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Masahiro Tanaka expects to adapt to diet without a hitch; pop star wife is 'good cook'

Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka works out at Steinbrenner Field

Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka works out at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. on the morning of Feb. 15, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. - One of the first things Masahiro Tanaka did after arriving in Manhattan for his Yankees introduction was march over to Time Warner Center, where he bought sushi from the Whole Foods supermarket downstairs.

Not much different from any other New Yorker. But in time, and after a few conversations with his Japanese teammates, he'll no doubt have a better read on more authentic dining options if he's looking for a taste of home.

For a rookie such as Tanaka, there are plenty of adjustments to be made here in the States, and not all of them have to do with the larger baseball or the pitching frequency. Sticking to the same routine that helped him achieve success in Japan is not always easy in a new country with an unfamiliar language and unfamiliar food options, depending on the city.

Those are all legitimate concerns, but Tanaka, 25, seems well equipped to handle those issues. He's had three Yankees officials personally assigned to him since he landed in New York earlier this month, including his interpreter. Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki each has his own, too.

One person behind the scenes here -- but a high-profile figure in Japan -- is Tanaka's wife, Mai Satoda, a certified chef who doubles as his nutritionist to some extent. Satoda gained renown in Japan primarily as a pop singer and TV game show personality, but she also has the curious title of "Junior Athlete Food Meister" and posts her most recent dishes on her blog (

This past week, as translated by a Japanese reporter, Satoda wrote about the challenge of trying to reproduce authentic Japanese dishes in Tampa for spring training, something that is a big boost in Tanaka's transition.

"I have no stress at all as far as food goes," Tanaka said through his interpreter. "That's partly because my wife is a good cook."

Tanaka went as far as to give significant credit to Satoda, 29, for last year's remarkable 24-0 run with the Rakuten Eagles, a season that enabled him to get a seven-year, $155-million contract from the Yankees.

"Totally," Tanaka said. "The balance of what she did was really good for me."

With longer road trips here in the States, Tanaka won't always have that luxury once the season begins. And despite a variety of dining options for every taste in major-league cities, the clubhouse fare -- a staple for most players because of its convenience before and after games -- still might seem strange to some.

Kuroda joked about one instance in Atlanta a few years ago when they served crawfish, a southern specialty, in the visitors' clubhouse at Turner Field. Kuroda felt a little spooked by it, and he chose to skip the tiny lobster-type shellfish. Evidently, it left a lasting impression on him.

"That was something I never tried," Kuroda said, smiling, through his interpreter. "I didn't like the way it looked."

At age 39, having logged six seasons in the majors, Kuroda has the lifestyle here down pat. It's helped that he's played in two cities -- Los Angeles and New York -- that are among the best in providing the comforts of home.

Kuroda hasn't made any drastic changes in his diet since first coming here in 2008 with the Dodgers, but he does seek out Japanese restaurants on the road, so it is a priority for some when they make the move.

"You can't have the same diet, obviously, because it's a different country," Kuroda said. "But living in L.A. and New York made it easier."

Tanaka doesn't seem too worried about that situation, or anything else, really. He's done a good job dealing with what must feel like a crash course in Major League 101.

But Tanaka is not the only Yankee adjusting.

Just as he soon will be learning English through a DVD course he can study during his free time, catchers Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli will be assigned the Japanese version.

It's all part of the process, and one that Tanaka has made look relatively easy during his first 10 days here. Since renting an entire Boeing 787 for the trip over from Japan, and that super-sized news conference in the Bronx, he has blended right in.

Anonymous? No. Tanaka still has dozens of reporters who scrutinize his every step. But he's getting acclimated in a hurry.


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