Ichiro Suzuki is a fierce competitor. There is never a moment between the two foul lines where he’s not giving 110%.
He’s spent his entire career improving every aspect of his game. Even his ability to talk shit to players who don’t speak Japanese or English. That’s right. Ichiro learned to speak Spanish just to talk shit.
According to Brad Lefton of the Wall Street Journal, Ichiro picked up Spanish throughout his career as a way to talk to Latin players on his own team and on opposing squads. He felt it was a way to build a bond because “we’re all foreigners in a strange land.” He also wanted to be able to make fun of those players in their native tongue.
Veteran first baseman Carlos Pena remembered one of his frequent encounters with Ichiro. He was defending first for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Ichiro had just arrived on one of his patented infield hits. Ichiro peered over at Pena and asked, “Que coño tu mira?,” or, “What the hell are you looking at?” Pena clamped his lips together to prevent the laughter from bursting through.
Ichiro didn’t sit down with the Rosetta stone and learn Spanish. He just picked up random phrases over the years from teammates and opponents.
“He’s a really observant, really smart guy and he can pick up Spanish pretty quickly,” Ibanez said. “He’d overhear us Latin guys talking and he would imitate it exactly the way that we said it and then he’d ask, ‘What does that mean?’ Everything that he does, he tries to do it exactly perfect, right? So it only makes sense that he would do that when he’s trying to speak Spanish.”
Ichiro was actually embraced by the Latin players. This little gem from the 2004 All-Star Game — “Some years later, at the 2004 All-Star game in Houston, the seven participating Venezuelan players lined up for a commemorative photo. But eight players appeared in the shot when Ichiro was summoned over and asked to stand right in the middle.”
I want more like this!
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