May 01, 2007 01:36

Great Article of "The Man"

Here is the article about Ryotaro Hayakawa.
Please check it out.



Japan native excels in academics, athletics
KU baseball player learns English, becomes translator for media

Ryotaro Hayakawa came to the U.S. without knowing how to speak English. Five years later he is a member of the All-Big 12 Academic first team and preparing to graduate this spring.

By Alissa Bauer
Thursday, April 26, 2007

Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka made his Major League debut in Kansas City, Mo., against the Kansas City Royals on April 5. The media frenzied around Matsuzaka, a Japan native, as he launched his career as a big-leaguer. Still unable to speak English, Matsuzaka needed an entourage of helpers.
Ryotaro Hayakawa was one such helper.
Although Hayakawa, Narita, Japan, senior, wasn’t Dice-K’s translator, he was on hand to help out.
Hayakawa, a right-handed reliever for the Jayhawks, said he heard from friends that the Red Sox were looking for someone who could speak both Japanese and English to help translate to the Japanese media in order for things to work smoothly in the press box and on the field.
“I was there, it was so cool. I was on the inside of the stadium when the national anthem was playing,” Hayakawa said.
Unlike his professional counterpart, Hayakawa, known to his teammates and coaches simply as ‘Yo’, wasn’t ushered into the United States from Japan with a plane full of translators and assistants.
“Obviously his nature is very, very driven,” pitching coach Ryan Graves said. “He’s set out to achieve a lot of goals. Not only on the athletic field, but academically, what he’s done I don’t know how he did it. It’s not like I can go over to Japan and try to go to school and do what he’s doing — no way.”
Five years ago, Hayakawa didn’t speak a word of English. There were no helpers, no Japanese-speaking media, almost no Japanese people period in Lawrence upon his arrival.
It was just Yo.
“At first me and my dad were looking for schools on the west coast,” Hayakawa said. “It would’ve been nice, close to Japan. There were many Asian people, so it would feel home-like. But I didn’t want to feel home-like in my college life because I chose to come to the United States and I don’t really want to be right by the Asian communities ‘cause then I wasn’t changing anything.”
In other words, a move overseas and thousands of miles away from home was still not the extreme change in environment the pitcher was looking for. His parents, Ryoichi and Yoko, weren’t sold on the idea of their son being a world away, although his father did have a large part in Yo’s going for it.
After spending some time at New York University, his father had a feel for what college life in America was like. This helped when Yo dropped the idea of wanting to take off for the U.S.
Thus, the two embarked on making plans.
“In my high school, it’s pretty much focused on playing baseball,” Hayakawa said. “We just practiced, practiced, practiced. I never really had a chance to study at all. Like I usually would go to class and fall asleep. I still do here, but there I didn’t really have time to study and I kind of felt like just playing baseball all my high school life.”
Toward the end of that high school road, Yo realized that academics were part of the schooling process for a reason. These reasons, however, were much more difficult to find in an environment that had him and his teammates in practice every day from 3 to nearly 7 p.m. on top of scheduled individual workouts.
Rather than fall into a similar pattern in college, Yo began to narrow his focus toward an institution where he could succeed in both baseball and academics. America, he knew, was full of such places.
Still desiring the extremely different environment, he chose the Midwest. When he found information on the Internet about the University of Kansas and its association with the baseball heavy Big 12 Conference, things started to click.
“Me and my dad were like ‘All right, let’s go!’” Hayakawa said. “I didn’t know what the campus looked like, I didn’t know what the baseball field looked like, I didn’t know anybody but I was all ‘All right, let’s do it.’”
Adding to the stress of moving half way around the world, Kansas baseball was in complete remodeling mode five years ago. Coach Ritch Price and assistant Graves had just arrived to build the scene that Hayakawa was trying to break into.
When he showed up to request a tryout, he approached Steve Abney, the pitching coach at the time whom Yo had mistaken for the head coach. The only instruction Abney could give was to show up for walk-on tryouts later in the fall.
If he hadn’t made the team, he still would have contemplated staying at Kansas. But, he was a hit.
