Look Who's Talking

Sept. 26, 2005
Sept. 26, 2005

Table of Contents
Sept. 26, 2005

SI Players: Life On And Off the Field
Pro Football
College Football
Inside: The Week in Sports
Inside College Football
Inside The NFL

Look Who's Talking

Translating for a Japanese star is some commitment

KAZUO MATSUI Mets Second Baseman

This is an article from the Sept. 26, 2005 issue Original Layout

•KAZUO MATSUI's translator, Nozomu Matsumoto (in striped shirt), a New Jerseyite who went to a Japanese boarding school, has been on the job since last season. "I'm on Kaz's schedule. I'm at the ballpark at two o'clock, and I follow him wherever he goes," says Matsumoto, who, like other translators, is paid by the club and travels with the team. "We're not allowed in the dugout, so I stick around the tunnel. But he'll call me in the middle of the night and ask me about a restaurant."

ICHIRO SUZUKI Mariners Outfielder

•THE THIRD interpreter Ichiro has had since coming to the U.S. in 2001, Allen Turner does double duty as a bullpen catcher. Turner, an all-state shortstop at Gilbert (Ariz.) High (he lived in Japan until he was 10), started as a translator for ex-Seattle closer Kaz Sasaki. He recalls his first live TV interview, in 2000. "I started to translate ... my mind went blank," says Turner, 29. "I stopped. Kaz tapped my leg, as if to say, It's all right, and I finished." Now jitters are rare. "Growing up, the dream job was to be a baseball player," he says. "If there's a next dream, this is it."

HIDEKI MATSUI Yankees Outfielder

•FORMER software consultant Roger Kahlon, 31, has had the job since 2003. Besides shagging flies, standing at the cage and hovering around Matsui's locker, Kahlon, who was raised in Tokyo, is always on call. "He'll phone me to set up a meeting with his agent, Arn Tellem, or to make a restaurant reservation. On the road he'll ask me to come to dinner--we tend to stick to rice, we're grain eaters. Translating is like dancing with a partner. You have to get your rhythm. We have it down now where he knows when to stop and I know when to jump in."

TADAHITO IGUCHI White Sox Second Baseman

•FOUR MONTHS ago Ryan McGuire was working for a company that edits White Sox commercials--a connection that helped the Chicago-area native, who went to college in Japan, land the full-time job. McGuire has helped Iguchi negotiate a car lease, rent a house and find out what snack Iguchi's daughter needs for her preschool. But he says the hard part's in the locker room. "They put all the microphones in your face. If you step back, the mikes come forward. Sometimes you feel like you're going to swallow one."