CINCINNATI -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is so impressed by Norichika Aoki's quick adjustment to life in the Major Leagues, he might just stroll over and tell him so. Roenicke can do that now -- he says Aoki has been a remarkably quick study on and off the field. "'Nori' is picking up English really fast," Roenicke said.
Translator Kosuke Inaji travels with the Brewers and assists in most conversations, especially the technical ones. But Aoki has become more conversational with teammates, coaches and even broadcaster Bob Uecker, who chats briefly with the outfielder every day and has grown fond of him. "If it's something really technical that I need him to really understand, then I usually go and grab Kosuke," Roenicke said. "But [Aoki] is understanding the words really well. He surprises me sometimes when he'll answer, and I know that he understands." Aoki studied formal English in secondary school but said he has relied heavily on Inaji, who worked last season alongside Brewers reliever Takashi Saito, to learn a more conversational style of speaking. He is not shy about interacting with English speakers but still does interviews in Japanese, with Inaji translating. Aoki plans to take some English courses during the winter before returning for the second season of his two-year contract with the Brewers. "I'm starting to be able to hear it better, but the speaking part is still hard for me," Aoki said. "Right now, I've kind of hit my limit for the amount of words I know, so I have to study more. But I feel I am going in the right direction, because the hearing part has gotten a lot easier for me this season."