The Ogden Raptors don't want to lose any games in translation.
When manager Damon Berryhill or pitching coach Bill Simas makes a visit to the mound, sometimes he takes a translator with him or calls one in from the infield.
While Ogden's cadre of Latin American ballplayers provide their own translation services, Japanese left-handed pitcher Kazuki Nishijima has the help of translator Yamato Asahi.
With the Raptors in the middle of the Pioneer League championship series, Berryhill knows how essential it is to every major league club to keep its minor league affiliates stocked with rising talent from all over in the world.
The Ogden Raptors are the rookie league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"It's important for an organization to broaden their horizons and look for talent anywhere. The way the game is going now, nationalities are getting stronger in baseball. Japan is one of the strongest obviously, by the last couple of World (Baseball Classic) games. They've peformed well," he said. "There's good talent there, there's good talent in the Dominican (Republic), in Venezuela and so on, so as an organization, we want to go out and make sure we're scouting all those spots."
Nishijima, a 6-foot-1 lefty from Yokohama, Japan, appeared in 10 games for the Raptors during the regular season. He finished with a 1-1 record and an ERA of 5.16.
The Dodgers are very famous in Japan and were his favorite MLB team before being drafted by them, he said, thanks in part to pitcher Hideo Nomo, the first Japanese player to achieve lasting success in the big leagues. Nomo won the National League rookie of the year award with L.A. in 1995.
Nishijima attended the same high school in Japan as Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who led Japan to two World Baseball Classic championships and won the tournament MVP award both times.
"I like American baseball culture," Nishijima said, though Japanese fans and stadiums are very different from the United States.
"We don't talk much in a baseball stadium. We're kind of quiet, just watching the game," Nishijima said through his translator, Asahi. "Here, in the U.S., people sometimes make fun of (the players), are more excited."
Along with players from Latin American countries who are learning English as a second language, the Dodgers have assigned Nishijima to take language lessons during Raptors' homestands. He is one of tutor Chris Maag's best students.
It's very interesting to be on a baseball team with so many different countries and cultures represented, Nishijima said.
"I learn English and Spanish, sometimes Korean (during the Dodgers' extended spring training in Arizona). Very interesting, every day," he said. "I teach the guys Japanese."
Asahi came to the United States five years ago and attended Oregon State University to study sports science and exercise to become a strength conditioning trainer.
In Japan, Asahi knew a Dodgers' scout who asked if he'd be interested in serving as a translator.
"I told him yes. I like the Dodgers and why not?" said Asahi, who played high school baseball.
Asahi's job isn't just to translate but to make sure Nishijima is progressing with his language skills. The Dodgers will likely allow Nishijima a translator for the first two years of his pro baseball career.
"He needs to learn English too, so I'm listening to see if he understands English or not," Asahi said. "If he doesn't understand, I just have to talk to him."
Asahi was surprised he was allowed to go out to the mound the first time Simas took him with for a conference with Nishijima.
A visit to the mound with Berryhill or Simas during a game isn't the moment for testing Nishijima's English abilities, but they can be a test for Asahi.
"Sometimes in the game, I have to talk right away (instead of waiting to see if Nishijima comprehends)," he said. "If Simas talks and I have to translate quickly to Japanese, that's kind of hard translation."
Like the Raptors players, Asahi wants to reach the major leagues -- as a strength coach, not a translator.
Some things get lost in translation even with the help of a translator, like the summer day before a game at Lindquist Field when Maag, the English tutor, assigned Nishijima difficult tongue twisters to practice.
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?
Fortunately for Nishijima, throwing a fastball requires no translation.