Chat with Kenji Johjima
Johjima finished his first season in Major League Baseball in 2006, after playing 11 seasons in the Japanese leagues. the 6-foot, 200-pound catcher played in 144 games for Seattle, hitting .291 with 18 home runs and 76 RBI. In the 2006 American League Rookie of the Year voting, Johjima earned a fourth-placed finished, behind three pitchers - Justin Verlander (the winner), Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Liriano.
In his 11 years in Japan, Johjima hit .299 with 211 HRs and 699 RBI. He was the No. 1 draft pick by the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in 1995 and he played his entire Japanese career with Fukuoka. His best season came in 2003 when he hit .330 with 34 HRs and 119 RBI.
Send in your questions now, then join Johjima on Monday some time around 4:30 p.m. ET as he'll be joining our chat right after practice!
ESPN.com will be taking a look at the impact of Asian players on Major League Baseball. Check it out here.
Buzzmaster (1:54 PM)
Kenji is scheduled to chat with us following the Mariners' workout this afternoon. Somewhere between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET. I'll let you know when they're finished and when we can expect Kenji to stop by!
Phil (Syracuse, NY)
What happened to 100% sure Buzz?
Buzzmaster (3:07 PM)
It's 100%, though I'm thinking they were talking Mountain Time and not Eastern Time. I forgot Seattle trains in Arizona, not Florida. Doh!
Buzzmaster (3:08 PM)
So sorry about that. That means we'll be hearing from Kenji around 4 p.m. ET. I apologize, SportsNation. But hang in there.
Buzzmaster (3:38 PM)
I just heard from the Mariners and they have less than an hour left in practice. So he'll join us around 4:30 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:59 PM)
Kenji's here right now!
How many Japanese Major Leaguers could play in the US?
Kenji Johjima (4:00 PM)
It's hard to say, because I'm not a scout right now. I'm sure that we'll have a lot of pitchers that will succeed in the majors from Japan. That's a very hard question.
Was the transition from japanese ball to the MLB any harder or easier than you expected?
Kenji Johjima (4:03 PM)
I can't say what's hard or easy, because we all know that it's not easy. One thing that I want all the fans to know that the game of baseball is always the same, the rules are all the same. When the game starts, it's all the same, it's the game of baseball. As a catcher, you have to talk to the pitcher to know more about the pitcher and know what he likes to do. From that standpoint, I had to learn a lot of English. I felt that went well last year.
Aaron (Boston MA)
What is pre-season training camp like in Japan compaired to MLB
Kenji Johjima (4:04 PM)
First thing, I think it's similar. Practices start the same, but they end at 9 p.m. in Japan. We stay at the same hotel and have a lot of meetings back at the hotel. The practices are a lot longer. I like the major league style right now. I like how they do it over here.
Mike Wallis: (Vancouver BC)
Kenji I was wondering if you ever have any trouble communicating with anyone on the pitching staff?
Kenji Johjima (4:06 PM)
I don't have anyone that I could say was a problem. But even if I did, I can't say, because I'm a catcher. It's my job to communicate with them.
Adam (San Diego)
Have you ever faced Daitsuke Matsuzaka during your time in Japan? If yes, How do you think he will do in Major League Baseball here? Arigato
Kenji Johjima (4:07 PM)
I've actually faced him a lot in Japan. I faced him in the league. To say the truth, he is a great pitcher. If I did not have to face him, I would not want to face him. He is a great pitcher. I'm sure he will be very successful over here. He's a good pitcher, but a good fielder. He knows the game very well. He has a good game and I'm sure he will play well over here.
how does the fan support different from the fans in japan? do you feel supported when your up to the plate?
Kenji Johjima (4:10 PM)
First of all, playing back in Seattle - the fans are great. They are very passionate and supportive. I think it was because of their support that I played so well last year. I want to thank them first. When you compare the fans and the games, it's different, because the fans in Japan use a lot of instruments. That makes it kind of loud. You can barely hear the ball being hit by the bat. The way you see things and how things happen is different. Over here, you hear more of the game of baseball. I feel very natural playing over here and playing in MLB.
