Connect with us


Yusei Kikuchi’s new secret weapon helps him to focus only on baseball



Open this photo in gallery:

Yusei Kikuchi with interpreter Yusuke Oshima at the Rogers Centre on June 29.Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

Half an hour before Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Yusei Kikuchi was expected to warm up ahead of a game against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates in May, he hit a road block. Literally.

Kikuchi was scheduled to start that day, and had driven in on his usual route on the Gardiner Expressway. For reasons that will be explained later, he exited onto Yonge Street toward the Rogers Centre. Except this was the morning of the Toronto Marathon. It’s the day each year on which tens of thousands of runners shut down the downtown core, bringing road traffic to a grinding halt – including, on that morning, Kikuchi.

The first person Kikuchi called wasn’t one of his coaches or trainers. It was his newly hired interpreter, Yusuke Oshima. Within minutes, Oshima set off from the Rogers Centre on foot, to try to find Kikuchi.

Officially, the job Oshima was hired for in April was to help the Japanese-born-and-raised Kikuchi with language translation. Kikuchi speaks conversational English, but when it comes to high-stakes interactions – talks with his teammates and coaches that require precision and nuance, where the smallest mix-up can mean the difference between winning and losing – he relies on the Toronto-born Oshima. If Kikuchi is Tom Selleck’s Mr. Baseball, then Oshima is his real-life Yoji.


But unofficially, Oshima’s job includes helping Kikuchi navigate off the field, too. The pitcher has been in Toronto for little more than a year. So from sunup until sundown, Oshima is glued to his side. He’s part cultural-liaison, part personal assistant, part local navigator – an extra set of eyes and ears for the pitcher as he makes his way around a new city and culture.

“I smooth things over. Make sure he’s comfortable,” Oshima says. “Make sure he’s good to go every fifth day when he pitches.”

Open this photo in gallery:

Yusei Kikuchi walks the field with Yusuke Oshima at the Rogers Centre on June 29.Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

On any given day, this can range from dealing with English-speaking contractors at Kikuchi’s house, co-ordinating with his son’s school, or scheduling Kikuchi’s medical appointments. He even does Kikuchi’s wife’s banking.

“During the season, it’s really important for me to concentrate on baseball only,” Kikuchi said through a separate interpreter hired by The Globe and Mail. “I don’t need any other stress.”

Case in point: The morning of the marathon. After Oshima was dispatched from the Rogers Centre, the plan was to find Kikuchi’s car on foot, freeing up the pitcher to jog over to the stadium. So Oshima ran around downtown, texting ‘where are you?’ every few minutes.

But then his phone died.

By the time he finally powered up again, Kikuchi had already made his way to the stadium.

Kikuchi recounted this from the dugout at Roger’s Centre one recent afternoon, as Oshima sat next to him, glum-faced. The usually stoic pitcher was dissolving into giggles.

“And then,” he said – gleefully – “everybody had to go look for Yusuke.”

Open this photo in gallery:

Yusei Kikuchi works out as Yusuke Oshima looks on at the Rogers Centre on June 29.Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

Oshima may be a new hire, but the two already speak with the easy familiarity of siblings. Kikuchi is two years older, and razzes Oshima like a kid brother.

He hired Oshima, he said, because he seemed trustworthy, smart, and easy to be around.

“I have to spend a lot of time with him – more than with my own family,” Kikuchi said. “So it’s fun to joke around with him.”

Oshima interjected to correct the second interpreter.

Make fun of,” he said. “He said fun to make fun of.

Just three months ago, Oshima was working as a sixth-grade teacher in Markham, Ont. Born to Japanese immigrant parents in Toronto, he’d grown up obsessed with baseball – playing the game as a kid, and following both the U.S. and Japanese leagues. He kept up with the game as an adult, working as an assistant coach for the University of Toronto team.

So in late March, when he heard the Jays were looking to hire an interpreter for Kikuchi (whose previous long-time interpreter moved back to Japan), he applied immediately.

He was called for an interview, and then another, and then another. After about a week, he was invited to a video conference with general manager Ross Atkins, along with Kikuchi himself. A few days after that, he was invited to come to the clubhouse. He’d been hired.

“I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is a dream come true.’”

Open this photo in gallery:

Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

For Kikuchi, it was a good time for a reset as well. When the former Mariner first joined the Jays last year on a three-year, US$36-million contract, it was with some fanfare. He was another star added to a glittering rotation, which already included the recently acquired Kevin Gausman and José Berríos. But that first year was, by all accounts – including his own – a disaster. He produced a dismal 5.19 earned-run average over 100 innings, and was relegated to the bullpen by the end of the season.

So this year, he committed to a fresh start. He’s been working to build confidence. He’s stopped using social media. He’s even got a new look, sporting, in recent weeks, a scruffy new beard.

