If you're a regular reader of SDI, you're probably familiar with the names of the writers you see pop up on the site. There is a name you may not know, though. He's the unsung hero of Shutdown Inning, and his name is Kazuto Yamazaki.
Kazuto does what none of the rest of us would be capable of doing. He translates our articles into Japanese and posts them on his blog, 1000 Ballgame Ways. If we were an overly formulaic CBS crime drama, Kazuto's efforts would be called "SDI: Tokyo".
Until this week, that was all I knew about Kazuto. He was a guy who translated our articles and I sometimes talked to on Twitter. That all changed when he made his first trip to the United States, and we went to last Thursday's Ranger game (a 9-7 win over Oakland). After the game, I got the chance to get to know Kazuto a bit and thought I'd pass on what I learned to our readers.
Kazuto is 21 years old and lives in Tokyo. As I already mentioned, this was his first trip to the United States. It required some fine tuning of my country boy ears to adjust to his accent, but one thing certainly was not lost in translation: his love of baseball.
The topic then shifted to Kazuto's favorite moments. Some of them are universal for Ranger fans, but one in particular was a bit out of the box. This event wasn't really a "Ranger moment" as much as it was that the Rangers just happened to be there, too. It was eight years ago when Ryan Drese gave up hits number 257 and 258 to Ichiro. Those hits tied and broke the single season record for hits, previously held by George Sisler. When it came to Ranger triumphs, Kazuto talked about the 30-3 game in Baltimore, the perfect curve from Neftali Feliz to Alex Rodriguez that sent Texas to their first World Series, and said he'd have to add seeing Kinsler's lead off homer in person to his list as well.
We also talked a little bit about Japanese baseball. Kazuto said he watches it, but doesn't really have a favorite team. The closest team for him to watch in person is the Tokyo Swallows. Their stadium is about a 40 minute bicycle ride from his house. Kazuto said that aside from a few small differences, like a lack of collisions at the plate, the Japanese game and the American game are very similar. As a guy who likes to eat, I asked about Japanese ballpark food. Kazuto said they have all the American staples, like hot dogs, peanuts, and cotton candy. They also have ramen soup, fish, and plenty of beer. Kazuto sampled some uniquely Texas ballpark cuisine while he was here, and ate the entire Boomstick hot dog is just a hair over five innings.
The coverage of the Rangers by the Japanese media frustrates Kazuto. He said they only report on days when Yu Darvish pitches, and even then only give Darvish's pitching line. He relies on American media for his coverage. Kazuto is able to watch Ranger games via MLB.TV. Most of the games start at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning on Tokyo time, but that doesn't slow Kazuto down a bit.
The biggest thing I learned about Kazuto, though, was that he is a baseball computer. He would talk about a particular game that happened several years ago and could give you the exact date that it happened. He soaks in baseball like a sponge, often watching several games at a time and running through stats on various websites. Kazuto definitely has some serious baseball smarts. He can also tear up some "Sweet Child O' Mine" on karaoke.
If you want to give Kazuto a follow on Twitter, his handle is @LaBlynne. I can guarantee he'll teach you something you probably won't find anywhere else.
Chris Kautz is a Senior Staff Writer for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Chris.Kautz@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @SDIChris.