January 18, 2012

Yu Darvish brings rock-star status to Texas Rangers

Yu Darvish, second from left, is used to being the center of attention, as he was on his arrival at DFW Airport today.

ARLINGTON -- Don Nomura simply smiled. The agent for Yu Darvish has no worries when it comes to how his client will handle all the attention playing for the Texas Rangers next season.

After all, Darvish has rock-star status in his native Japan and is accustomed to being the center of attention. His popularity was never in doubt when the Rangers negotiated a contract with his agents, Nomura and Arn Tellem, the past two days at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, as a contingent of approximately 50 Japanese media members posted up outside the center-field offices.

Some stayed well past midnight Tuesday and were back before 8 a.m. Wednesday. Of course, all of them were present for the news conference after the Rangers reached a deal with Darvish moments before the 4 p.m. deadline.

"Yes, he's been through this in Japan," Nomura said. "He's faced a lot of media. They follow him all over the place [in Japan]."

The Rangers anticipate a similar following this season. They expect 75-100 members of the Japanese media to cover the team at spring training and approximately 20 who travel during the season.

Even though his popularity is unquestioned, the Rangers aren't viewing it as a way to subsidize their $51.7 million posting fee. Team president and CEO Nolan Ryan said the potential international business perks -- jersey and hat sales, for example -- weren't factored into the pitch to ownership.

"When you talk about a contract of this magnitude, those types of opportunities aren't major, so we don't want to try and sell the deal on that," Ryan said. "We presented it as what we thought it really was. If his popularity continues over here as it is over there, it might be a unique opportunity. But to try and make some type of prediction, you'd just be pulling a number out of the air."

What the Rangers are confident about is how well-equipped Darvish is to handle the culture change from Japan to the United States.

Nomura pointed to Darvish's international background. His father, Farsad, is of Iranian descent, while his mother, Ikuyo, is Japanese. Darvish also visited Texas during the past month and pitched in the U.S. with the Japanese team during the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

"I think it'll be natural for him," Nomura said.

From the Rangers' perspective, they gathered as much information on him as possible to ensure a smooth transition. They have scouted him for the past several seasons, and have gotten to know him as much off the field as on the field.

"We wanted to know about his background, his family, what type of teammate he was, how he prepares and what he does at night," general manager Jon Daniels said. "When you're making this kind of an investment, those are questions we feel we needed to answer to ownership."

All in all, the Rangers feel they found a pitcher who has ace potential, and one who will help them reach their ultimate goal of winning a World Series title. But they aren't celebrating just because of Darvish's popularity.

"I think it's best to let things play out on the field," Daniels said. "And not judge it by the press conference."

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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