Royals Introduce Reliever Yabuta

Yasuhiko Yabuta has been a member of the Royals for only a day, but already he knows the right things to say to fit in with Kansas City fans.

When KC Star writer Bob Dutton asked if Yabuta had heard about or tried Kansas City barbecue yet, Yabuta smiled and, through his interpreter Kaz Kojima, responded with a strong: “I love it.”

In a make-shift interview room on the second floor of the Plaza Marriott, the Royals introduced Yabuta Thursday afternoon. (Due to the renovations at Kauffman Stadium, the press conference had to move off site and thankfully the Marriott had space available.) But before facing the local media for the first time, the Japanese-born reliever apparently was treated to a BBQ-themed dinner Wednesday evening in celebration of signing with the team, enjoying his first “real” taste of KC.

For nearly an hour Thursday, local and Japanese media asked Yabuta, General Manager Dayton Moore and new Manager Trey Hillman – back in KC for just the second time since being named the club’s skipper – to break down the club’s new signing. The 34-year-old reliever, who will be playing in the United States for the first time in his 12-year professional career, is just the second Japanese-born player to appear for the Royals, joining Mac Suzuki (1999-2002). Yabuta, who wore No. 20 in Japan, sported a No. 27 Royals jersey for the press conference, citing he chose the number in honor of Royals pitcher Kevin Appier.

Now, with the signing, physical and press conference out of the way, Yabuta heads back to Japan until after the New Year, equipped with a pile of American baseballs to start working with (they are slightly different than Japanese baseballs) and a new Royals cap!

Konichiwa, Yabuta, welcome to Kansas City!

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