Ichiro Suzuki is a man of many talents.
The New York Yankees outfielder not only is one of baseball’s most unique players, with his blazing speed, unorthodox hitting approach and unmatched work ethic, but he boasts another skill that’s arguably the most entertaining one in his arsenal — he speaks Spanish.
According to Brad Lefton of the Wall Street Journal, Ichiro picked up the language throughout his career so that he could interact with Latin players and — more importantly — trash talk them for a laugh.
As told by Lefton, Ichiro once asked veteran first baseman Carlos Pena “What the hell are you looking at?” in Spanish after reaching first on an infield hit. Ichiro also once responded with something not fit to print when Miguel Cabrera called him “feo” or “ugly” while he was on the basepaths.
But more than that, Ichiro said he feels a special connection with Spanish-speaking players. Although he can’t engage in a full conversation with them, Ichiro’s short, humorous interactions with Latin players has helped them build camaraderie.
“I feel a bond with them,” he said. “We’re all foreigners in a strange land. We’ve come over here and had to cope with some of the same trials and tribulations. When I throw a little Spanish out at them, they really seem to appreciate it, and it seems to strengthen that bond. And besides, we don’t really have curse words in Japanese, so I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can’t.”
Ichiro’s efforts certainly have won over the Latin players in the league. Lefton recalled a time at the 2004 All-Star Game in Houston when the seven Venezuelan players participating in the Midsummer Classic lined up for a picture. But there ended up being eight All-Stars in the photo when someone motioned for Ichiro to join them, asking him to stand right in the middle of the group.