Royce (San Diego, CA)
Hey Mr. Johjima, Do you tend to call for different pitches here in America, than you did in Japan? For example, do you call for more fastballs here?
Kenji Johjima (4:11 PM)
I had to make a few adjustments here. In the MLB, we make sure the pitchers pitch what they want to pitch. Back in Japan, a lot of catchers have the authority to call the games. That's kind of different. I had to make some adjustments there.
Jordan Boise, Idaho
I lived the past year in seattle, how did it feel to hit that home run with your first official at bat with the Mariners?
Kenji Johjima (4:13 PM)
It was a long way to make it to the major leagues. It was my dream since I was a boy. Hitting my first home run in my opening game, I can't put it into words. The first thing that came to my mind was my family. They weren't at Safeco Field, but I felt them very close because they supported me through all this. I just thank them and all the fans that were in that stadium supporting me in baseball.
Jason (Spokane, WA)
How much different did it feel to walk into the clubhouse at Spring Training this year compared to 2006 as a first-year player?
Kenji Johjima (4:15 PM)
Compared to last year, I feel a lot more relaxed and comfortable. Last year I proved a little bit of myself. What makes the difference is that I can practice what I want to practice more this year. There is not much teasing or hazing that I had last year, because I'm not a rookie any more.
Kenji, how do you like Seattle, and does its large Japanese population make an easier place to transition to U.S. baseball? Good luck and see you Opening Day!
Kenji Johjima (4:17 PM)
I think Seattle is one of the best cities for Japanese. We have a big community back in Seattle for Japanese. We have a lot of markets. There's nothing to complain about Seattle. The fans are great too. The reason I chose Seattle was to give my best on the field was because of my family support. We loved Seattle. There's nothing to complain about. Period.
Matthew (Santa Cruz, CA)
Kenji, what goes through your mind while in the batters box as the pitcher is getting ready. Thanks
Kenji Johjima (4:19 PM)
If you can promise me that you're not a scout for the Anaheim Angels, then I can tell you. Basically, I only try to go for the fastball. That's a pitcher's fastest pitch. I try to look for the fastball and respond from there.
You think baseball in other countires can thrive when all there best players are coming to America?
Kenji Johjima (4:22 PM)
First of all, I myself being Japanese, I wanted to play in the majors. I'm not saying all the players in Japan want to play in the majors. I'm not like the best power hitters here. Players like Ichiro, who doesn't have power, can come over here and play. We have a lot of players in other countries that can come and play. It's hard to say, because we all have our own dreams and that's to play in the major leagues. That's why I am here right now.
Greg (Washington, DC)
What is it like catching a guy like Felix Hernandez? Is it more difficult to communicate with Hispanic players who speak little to no English?
Kenji Johjima (4:22 PM)
We ask Adrian Beltre to work as his interpretor and all the Hispanic players.
Joe, Dallas, TX
Would you rather hit a homerun or throw someone out at Second?
Kenji Johjima (4:23 PM)
They are both successful to my jobs, so I'd take both.
Kenji, do you like the seafood in Seattle better then Japan?
Kenji Johjima (4:24 PM)
I actually think that the food in Seattle is good, period. Not only seafood, but it's all good. It's hard to compare to Japan. I think the coffee's the best in Seattle.
Eric (North Salem, N.Y.)
How confident are you that the M's will perform better in 2007?
Kenji Johjima (4:25 PM)
Having one year under my belt, I know my pitching staff a lot better. I know how my manager a lot better as well. Knowing how he plays baseball, I can adapt better this year. I am sure we will expect better results this year.
Kenji, at what age did you know you were a special player. How much time did you spend praticing as a young kid.Is the pratice approach for kids diffrent in Japan.
Kenji Johjima (4:27 PM)
My father was my best coach when I was a little kid. He always believed in myself of becoming a professional player. That's when I thought I would truly become a special player back in Japan. I used to practice with the team, but then back at home, I would work out some more. I did a lot of work outs back in Japan.
Kenji Johjima (4:30 PM)
I just wish to say that all the Japanese players, we don't have to be your favorites, but please support us. Thank you for your support.
Buzzmaster (4:30 PM)
Thanks Kenji for joining us! He was a great chat.