It’s the third inning and Gregg Zaun has only visited the mound to speak with Koji Uehara once.
If you’re wondering how they communicate with the language barrier, Zaun told me it’s not as hard as everyone thinks.
First of all, Zaun made it clear; Uehara is a control pitcher, and more times than not, he puts the ball where Zaun wants it. There’s no need to discuss anything.
When a little chat is needed, they make it work. Zaun caught Uehara in all his spring training appearances. They began developing a system to communicate early on.
The first order of business for Zaun was to learn to count in Japanese. Jiwon Bang, Uehara’s interpreter, worked with Zaun on his Japanese numbers and the veteran catcher is pretty confident using them.
It’s a smart way to break down the language barrier. Since catchers use their fingers to signal pitches, its easy to use numbers instead of words when discussing pitches.
Also, both Uehara and Zaun have committed to learning one word of English or Japanese a day. Out on the mound they communicate by using a combination of both languages.
Moving on to the fourth inning now---let’s hope there’s nothing to talk about.