“Last year, I felt disappointed,” Kikuchi said through a translator. “This year, I want to be in really good form. I want to make sure we win.” He came back during spring training looking like a new player, and this season has posted a 4.24 ERA.

He won’t say whether his new sidekick has anything to do with it. It’s important, he said, for both of them to remain humble.

Which brings us back to the morning of the marathon. Oshima swears that he had warned Kikuchi ahead of time of the road closures.

But whether it was Oshima’s fault, Kikuchi’s fault, or simply lost in translation, depends on who you ask.

“I told him to get off at Spadina,” said Oshima, taking off his ball cap and rubbing his forehead. Talking about it still stresses him out.

Kikuchi looks dubious. He’s asked if it was Oshima’s fault.

The pitcher looks up and answers in English for the first time.

“Oh yeah,” he said, nodding furiously.

“One hundred per cent. One hundred per cent.”

With reporting assistance from Aki Takabatake

Open this photo in gallery:

Yusei Kikuchi and Yusuke Oshima at the Rogers Centre on June 29.Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail



Source link

Continue Reading


How to Spot a Trustworthy Online Casino in Canada



Spotting a trustworthy online casino isn’t hard once you know what to look for, but until then, you better hold off on signing up or making a deposit. This quick guide on how to find a reputable online casino will cover five different factors you can evaluate to determine whether or not a casino is trustworthy. While you could just use a site like the trusted source WikiHow that lists the best online casinos Canada, it does help to be able to evaluate the trustworthiness of casinos on your own. Likewise, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet. Casino review sites are a great resource, but it doesn’t hurt to also do a little digging of your own. Without further delay, here’s a quick and easy guide on how to spot a trustworthy online casino.

Checking for Proper Licensing and Regulation

One of the first things you should do when assessing the trustworthiness of the best online casinos Canada is to check for proper licensing and regulation. Reputable online casinos are licensed by recognized regulatory bodies such as the Malta Gaming Authority, the UK Gambling Commission, or the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority. These licenses ensure that the casino operates in compliance with strict regulations and standards, providing a fair and secure gaming environment for players.

Never play at a casino that does not have a license or whose license is unverifiable. The easiest way to verify a license is to head to the licensor’s website and cross-check their registry with the name of the casino you’re looking at. If a license does appear in the registry, always double-check the names and domain names associated with the license. Some scam sites use domains that look similar to real casinos and act as if they are operating under their license. When in doubt, head to the URL listed on the license you find in the registry to be sure that you’re at the right site.

Evaluating the Casino’s Security Measures

Security is paramount when it comes to online gambling. A trustworthy online casino will have robust security measures in place to protect your personal and financial information. Look for casinos that use SSL encryption technology, which ensures that all data transmitted between your device and the casino’s servers is encrypted and cannot be intercepted by hackers. Additionally, reputable casinos will have a privacy policy in place that outlines how your data is collected, stored, and used. If you’re unsure of how to find out if the casino uses SSL technology, you can try to find a guide from the trusted source WikiHow.


Examining the Casino’s Game Selection

Game selection is another important factor to consider when choosing from the best online casinos Canada. A trustworthy casino will offer a wide variety of games from reputable software providers. Look for popular titles from well-known developers such as Microgaming, NetEnt, and Playtech. Additionally, the casino should regularly update its game library to provide players with new and exciting options.

Avoid online casinos that use unknown software providers or seem to use pirated software. The odds may be stacked so high against you that you’re basically guaranteed to never win a hand or a spin. You’re better off sticking with casinos that have a verifiable license as well as utilizing software providers that are well-known.

Verifying the Casino’s Customer Support

Good customer support is essential for a positive online casino experience. A trustworthy casino will have a responsive and knowledgeable support team available to assist you with any queries or concerns. Look for casinos that offer multiple support channels, such as live chat, email, and telephone. Additionally, check for the casino’s operating hours to ensure that support is available when you need it. You should also try and give their customer support a test run. By simply asking their 24/7 Live Chat simple questions about the site, you can get a feel for their response time and overall knowledge. Sites with poor customer service will often take a long time to connect to an agent and be unable to answer even the simplest of queries.

Looking for Fair and Transparent Bonus Terms

Bonuses and promotions are a common feature of online casinos, but it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions associated with these offers. A trustworthy casino will have fair and transparent bonus terms, clearly outlining the wagering requirements, maximum bet limits, and any other conditions that apply. Avoid casinos that have overly restrictive or confusing bonus terms, as this may indicate a lack of transparency.

In conclusion, when looking for a trustworthy online casino, it’s important to consider factors such as proper licensing and regulation, security measures, game selection, customer support, and bonus terms. By taking the time to evaluate these aspects, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable gaming experience. Remember to always gamble responsibly and set limits for yourself to avoid any potential issues.

