Seattle Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather’s comments about the English of others has him in hot water.
Mather made insensitive remarks during a 45-minute Zoom call on Feb. 5 with the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club about former All-Star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and outfield prospect Julio Rodriguez, video of which was uploaded to YouTube on Sunday — later deleted and reposted.
While discussing Iwakuma, who had returned to the club last month as a special assignments coach, Mather pointed out his displeasure with employing a Japanese interpreter for the now former pitcher.
“It frustrates me,” Mather said. “For instance, we just rehired Iwakuma, he was a pitcher with us for a number of years. Wonderful human being, his English was terrible. He wanted to get back into the game, he came to us. We quite frankly want him as our Asian scout, interpreter, what’s going on with the Japanese league.
“He’s coming to spring training. And I’m going to say, I’m tired of paying his interpreter. When he was a player, we’d pay Iwakuma X, but we’d also have to pay $75,000 a year to have an interpreter with him. His English suddenly got better, his English got better when we told him that.”
Rodriguez, a 20-year-old from the Dominican Republic, also was singled out for what Mather perceived as subpar English.
“Julio Rodriguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined,” Mather told those on the call. “He is loud, his English is not tremendous.”
In apparent response, Rodriguez tweeted a meme of himself mashed up with Michael Jordan saying “…and I took that personally” from the ESPN documentary series “The Last Dance.”
Corey Brock of The Athletic defended Rodriguez as well, tweeting, “Julio Rodriguez has been working on his English since for a loooong time. When we met in October 2018, Julio insisted on doing the interview in English.”
Mather issued an apology late Sunday night.
“I want to apologize to every member of the Seattle Mariners organization, especially our players and to our fans,” Mather said in a statement. “There is no excuse for my behavior, and I take full responsibility for my terrible lapse in judgment.
“My comments were my own. They do not reflect the views and strategy of the Mariners baseball leadership who are responsible for decisions about the development and status of the players at all levels of the organization.
“I’ve been on the phone most of the day today apologizing to the many people I have insulted, hurt, or disappointed in speaking at a recent online event.
“I am committed to make amends for the things I said that were personally hurtful and I will do whatever it takes to repair the damage I have caused to the Seattle Mariners organization.”