Yesterday I discussed a few men that could be vying for open roster spots with the New York Yankees this spring training, especially as many key members of the team are off representing their respective countries in the World Baseball Classic, and one such player I specifically mentioned by name was catcher Kyle Higashioka. Well here we are in a new day but we are once again talking about Higashioka and for a whole new reason. Apparently Higashioka, born in California but obviously of the Japanese decent, learned the language of his grandfather and family before him this winter and into the spring with one main goal in mind…. Talking to Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka.
Now while I may be embellishing just a little when I say he learned the language to talk to Tanaka, his father has reportedly pushed him for years to learn Japanese, having Tanaka this year and potentially players like Shohei Otani next season and beyond the Yankees catching prospect thought it could only help his chances in reaching the Major Leagues with the club.
Higashioka, a seventh round draft pick by the Yankees in the 2008 MLB First Year Players Draft, lost an important year of development in 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery but seemed healthy in 2016 when he finished his age-26 season with 21 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A. Higashioka is out to prove that the power spike is not a fluke in 2017 and is well on his way to doing that after hitting a home run in his first spring training at bat of the Grapefruit League this season. Higashioka altered his swing before last season and has definitely seen an uptick in power and his line drive hitting which should only improve this season as Higashioka continues to put himself on the Yankees map.
Also, since I am feeling educational this morning, if you ever wanted to know how to say a few key words in Japanese for a catcher like Kyle Higashioka you’re in luck. Daniel is here. Enjoy and you’re welcome.