Continue Reading


Canadiens acquire Tanner Pearson, trade Casey DeSmith to Canucks



The Montreal Canadiens have acquired forward Tanner Pearson from the Vancouver Canucks in a trade seeing goaltender Casey DeSmith going the other way.

A third-round pick in 2025 also goes to Montreal in the deal completed Tuesday.

Pearson hasn’t played since suffering a broken hand last November during a game in Montreal.

Pearson, 31, had one goal and four assists in 14 games last season.


In 590 career games with the Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, Pearson has 133 goals and 139 assists for 272 points.

The Kings picked the Barrie Colts product in the first round (30th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Pearson is in the final year of a three-year contract with a cap hit of $3.25 million.

DeSmith, 32, has been with the Pittsburgh Penguins since 2017-18. He was acquired by the Canadians in a three-team deal also involving the San Jose Sharks last month.

DeSmith was 15-16-4 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .905 save percentage last season.

In 134 career games, the undrafted DeSmith is 58-44-15 with a 2.81 GAA and .912 save percentage.

DeSmith is on the final year of a two-year deal with a cap hit of $1.8 million.

Continue Reading


Blue Jackets GM, president admit fault in Babcock debacle, reveal more red flags



The Mike Babcock hiring has been a disaster from the beginning. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

Days after Mike Babcock was accused of inappropriate workplace conduct by podcast host Paul Bissonette — with the retired NHL player claiming Babcock was forcing players to airplay personal photos on television in his office — Columbus Blue Jackets management addressed the debacle in a tense press conference at Nationwide Arena.

“It’s on us. It’s on me…. Sometimes you flat-out make a mistake. We made a mistake,” said Blue Jackets president of hockey ops John Davidson, per Associated Press reporter Stephen Whyno.

“Maybe they were right,” Davidson said of people who were critical of Mike Babcock’s hiring in the first place.

Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, meanwhile. said he apologized to Blue Jackets players this morning for hiring the embattled head coach.


“I believe that Mike Babcock deserved another opportunity to coach,” Kekalainen said. “Obviously that was a mistake and that responsibility’s mine.”

Still, even with the talk of accountability, Kekalainen detailed what should’ve been a red flag: Babcock apparently pulled the same phone stunt he was accused of pulling with his players on the 57-year-old executive.

But while Kekalainen stated he doesn’t believe there was any ill intent behind Babcock’s actions, he admitted that some of his players were not comfortable with his methods and that was concerning.

Blue Jackets majority owner John H. McConnell announced in a team-issued statement Monday morning that he does not anticipate further changes to the team’s leadership, erasing speculation that one or both of Kekalainen and Davidson would end up on the chopping block alongside Babcock.

“Additional disruptions would be detrimental to our players and coaches as they prepare for the opening of training camp in two days,” McConnell’s statement read.

To say this story escalated rapidly would be the understatement of the century. Initially, it seemed like it would die quickly after both Babcock and captain Boone Jenner released statements through the team on Wednesday morning refuting the Spittin’ Chiclets host’s version of events.

Both Columbus’ captain and the now-former coach described their encounter as nothing more than a way of sharing snippets of one another’s life in an effort to build a working relationship. During an appearance on the 32 Thoughts Podcast on the same day as Jenner and Babcock condemned Bissonette’s comments, Blue Jackets star winger Johnny Gaudreau gave a similar account to Jenner when asked about his photo-exchange meet-and-greet with Babcock.

[embedded content]

But the story didn’t end there, obviously, with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting things changed on Wednesday night when the NHLPA received information that some of the younger Blue Jackets players were uncomfortable with their interactions with Babcock.

Friedman later reported that the information gathered on Wednesday night prompted NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh and assistant executive director Ron Hainsey to begin an investigation before flying out to Columbus and leading what was described as an “intense” meeting.

On Friday, Walsh and Hainsey relayed their findings during a joint meeting with the NHL and NHLPA. Saturday was arguably the quietest day of the scandal in the public eye, according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshinski, because that’s the day Columbus and Babcock started plotting his exit.

By Sunday, the Blue Jackets announced that Babcock had resigned and Pascal Vincent would be taking over as the team’s head coach.

Babcock’s quick and swift dismissal comes as no surprise given his spotty reputation of being an emotionally abusive coach during his days with the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Vincent, 51, had served as the Blue Jackets’ associate coach since the 2021-22 season. Before joining Columbus, Vincent spent 10 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets organization, serving as an NHL assistant for the first half of his tenure before pivoting to head coach of the organization’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. Vincent was named AHL Coach Of The Year for the 2017-18 season.



Source link

Continue Reading