“The best thing about him is I don’t think there is any quit in him,” Graves said. “I know he’d probably wanted more innings over the span of his career, and he’s worked hard at gaining those innings and he’s worked everyday at getting better. The best thing about it is he’s probably a month and a half away from being done and he’s working as hard now as when he started.”
After being picked up as a walk-on his freshman year, Hayakawa has had his work cut out for him as he transformed from a starter in high school to a reliever in college. Due to NCAA international eligibility rules, he spent two semesters at Kansas as a red shirt before making an impact out of the bullpen in the 2004 season. During which time, he learned how to “Americanize” as he put it. Although he would still opt for fish once in a while over the team’s typical steak dinner after games and is still amazed at how big all of the players are in the States.
Although he refused to admit to the amount of courage needed to maintain an attitude like his, Hayakawa described his first encounters with the baseball team as very quiet ones. Price, who regards Yo as one of his favorite players from the 29 years he’s been coaching, still remembers practices where his pitchers would work on situations such as pick-offs and communicating drills with Hayakawa was nearly impossible. Hayakawa guessed almost two years passed before he could speak English with any affluence.
Disaster stunned his sophomore season.
Yo made just one appearance in 2005 before bone spurs in his elbow forced him to sit the year out for surgery. Still struggling with English, Hayakawa now had to communicate pain to a world that couldn’t understand him. Yet, he never once thought of returning home.
“He’s a pretty mentally tough kid,” Graves said. “I think, putting myself in his shoes, he’s got to be homesick at some point, and obviously things weren’t going great for him on the baseball field just from getting banged up. It would have to be frustrating not to be able to communicate all the frustration you’re having, but he handled it great. I never got the feeling that he was thinking about going home. He just kept working and doing everything he could to get back to healthy.”
Healthy again, Hayakawa is putting up career numbers in his final season as a Jayhawk. In 12 appearances this year, he is 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA, but has struck out 16 batters compared to giving up only two walks in a role that he said fit his personality.
Hayakawa is constantly giving the credit to someone else. His gratitude for baseball trainer Ken Wainwright is apparent when he talks about his full recovery from the surgery on his elbow.
“I’m living here because of my teammates, my family, my coaches encouraged me to be here,” Hayakawa said. “If I don’t have such good teammates or coaching staff or family and all the people I associate with in the athletic department, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
He even praised the Athletics Department’s tutoring system and its effectiveness for international students. Besides moving to a new country, training under a new culture of baseball and learning another language, Hayakawa is a member of the All-Big 12 Academic first team.
“That is a miracle,” Hayakawa said in a fit of laughter. “I don’t know how I did that. I was so impressed.”
Impressive is the progress Yo has made in a quick five years. He is the last of the guys who started with Price and Graves, after his closest friends Ritchie Price, Don Czyz and Matt Baty finished their collegiate careers last season.
The young man who, a few short years ago sat next to Czyz at restaurants and gestured the same order as his teammate because he didn’t know enough English to speak for himself, will graduate next month with a degree in economics and four years on a Division I roster.
“He’ll be one of these guys that 10 years from now, when I’m done here, he’ll have a legacy,” Price said. “Everybody loves that guy. He’s always up off the bench congratulating you. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He is truly special.”
Kansan senior sportswriter Alissa Bauer can be contacted at
— Edited by Jyl Unruh



2. Posted by Shun   May 03, 2007 18:34
Hey Ryotaro,

It is good to hear from you buddy, I was so glad and inspired to read this article. You have been acheiving so many things through countless obstacles, and I am so proud of you.

Good luck on your games. Always wishing you luck!!

Take care,
1. Posted by ryotaro   May 03, 2007 12:32
Thanks buddy!! I am still playing baseball now becasue you are part of the reasons man, you've been part of my one of imoprtant freinds in my american life...