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Pitcher Hasegawa Puts His Own Spin on Future With the Angels

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tuesday night was no time to make an international faux pas, this being his major league debut and all, so Japanese right-hander Shigetoshi Hasegawa huddled with his agent to get some advice.

“Should I be serious? Or should I be funny?” Hasegawa asked Ed Kleven a few minutes before his first news conference as an Angel. It took only a few moments before the assembled international press corps learned which tact Hasegawa decided on.

Now if only Hasegawa’s fastball is as good as his wit.

Hasegawa, who last week accepted a one-year contract with an option on 1998, led off with a few opening remarks in English. An interpreter then translated into Japanese for the live TV feed back to Tokyo and the more than 50 Japanese journalists in attendance at the Pond.

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Hasegawa immediately noted the irony of his second language being translated into his native tongue. “This is a little strange. I am a Japanese,” he blurted out as those in the room roared with laughter.

The questions continued in typical fashion--some in English, some in Japanese--until someone asked if Hasegawa was familiar with the Angel roster.

“The pitcher is Mickey Mouse,” he said. “And the catcher is Minnie Mouse.”

Soon enough Hasegawa was asked how he learned to speak English so well.

“I learned by myself,” he said. “I like American movies. ‘Field of Dreams’ and ‘Beavis and Butt-head.’

And then Hasegawa did something his new teammates Mike James and Troy Percival can do with great flair and polish. He imitated Beavis. Or maybe it was Butthead.

“Huh-huh,” Hasegawa said. “Very funny.”

Hasegawa said he has dreamed of playing in the majors and often visited the U.S. home of former Orix pitching coach Jim Colborn, now a Seattle Mariner scout, after the Japanese season ended.

And he’s familiar with the Walt Disney Co.

“Disney is a big company I know very well,” Hasegawa said. “That is why I choose Angels.”

Later, he made a tourist pitch that Disney CEO Michael Eisner couldn’t have delivered better.

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“To all the fans in Japan, I wish you all will still watch me on TV,” he said. “What I really wish is that you would come to Anaheim to watch me pitch in person.”

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