Interview: Interpreting for Nyjer Morgan (and Tony Plush) in Japan

Posted by at 13 February, at 19 : 23 PM Print

Interview: Interpreting for Nyjer Morgan (and Tony Plush) in Japan
Yokohama DeNA Baystars Outfielder Nyjer Morgan (Left), and his interpreter, Atsushi Nagamata (Right).  Nagamata's new assignment with Morgan will likely keep him on his toes, translating words not found in any dictionary. Courtesy DeNA Baystars

Yokohama DeNA Baystars Outfielder Nyjer Morgan (Left), and his interpreter, Atsushi Nagamata (Right). Nagamata’s new assignment with Morgan will likely keep him on his toes, translating words not found in any dictionary. Courtesy DeNA Baystars

By Philip S. Riccobono

This upcoming season Major League Baseball owners approved translators taking trips to the mound with managers and coaches for chats with pitchers- something not so new in Korea and Japan pro baseball leagues.  Joe Furukawa, interpreted for the Texas Rangers, won the 2012 Harold McKinney Good Guy Award from the Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America for his work with Yu Darvish.  But Darvish, last year’s rookie sensation, provided pretty conventional, inside the box answers to reporters.

But how about the daunting task of translating for Nyjer Morgan, who may very well go down as the most colorful character to cross the Pacific into the Nippon Professional Baseball?  Sure they’ve had the likes of Warren Cromartie, but Morgan comes with multiple personas: Tony Plush and Tony Gumbo.  Morgan also comes with his own language, which probably doesn’t exactly translate into Japanese.

Meet, Atsushi Nagamata, Yokohama DeNA BayStars translator responsible for passing Morgan’s semantics off to the Japanese media.  Nagamata has worked with MLB clubs: St. Louis Cardinals and the Marlins.  However, he has never translated for the likes of Nyjer; no one has for that matter.  He took time out from Spring Training to give some insight on he’ll handle his latest assignment.

Question: Nyjer Morgan is one of the most unique personalities ever to play the game of baseball.  He has his self-dubbed alter egos: names such as Tony Plush and Tony Gumbo.  When these personas come out, so does a whole different language, which he expresses.  He uses terms like “Plushdamentals”.  How will you translate these words not found in the English dictionary to Japanese?

Answer: I think of translating when these personas come out.  It depends on the situation.  When he comes out in front of fans or the media he looks funnier and happier. However, he always has a cheerful disposition, so I don’t think I need to translate a different way. When I translate it sounds a little happier.


Question: Have you requested a special dictionary from Nyjer, why or why not?

Answer: Not yet, because he speaks normal spoken English. When he uses unique phrases, I ask him to explain each time.


Question: From my experience of living in Japan and watching baseball players handle the media, I mostly see these athletes act very conservatively when addressing questions.  If you have seen a typical live TV interview Nyjer really gets playful with reporters like here

How do you think a TV reporter, live, on-air will handle Nyjer’s style in a post game interview after he got the winning hit?  How will you remain professional and keep a straight face if Nyjer puts on a show?

Answer: In japan, fans love funny, foreign baseball players in the past. So I think if Morgan goes to hero interview, fans will love him as well. I think TV reporter asks similar questions both in Japan and U.S. so it will be the same. If he goes away from camera, I will say, “Sorry but this is Tony Plush.”


Question: I have spoken to other translators here in Korea who told me that translating body language, tone and attitude are a big part of the job, including curse words.   How do you plan on doing this with Nyjer and his enthusiastic, playful style?

Answer: I am planning to translate similarly what he says in Japanese as much as possible. However especially in front of media, I will try to convey the nuance as well rather than translate directly.


Question: Have you met Tony Plush or know who he is? Have you met Tony Gumbo and know about him?

Answer: Yes, I meet Tony Plush every day in spring training at the baseball field. He is very excited and plays hard every time and also very serious about winning baseball games.


Question: Please talk about how it felt to translate Nyjer’s responses at his first press conference in Yokohama and would you categorize it as normal.  How did the media approach Nyjer?  Did you sense they were a bit amused or taken back by his personality?  How did Nyjer handle the media?

Answer: The Japanese media already knew of Tony Plush. So I expected the media to ask some unique questions. However the press conference was normal and Nyjer answered with seriousness. Only when we had a photo session in the end, Nyjer made a playful pose, showing “Tony Plush”.


Question: Please translate his famous salutation, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.  Gotta go!” into Japanese.

Answer: Ahhhhhhhhh, abayo!!!




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