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[2/26/2014] Rakuten Eagles: Sanspo and Sponichi interview Kevin Youkilis

by on Feb.26, 2014 @ 4:10 am, under NPB

Sanspo and Sponichi have posted interviews with Kevin Youkilis.

First, Sanspo:

You played in your first game on the 23rd against Yomiuri.

I'm getting used to the team.  I want to prepare myself for opening day by getting myself ready and using games as an additional boost.  Adjusting to the things in front of me is more important than opening day at this point.

What is your motto?

Play as hard as you can because you don't know when it will be your last game.

You have been involved in suicide prevention efforts in the United States.

A good friend of mine committed suicide on Thanksgiving Day.  My wife also lost a friend to suicide.  Everyone at some point in their lives wishes they can get away from things.  I got involved because I wanted to help people see just how wonderful life can be.

What would you like to do in Japan, other than baseball?

I want to spend a lot of time with my family.  And I want to make sure my family has a great time living in Japan.  I was actually trying to sign with a team close to my home in San Jose.  I have a two-year-old daughter.  The last few years have been difficult because I wasn't able to see my family a lot.  My wife wanted to see what it was like living abroad, so I decided on Rakuten for my family.

Did you know about Rakuten?

Honestly, no.  I checked the internet.  I found out that AJ and McGehee were on the team.  I also learned that the team was from the Tohoku area that suffered damage from the March 11 earthquake.  It's very sad to lose someone you love.  I want to learn more about what happened.

What surprised you after you came to Japan?

The players practice a lot.  They work out a full day and then come back the next day and do the same thing.  This is not the United States.  I am getting used to things little by little.  I'll be fine if I follow AJ.

Have you picked up any Japanese?

I know basic greetings, like ohayogozaimasu.  I think it's funny that Don't touch my mustache apparently sounds like doitashimashite.

That is a nice beard.

I have no head on top, so I grow this out.  But I might shave it if I can't get any hits.  I think my wife will be surprised if I shave it.  It would be best if that didn't happen.

Source: Sanspo 2/25/2014

Now Sponichi.

How does it feel to be a part of the Rakuten organization?

They won the Nippon Series last year, so I'm excited.  I'd like to bring Sendai another championship.

How have things been since your arrival in Japan?

I arrived on February 7.  I spent time getting over the jet lag and getting used to living in Japan.  I tried to get into the workouts by watching everyone else.  I am getting a hang of things now.  But my condition still needs work.

You played in an exhibition game against Yomiuri on the 23rd.

I got two plate appearances and was able to enjoy the game.  I'd like to make it to opening day by building off of this.

You have been actively giving younger players advice.

Helping young players develop will help the team win.  Doing well is the most important thing, but I also believe I have a role in teaching young players things I know.

What is the secret to succeeding in Japan?

I am trying to put my practice methods from the Majors behind me because I would like to start over from scratch and try to make the adjustment to Japanese baseball.  Japan and the Majors both have tradition, things that never change.  I think it's important to find what that thing is in Japan and come to terms with it.  For example, during warm-ups, everyone shouts out loud while running.  That helps build team unity.  I think that's a great exercise.

You know what Japanese players are capable of, since you won a World Series with Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2007 and hit a home run off Texas Ranger Yu Darvish in 2012.

Matsuzaka was a very serious player that worked hard.  I get that feeling now that I'm here in Japan.  Everyone spends a lot of time thinking about baseball.  That's why good players develop and try for the Majors.  With Darvish, I got lucky and hit a fastball down the middle.

What is special about Japanese pitchers?

Matsuzaka and Darvish threw great fastballs.  Then there was Uehara with his forkball.  It seems like Japanese pitchers usually have a really great pitch.  I think there are a lot good pitchers.

What made you pick baseball in Japan?

I want to spend more time with my family.  I want to spend as much time with my family as I can this year.  Over the last few years, I went through a lot of things, but because of trades and my wife giving birth, I wasn't able to experience them with my family.  That's why I picked Japan.  My son is still a year old, but my oldest daughter is seven and I think it will be good for her to see what it's like living in a different country.  We plan to send her to an international school.  My wife has wanted to live abroad as well.  I think this will end up a great experience for my family.

When will your family arrive?

Early March.  They will be traveling with me on road trips so hopefully we can do some sightseeing.  I'm also looking forward to seeing the differences in baseball between the Majors and Japan.  The culture, the food, the lifestyle, my family will take it all in.  I am also looking forward to Sendai gyu-tan.  I want to go to a restaurant known for it.

Does it help to have Jones around?

I got in touch with him over phone and by e-mail before I made the decision to come to Japan.  He gave me a lot of detailed information.  There's no doubt he was one of the reasons why I decided to come here.

Fans also get excited to see a player with a lot of MLB experience play in Japan.

I decided to take the leap into a different culture and accept everything after thinking about what I needed to do to achieve the things I want in this life.  I think it's the same for Jones.  This isn't just about baseball.  I want to enrich my life and I think this was the best way to do that.

Rakuten and the regions affected by the Tohoku earthquake continue to march forward toward a full recovery.

The earthquake took place during spring training on March 11, 2011.  I helped Matsuzaka collect donations for relief efforts.  I have not seen Sendai yet, so I am not sure what I can do, but there are things I can learn and understand by meeting people.  Thoughts and emotions can put things into motion.  My wife and I will talk and figure out how best to proceed.

Can you explain the motto you wrote on the autograph board?

Play as hard as you can because you never know when it's your last game.  This is something I have been telling myself even before I turned pro.  I will keep this close to my heart as I do my best in Japan.

Source: Sponichi 2/25/2014

One comment on “[2/26/2014] Rakuten Eagles: Sanspo and Sponichi interview Kevin Youkilis

  1. adamoPeggi

    Youk, I want to wish you the best of everything that Japan has. As a life long Red sox fan, I really miss the “Youk”. You made the game so enjoyable to watch and the fans loved you. Take care of yourself and family. Most of all enjoy the game. Thanks for the memories . Peggi

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