Masahide Kobayashi, one of Japan's most acclaimed relievers, signed a two-year free agent contract with the Indians this past offseason. Kobayashi, who goes by Masa, turns 34 next month. He pitched the last nine years with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League, and three years ago he led that League with 34 saves. With assistance of interpreter Toshi Nagahara, Kobayashi recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: How are you enjoying your Major League Baseball experience so far?
Kobayashi: There has been a lot to absorb, a lot to see. It has been two months since I have come to the United States, and I have experienced a lot.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is it very different from your native Japan?
Kobayashi: It is very different. There are many different and new things so far for me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What is the biggest difference?
Kobayashi: The scale of the stadium. It is much bigger than the stadiums in Japan. It is also very different traveling long distances for games and the weather.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How is the weather different?
Kobayashi: It is different in that I am not used to going from a cold place and then going to a warm place.
MLBPLAYERS.com: For people who have been to a baseball game in Japan, the crowds are usually very loud and festive. What do you think of crowds here?
Kobayashi: I am so used to playing in a loud environment. The fans over there are very loud and use drums or other noisemakers during play. Over here it is very quiet and sometimes the fans are loud. It is a different style of cheering for a baseball team. I am still trying to get used to that. It is very different for me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Why did you choose the Cleveland Indians?
Kobayashi: They were a team that contacted me when I was a free agent. A couple of teams contacted me, but they seemed to be the one who wanted me to pitch for them, and I wanted to sign with a team that wanted me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What do you like the best about America so far?
Kobayashi: That is a hard question to answer because I don't know yet. I am in the process of experiencing so many new things. I like my teammates and I like the food. I have a hard time saying what I like the most.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Since so many hitters here are seeing you for the first time, do you think you have an advantage as a pitcher?
Kobayashi: I think so.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You saved more than 200 games in Japan. Is that a great accomplishment?
Kobayashi: Only three players have done it, so I believe so.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Who are some of the current Japanese players here in the U.S. you are friends with or whom you like to watch play?
Kobayashi: Mostly the guys who are my own age. Hiroki Kuroda of the Dodgers. Hideki Matsui of the Yankees. Tadahito Iguchi of the Padres. And one more guy -- me.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.