Kenjy Nimura doesn’t speak Texan, he says, but he’s a quick study. The Rangers’ interpreter extraordinaire, who’s in his second season with the club, helps bridge the communication gap between pitchers Yu Darvish, Alexi Ogando and Jose Contreras.
That’s right, he handles both the Japanese and Spanish language translations for players taking questions from the media.
When Nimura, 42, arrived with his family in Los Angeles at age 11, he only spoke Japanese. But before long he was translating conversations for his parents and picking up Spanish in his neighborhood.
His first paying job as an interpreter was in 1993 while a student at San Jose State. A traveling group of Sumo wrestlers put on an exhibition, and he was hired to help bridge the communication gap. As an undergrad, he studied in Spain, fell in love with a Spanish girl and was speaking fluent Spanish by the time he came back to the States five years later.
He worked with the Dodgers and Yankees before coming to Texas.
Nimura is trying to help make the Rangers brand name bigger in Japan beyond just Darvish’s star power.
“This is a very open-minded organization and really progressive,” he said. “JD [general manager Jon Daniels] and [assistant GM] Thad [Levine] are always open to opinions from a guy like me, and I think that says a lot about this organization.”
He not only has to be fluent in three languages, but he’s had to learn the nuances of the different countries’ Spanish dialects.
He eventually wants to become the social linguistics professor he was studying to be. “I still haven’t given up that dream,” he said. “Language shapes how people think, how people behave. What you say is who you are. Not just with words, but your body language, too.”
Word from Wash
“He’s a young kid. He’ll figure it out. I mean, the guy played Double A ball and less than a month of Triple A ball and then he was in the big leagues. I mean, come on. He’s got time to figure that out. We’ve never discussed taking one side of the plate away from him.” — Manager Ron Washington on whether he’d ever ask infielder Jurickson Profar, 21, to stop switch-hitting.