It seems that Kenshin Kawakami was destined to be on the Atlanta Braves. Like so many American kids, Kenshin grew up idolizing at least one member of our franchise during the 90's:
While attending college in Japan, Kenshin Kawakami adopted Greg Maddux as his favorite Major League Baseball player. He routinely wore Braves T-shirts adorned with Maddux's name and took advantage of every opportunity to watch the legendary hurler pitch.
I love that Greg Maddux is still paying dividens for the Braves. If anyone ever doubted why a team should sign top-flight talent like that regarless the cost, this is one of those examples. I'm not saying Derek Lowe will have the same impact on the world's youth, but you never know.
It's also good to see both the Braves and Kawakami reaching across the language barrier:
Some of his nerves may have been calmed when Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell wished him good luck in Japanese. McDowell has spent the past six weeks attempting to learn some key words that will help him communicate with Kawakami.
Kawakami is also seemingly gaining a better feel for the English language. He has been greeting people by saying, "Morning," over the past few weeks. In addition, he's also grown comfortable with simple phrases such as "Thank you."
After Friday's outing, a reporter asked Kawakami if he was aware of the pitching dominance Atlanta once possessed in its organization. Before allowing his interpreter to provide an interpretation, the hurler responded, "I know."
There are a lot of adjustments that Kawakami will be making this year -- being so far from home, going from a six-man to a five-man rotation, using a slightly larger American baseball, being on a team whose first language is English not Japanese -- it's reassuring to hear that so far he seems to be embracing and conquering all of these challenges. It's only spring training, and it's only against the Pirates, but his first outing should give Atlanta fans a lot to look forward to.