ARLINGTON, Tex. Texas Rangers right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama came to the United States for spring training knowing the basics of the English language.
Fastball translates in any language. So does curveball.
But not much else did for Tateyama, who was added to the Rangers' postseason roster for the American League Championship Series for a team that can wrap up a World Series trip with a victory in Game 6 Saturday night.
Tateyama, 35, has been his rookie year in the major leagues changing that. Tateyama has given himself a crash course in the English language. He's done it without books or tapes.
Instead, he's relied on studying the way his teammates talk and learning from them.
He's gotten good enough that he can conduct interviews in English, something that would have been impossible when he showed up at spring training in Surprise, Ariz., in February.
"I wanted to be able to talk to my teammates," Tateyama said. "That's why I did this. I speak English so I can communicate with everybody in the clubhouse."
Tateyama didn't exactly reach the United States with no grasp of English. His wife Miyako lived in San Francisco for three years and tried to help him some. He spent the last couple of years of his career with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters driving the English-speaking players to the park, trying to pick up on some of the basics.
His sink-or-swim moment though came with the Rangers. When he was in spring training, he had translator Hajime Watabe to help him with interviews and when coaches had questions for Tateyama.
That came to an end though when Tateyama didn't make the club out of spring training. Instead he headed to the club's Triple A-affiliate Round Rock without any help on the language front.
Working as a reliever, Tateyama tried to pick up on how the other relievers talked. He would also try to ask questions. Some of the words came a lot easier than others.
"Slang," Tateyama said. "The other stuff was very hard. I studied every day when I was in Round Rock."
Once he was recalled in May, he had a translator again but still tried to soak up as much as he could from his Texas teammates.
"A lot of it has been him listening to us," said reliever Mark Lowe, who isn't on the ALCS roster because of a left hamstring strain. "He's definitely eager to learn. He'll ask me about certain ways to say a word. When he says something the wrong way, he wants to know how to do it right. From spring training to now, it's very impressive. There's no way I could do what he's done. It just shows how much he cares and how much he wants to learn."
As much as he wants to learn English, Tateyama also wants to be a successful major leaguer. He was through June and July but struggled in September. He became just the second big leaguer to ever give up grand slams to consecutive batters.
After allowing the second one, Tateyama did his interview in Japanese with the help of a translator. But when the translator was preparing to ask the question about what was wrong with Tateyama, he was already answering in perfect English. "The control's no good," he said.
Tateyama wore down in September and didn't earn a spot on the American League Division Series roster. He made his ALCS debut In Tuesday's 5-2 loss in Game 2, retiring two of the three batters he faced.
While Tateyama's ability got him to this point, he thinks learning to speak English has also helped. He gives a lot of credit to his teammates for that.
"It's helped just talking with people," he said. "Mark Lowe. Harry (Matt Harrison). They teach me English. They teach me slang. It's made it easier for me to do my job."