Yu Darvish exudes confidence
Don't bet on expectations or pressure bothering pitcher who is used to rock star status
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish didn't speak any English while he answered questions from the Japanese and American media during his 30-minute news conference that was broadcast to his hometown.
I don't speak Japanese, and I still loved everything he said. You should too.
What I loved most is when he essentially said, "I don't ever remember feeling pressure and I'm not changing anything."
That's the type of attitude he should have after going 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA in seven seasons in Japan.
He dominated. And he should expect to dominate the American League sooner or later.
That doesn't mean he will, but so much of sports revolves around confidence. The best athletes, regardless of sport, never have their confidence shaken.
Understand, we have no idea how he'll pitch in his first season in Texas as he adjusts to a new culture, a new climate, a new ballpark, a new team and a new baseball.
He must also adapt to a new set of umpires, who won't consistently give him the strike on the outside corner until he earns it. And he must learn a new group of hitters -- the best in the world -- who feast on mistakes.
So it might not always be pretty his first season. At some point, hitters will make adjustments and whack him around. Then he'll make some adjustments and start getting them out again.
This much I know: He won't be scared.
The pressure. The expectations. The media. None of it will bother him. We get so caught up in America and being American that we sometimes forget the world is bigger than our little slice of paradise.
Just because the Rangers moved Yu's news conference to their Hall of Fame room instead of their usual interview center doesn't mean it was a big deal to Yu.
The Rangers set up 167 white chairs. There were at least a dozen still photographers and 23 tripods sending video around the country and the world.
None of that means it was a big deal to Yu, described by one member of the Japanese media as the Brad Pitt of Japan.
He's used to being a rock star, so to speak, and having every element of his life examined, whether he was being scrutinized for underage smoking or his divorce that became finalized the day he signed his contract.
"Ever since I've been a child, baseball has been my life," Yu said through an interpreter. "I've received a lot of attention and I'm used to it. It just comes with it."
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From all indications, Yu is a different kind of dude, whether we're talking about the apparent reddish-brown highlights in his hair or the scruffy patch of black hair on his chin -- think Shaggy from "Scooby-Doo."
During the news conference, when he wasn't being self-deprecating, he provided a few pithy comments.
When asked what he thought about Texas, Yu pointed at co-owner Bob Simpson and said, "Everyone seems to wear Cowboys boots."
When asked if he could've gotten the final out of Game 6 of the World Series, he said, "I probably would've given up a home run last year. This year, I would get a strikeout."
When asked what he thought about Albert Pujols, who's now a division rival, he said, "He looks like a player who can hit the ball very far."
Nothing wrong with that.
Oh, and when he visited earlier this month, he asked general manager Jon Daniels if the right-field fence could be moved back a few feet because it seemed too close.
How's that for a sense of humor?
The Rangers love his attitude and his competitiveness and his drive, but what they love most is that intangible called makeup. It's hard to describe, but we know it when we see it.
Athletes either have it. Or they don't. The Rangers think Darvish has oodles of it.
And that's why they paid $51.7 million for the right to negotiate with him. If you truly understand the Rangers' organizational philosophy, then you understand why they signed Yu.
The Rangers are in a never-ending quest for players with star potential and the makeup to be a star. When they find players with those qualities, the Rangers will sell their soul to acquire them.
After the news conference ended and Yu posed for a multitude of photographs with everyone from co-owners Simpson and Ray Davis to Josh Hamilton to manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux, he walked down to the field for some more photos while wearing his white No. 11 jersey.
The video boards showed highlights of his best performances while his name flashed in English and Japanese.
While the throng of reporters and photographers engulfed Washington and Daniels, Darvish walked slowly to the mound with a baseball in his right hand.
Then he lobbed a pitch to his agent, who was crouching behind the plate. It appeared to be a strike.
Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.
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