Former/current Brewers interpreters talk about their role in the game

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Long-shot lefty Wei-Chung Wang is now a Milwaukee Brewers player. The 21-year-old appeared in Spring Training as a Rule Five draft choice who had never pitched above rookie ball, and proceeded to earn a job on the big league roster.

Since he doesn't speak English, interpreter Jay Hsu is making his big league debut too.

"It's kind of for me -- a dream come true for me. Of course for him, but for me also. It's a very big place. A little bit (nervous) because I know I have to translate everything right," Hsu said.

Kosuke Inaji has experience translating everything right. He's a Royals employee now -- after spending the past three years in Milwaukee -- first with pitcher Takashi Saito, and then with outfielder Norichika Aoki.

When Aoki was traded in the off-season, Inaji went too.

For him, interpreting involves some interpretation.

"I think the number one thing is you can't really literally translate anything. You kind of have to put it into your own words. If you try to translate it word-for-word -- it doesn't really make sense. Half the time, you kind of put it in your own words and make stuff up I guess, but as long as you get the point across, that's kind of the biggest part about it," Inaji said.

Just as the pitchers can't do it without the catchers and all the players can't do it without the grounds crew, if you don't speak English, you can't do it without your interpreter.

"For Nori, scouting report-wise, I'd translate in Japanese. Obviously, he can't read what's said in English there, so I'd type all that up in Japanese and show it to him -- so I guess you'd say kind of dependent," Inaji said.

Wang is from Taiwan -- as is his interpreter.

"Mandarin Chinese is our official language, but Taiwanese is like our local language -- where we don't write it but we speak it. There are two different languages in Taiwan," Hsu said.

Wang and the team had to prove in Spring Training that communication would not be an insurmountable barrier for the youngster. Interpreters are now allowed on the field when a coach goes out to talk to an international player. Inaji didn't have that luxury when working with Saito in the 2011 playoff season.

"Takasi was a veteran pitcher, so most of the coaches kind of let him do his own thing, and he kind of knew what was going on. I know that Wang is a younger guy, so that might be different. It's a little different than when I was doing it for a pitcher," Inaji said.

Inaji and Hsu are already so accepted with their new teams that their arm wrestling match before Friday's exhibition game fired up the players more than anything else did. Officiated by Bob Uecker, it was the rematch of a Spring Training showdown when the Brewers met the Royals in Arizona.

"We did it there and I won, and they were like 'okay, when we come here for the last couple games of Spring Training,' they're like 'we're going to have Round Two here,' so we did it again and I won again," Inaji said.

"I don't have a strong enough arm as Kosuke. I will work on it though. Give me one more year. I will do a strengthening program with the weights and stuff for a whole year," Hsu said.

Hsu may find time for that strengthening program, but only when he's not helping to carry Wei-Chung Wang's chances for success in the big leagues.