Today the Mariners signed 29-year-old Kenji Johjima from the former Japanese leagues to be their starting catcher in 2006. And he has nothing to do with that crappy Robin Williams movie from a few years back.
I won't venture a guess as to how well he'll do in the majors. He could be Hideki Matsui or Hideki Irabu, Big Matsui or Little Matsui. As far as I can tell, the Japanese players that have segued into the majors have been as big a crapshoot as Schrodinger's cat. And I do hope the M's hire a translator for discussions at the mound. That is, unless Ichiro doesn't mind jogging in from center every so often.
I do have to say that the reports that he will be the first Japanese-born catcher in the majors are completely inaccurate. Keith McDonald played six games behind the plate for the Cardinals in 2000 and 2001. Though McDonald sounds about as Japanese as Carminati, the man was born in Yokosuka, Japan. I don't know McDonald's historywhether his father was in the service or was starting up a Ray Kroc franchise in Japan at the timeand without the luxury of a complete genealogical inquiry of every player in the game, he qualifies.
By the way, I was wondering about the language issue and looked up the premier catcher for each foreign country. So here goes:
I wonder if pitcher had difficulty understanding Fergy Malone's Irish brogue back in the day.
Anyway, with Ichiro Suzuki and Johjima, the M's will potentially become the first major league team with two starting position players born in Japan. That made me wonder when each foreign country first had two starting players on the same team: