New Hanshin import infielder Matt Hague (30) had his induction press conference at the club’s headquarters on the 27th. He revealed that he got some advice from his good on-and-off-the-field buddy and 2015 teammate Munenori Kawasaki (Cubs 3A in 2016).
I’m excited. It was a long trip and I’m a little tired, but I’m ready to start preparing for the season ahead. I have heard that this is a team with longstanding tradition and I want to contribute to the team winning.
What do you know about Manager Kanemoto?
I haven’t spoken with him yet. I’m looking forward to meeting him, though. I know he had an outstanding career as a player. I want to learn a lot from him but also show him what I’ve got at the same time.
You’re expected to hit in the middle of the order…
It’s an honor. Helping the team win by driving in runs is an important role to fill.
What kind of numbers have you set yourself as goals for the year?
The most important thing is that I contribute to the team winning. If I do what I’m capable of doing, the numbers will take care of themselves. I don’t really have any concrete statistical goals.
I want to hit the ball hard when I step up to the plate. There are a lot of really big ballparks in America. Rather than trying for home runs all the time, I always went in wanting to make good contact. Depending on the situation, there are times when you try to hit the big one, but when a runner’s on first you want to hit one to the gap and bring him home. I just want to respond well in every situation that comes up.
Tell us about your fielding at third.
I like playing third base. I played a decent amount in the United States. I’m always trying to get better, no matter what aspect of my game. I’m very confident playing third base. But I don’t want to stay satisfied with where I’m at now. I know that a good bat isn’t enough to get a good amount of playing time, defense is important, too.
What is your impression of Japanese baseball?
I’ve read different things about it. There’s a great history there. Especially with the Tigers. I also feel like there are a lot of speedy players here. I’m just extremely honored to be here and play for the Tigers.
What kind of adjustments do you think you’ll have to make?
It’s important to make adjustments no matter where you play the game. I really need to check things out for awhile before I know how I need to adjust. I really won’t know until I get on the field and play. I might make mistakes, but mistakes are meant to be learned from, and I can build my game from there. You can’t be too set in your ways.
Did you get any advice from your ex-teammate, Kawasaki?
You’ve got a track record. Just do your thing and you’ll get results. Also, be sure to eat a lot of good sushi.
Did you learn any Japanese from him?
I learned to count ichi, ni, san, and I learned some words that I probably can’t say here.
How are you feeling?
I haven’t really been able to relax yet, but I got a good night’s sleep last night. I woke up early, though. I want to get out and see Kobe some more if I get the time. This is my first time in Japan. We had Domino’s Pizza last night, but I want to try Japanese food, too.
What’s your nickname?
In America I was called Hey Goo but I don’t really care what people call me.
Ever been told you look like any actors?
No, not really.
You look a little like Tom Hanks.
I’ve been told that once before.
Hanshin fans are pretty wild, and their jeers can be pretty harsh.
All I can do when I’m on the field is help the team win. I can’t go out there thinking about failing. If things go poorly and the fans start jeering, I can’t let that get to me, either. I just have to do my best on the field. If I do my best, the fans will support me. I’ll do what I can to earn their support. Hopefully at the end of the year we can all say kampai (cheers) together.