After spending six seasons in the MLB with the Cardinals and Brewers, Chris Narveson signed in 2014 to pitch with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Chris was kind enough to let me waste his time with some questions about Japanese baseball and the Stangel Brothers’ quest to throw out a first pitch in Japan.
Q: How is your first season going with the Yakult Swallows?
A: First season is going great. Although our record hasn’t been that great we have a good nucleus on the team and I think that in next few years they will be competing for the playoffs.
Q: What did you know about Japanese baseball when you were offered the chance to play there?
A: I knew enough about it from former teammates of Nori Aoki and Takashi Saito. I also conversed with Casey McGhee and Nyjer Morgan on what to expect while over here.
Q: Do you speak Japanese?
A: I don’t speak any Japanese but they appoint us an interpreter to help with on field translations. Off the field I have picked up basic language skills from being over here to function but definitely not enough to have a conversation.
Q: Do you always have a translator with you? And have you ever needed a translator and not had one?
A: You learn to function without the translator but there may be times where you need them. If that’s the case they are just a phone call away.
Q: What was the hardest thing to get used to?
A: Hardest thing to get used to was the different style of play and understanding the hitters. In the states guys are always trying to hit a HR even with 2 strikes. Here the Japanese guys are more contact oriented.
Q: What do you miss about the United States?
A: I miss seeing friends and family at the game, but my family and fiancé have been able to travel over here a few times to spend some quality with each other.
Q: Any stories about what it was like to adjust to life in Japan?
A: No real crazy stories about adjusting to life. It is a great country that has a set standard on how to act and treat authority. It is amazing the respect that is shown here for people that are older. Respect for others with regards to talking on the phone, smoking in public and general transportation is amazing. Definitely is something that the US has lost over the years.
Q: Who are some of the best players in NPB that maybe we in the states haven’t heard about?
A: Best players are probably a guy named Shohei Ohtani who is a pitcher for Nippon-Ham Fighters. He can run it up to high 90s and also a very good hitter too. Kenta Maeda is a name that will be known in the US as he plans to become a free agent at the end of the year. As far as hitters there are many good hitters but they focus on contact and playing the game a certain way rather then trying to always hit a HR. Shinnosuke Abe the catcher for the Giants is probably one of top hitters who generally is a .300 hitter and around 30 HRs each year usually.
Q: Do you need me to send you anything?
A: And no I’m good thank you though. Tokyo is like a nicer NYC. Clean and quiet without the big city feel. You can get pretty much anything here too so I’m good. Thanks!!
Q: Okay, more importantly now- how the hell can my brother Justin & I throw out the first pitch at a Yakult Swallows game?
A: As far as your first pitch not sure if that would be possible ha.
Q: They do the first pitch tradition a bit differently in Japan. What are some of the stranger ones you’ve seen?
A: They do some unique things but most are pertinent to there culture. Obviously some are unique to us but normal to them.
Q: Will it make a difference that my brother will be wearing an Elvis jumpsuit?
A: I don’t think they would understand an Elvis outfit.
Q: If we vow to be Tokyo Yakult Swallows fans for life, do you think that will make a difference?
A: I don’t think being a Yakult fan would matter. Even though they are unique they are very traditional and respectful in the things they do. They don’t tend to venture away from that at all.
Q: Can I bribe you to get this done?
A: Bribes probably would not help Haha sorry
Q: Well, I tried. Thanks for your time.