. "I know coming in this is a big challenge for me," Nishioka said through his interpreter on Saturday. "There are a lot of factors. At the end of the day, I want to come in here and help this team." The Twins have been pleased with how smoothly things went during Nishioka's initial visit, and they joked about what was perhaps the biggest challenge for the organization over the past couple of days -- convincing Nishioka that the weather in the Twin Cities, which currently is covered by close to 30 inches of snow, will be much different when the season kicks off at home in April. "We spent more time Friday trying to convince him that the weather here in April through October is actually pretty good," St. Peter said with a laugh.
"We enjoyed showing him videos of Target Field and the green grass that's really underneath all that snow."