05/01/08 8:20 PM ET
Sandberg impressed with Fukudome
Hall of Famer believes Japanese right fielder is a leader
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
"I don't know how much English he knows," Sandberg said, "but without saying a word, I think he's a leader on the team."
Sandberg, the former Cubs second baseman who is now managing at Class A Peoria, was in Chicago on Thursday to promote a Minor League game at Wrigley Field on July 29 between his Chiefs and the Kane County Cougars. Some of the Japanese media asked him about Fukudome.
"I like his style of play," Sandberg said of the Cubs right fielder. "I think he's one of the leaders on the team, just by the way he goes about his business. I like his hustle, I like his defense."
Fukudome also had a chance Thursday to chat with another Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks, who was in the clubhouse before the game. Banks apparently is semi-fluent, and called Fukudome "friend" in Japanese.
Even though Fukudome played nine seasons in Japan, he is technically considered a rookie, and could be the Cubs' first to be chosen to the All-Star Game since Sam "Toothpick" Jones in 1955. The only other Cubs rookies to make the All-Star event were catcher Toby Atwell in 1952 and Don Johnson in 1944.
"I didn't put my name on the ballot, and I really appreciate it," Fukudome said. "I don't know who's going to vote. I just try my best so people will vote for me."
Maybe he has some friends in Japan who will vote online for him?
"Who knows?" his interpreter Ryuji Araki said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.