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Fukudome feels right at home as a Cub
By Scott J. Powers | Daily Herald Correspondent

With translator Matt Hidaka looking on, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome tries on his Cubs cap during Wednesday's news conference.

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/20/2007 12:10 AM

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Kosuke Fukudome didn't blink Wednesday.

Nearly 100 people were in Wrigley Field's Stadium Club. Photographers clicked away, and video cameras captured his every move.

Local and Japanese media scribbled his every answer to questions ranging from steroids to his adjustment to playing in America to the Cubs' woeful past.

All the while, Fukudome sat upright in his No. 1 pinstripe jersey, answering each question and often amusing himself with his own replies as he handled his introductory news conference as if it all was nothing new.

The Cubs knew what they were getting when they dropped $48 million on Fukudome to be their first Japanese import.

They went after him not only because he had a good left-handed bat and strong defensive skills in the outfield but also because he was up to the challenge of playing in a big city with high expectations.

"We wouldn't have signed him on talent alone," said Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. "We felt he had the ability to want to play at the highest level and to want the action.

"What we think about him is that to choose here knowing the environment, knowing the market, knowing the big-city market and where we want to go, I think by choosing here makes a statement in itself that he wants the action."

Fukudome, through translator Matt Hideka, confirmed just that.

"I have no personal goals right now, personal targets," he said. "The only thing that my target is to help this team to win a championship. If I can do my best and help bring a championship to this city, that will probably be the best thing I can do."

After hitting .305 with 192 home runs in nine seasons with the Chunichi Dragons, Fukudome has been described as a mix between Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, two former Japanese league MVPs.

Fukudome wasn't sure that was true.

"I don't think I can compare myself with Ichiro and Matsui," he said. "A lot of people are saying I'm a mix between those two. But if that's what everyone is saying, hopefully I can be a mixture of those two."

Hendry believes it's only the beginning for the Cubs in the world market.

"Certainly down the road I hope we have more Japanese players," the GM said. "Our intent was to get into the Japanese market and make a big strike with a guy that we wanted, which we did.

"Hopefully we're going to enhance our scouting in Japan and the other Asian countries. We've done that in the last 15 months and will continue to do that. The world is getting better at baseball. I would like to continue to see us be the global Cubs."

Fukudome did seem more comfortable speaking with the Japanese media. When being interviewed by a group of about 20 Japanese media members after the main news conference, he laughed more and had longer answers in his native language.

When asked by the American media about what he had heard about Cubs manager Lou Piniella, the 30-year-old Fukudome said he hadn't heard anything.

When asked the same question by the Japanese media, he said former Seattle Mariners pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa had told him that Pinella was tough only on younger players, so he shouldn't have any trouble.

Hendry also addressed the Mitchell Report and the chances he would pursue a player listed as being linked to steroids or HGH.

"I would give you the same line I heard from Commissioner Selig last week," said Hendry, who hasn't read the entire report. "I think as far as evaluating players who were on the report from last week, I think we would evaluate players by a case-by-case situation.

"All I can tell you is I was very grateful and glad to see that our present players were not on that. Other than that, I don't know enough about it."