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Jojima arrives in Seattle for rookie year

Kyodo

Newly signed Seattle Mariners catcher Kenji Jojima arrived in the United States on Saturday evening ahead of spring training for his rookie season in the major leagues.

News photoKenji Jojima of the Seattle Marines signs an autograph for a fan after arriving at Tacoma International Airport.

Jojima, a former Softbank Hawks player who spent 11 years in Japanese baseball, arrived in Seattle after heavy snow in Japan delayed his flight for more than eight hours.

“Finally, this day has come. I look forward to seeing how I improve as a baseball player through overcoming various barriers,” Jojima told a press conference before his departure from Narita airport.

“I’m in shape since I’ve trained quickly and smoothly. I also spoke with (former Seattle reliever) Shigetoshi Hasegawa to confirm what I have learned about the Mariners pitching staff from videos,” he said.

Jojima, who has signed a three-year deal that will make him the first Japanese catcher in the majors, added he hopes to overcome the language barrier through his enthusiasm.

“I want to talk with pitchers to gain trust. Even if they don’t understand what I say, they’ll know I’m eager to communicate. I’ve heard Jamie Moyer likes wine, so I’ve decided to drink wine too,” Jojima said.

Jojima said he prefers not to set numerical targets for his achievements this year, saying such targets should be set by proven players in the majors.

“At first, I’ll try to be the Mariners’ starting catcher for opening day. I’m sure this year will go by quickly,” Jojima said.

Jojima is scheduled to be officially introduced at a press conference in Seattle on Tuesday.