Many people don’t realize it, but Ichiro has one of the best senses of humor in all of sports. Anyone who has been the 40-year-old’s teammate will tell you that he is hilarious. Opponents might say the same — especially the ones who speak Spanish.
A recent feature that was published in the Wall Street Journal revealed that Japanese and English aren’t the only languages Ichiro speaks. He has also learned to talk trash and fool his opponents using Spanish. Cincinnati Reds shortstop Ramon Santiago got a first-hand look at that over 10 years ago during his first encounter with Ichiro.
After a leadoff single to open the game, Ichiro dashed to second on a steal. As he popped up safely from his slide, he looked at Santiago and deadpanned in Spanish, “No corro casi.”
Loosely translated, he was telling Santiago, a native of the Dominican Republic, “I don’t have my legs today.” Before Santiago could stop smiling, Ichiro was stealing third two pitches later on those same heavy legs.
In addition to deceiving opponents, Ichiro also uses his limited grasp of the Spanish language to mess with people. He once mouthed off to Carlos Pena, who was born in the Dominican Republic, in Pena’s native tongue after reaching first base.
Veteran first baseman Carlos Pena remembered one of his frequent encounters with Ichiro. He was defending first for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Ichiro had just arrived on one of his patented infield hits. Ichiro peered over at Pena and asked, “Que coño tu mira?,” or, “What the hell are you looking at?” Pena clamped his lips together to prevent the laughter from bursting through.
Ichiro said he feels a bond with Latin players because, like him, they are “all foreigners in a strange land.” The bond must be mutual, because the Wall Street Journal’s Brad Lefton also noted that several Venezuelan players called Ichiro over to pose for a photo with them at the 2004 MLB All-Star Game. They obviously think of him as one of their own, which is hardly a surprise. Ichiro is one of the most popular players to ever play the game, and we can see why.