April 29, 2005


YABU FITS LIKE A GLOVE: A's reliever blends in with crowd in Bay Area, clubhouse (Susan Slusser, April 29, 2005, SF Chronicle)

In Japan, Keiichi Yabu cannot make a simple trip to the supermarket. He's swamped.

"People follow you to see what you're buying,'' the A's reliever said. "There's very little privacy.''

So he loves his new home in San Mateo, where, Yabu said, he can walk to the park with his wife and three children, "and we're just another Asian family. It's nice. I can relax.''

The first native of Japan to play for the A's, Yabu, 36, has done a terrific job of blending in with his teammates after 11 years of playing with Hanshin of Japan's Central League. After a difficult spring, he's performed pretty well this April, with a 0.96 ERA, and he gained immediate acceptance with his enthusiasm and his wicked sense of humor.

"Yabu's the funniest guy here, which is amazing considering he doesn't speak that much English,'' A's bullpen coach Bob Geren said. "He makes me laugh every day, he's hilarious, but I don't think it's stuff I can repeat.''

Yabu's English is coming along so well that he often bypasses translator Andy Painter when he answers questions from American reporters.

"Pretty soon, I'll be totally unnecessary,'' Painter said with a laugh.

Painter, who is from San Mateo and now lives in Burlingame, is as much a fixture in the clubhouse as Yabu, and just as popular. He has jumped into the job with so much gusto that he warms up coaches before they throw batting practice and he shags flyballs, even diving on occasion. It's quite a sight, the graying 43-year-old anthropology professor (undergraduate degree from UC Santa Cruz; Ph.D. from Michigan) grinning from ear-to-ear as he bounces around the field.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2005 6:56 AM

Good to see a fellow Banana Slug (UC Santa Cruz) is putting his Ph.D. to good work.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at April 29, 2005 11:04 PM