FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The most exciting moment of lunch with Daisuke Matsuzaka? That would have to have been when he became unusually animated while answering a question regarding the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. His arms were flying around and we didn't know what he was saying when suddenly his right forearm bumped hard into the wooden table in front of him. He winced. Only a little. He seemed to be OK.
And so we asked his interpreter, "What was he talking about?"
"He was talking about when Pedro Martínez threw Don Zimmer to the ground," said translator Masa Hoshino.
Media lunch with Dice-K was an idea put forth by Red Sox publicist John Blake and it took place yesterday in a quiet corner of the dining room of the Colonial Country Club, overlooking a man-made pond, a driving range, and multiple luxury condos in the gated community.
A few house rules: No jeans. Collared shirts only. No hats.
"Oh, and no blogging during lunch," insisted Blake.
Dice-K arrived at noon with Hoshino, teammate/countryman Hideki Okajima, and a second translator, Sachiyo Sekiguchi. The players sat opposite one another at the middle of a long table, one translator at the side of each pitcher. The rest of the lunch group consisted of 10 members of the New England media. It is rumored that some of us had to go to
I took a seat to Dice-K's immediate right. It was a little spooky being that close to a $103 million arm.
He wore a long-sleeve, off-white, thin sweater, black pants, and tan moccasins with no socks. On his left wrist, he wore a small bracelet and a watch with a face the size of a silver dollar. No wedding ring (Matsuzaka is married). A little stubble on his chin. His hair was neatly spiked and his average-size hands looked smooth and perfectly manicured.
There was a lot of Japanese being spoken and a lot of laughter between Dice-K and Okajima while we settled in and looked at our menus. Made me wish I knew the Japanese translation of "curly-haired boyfriend." Also made me glad that Curt Schilling isn't yet fluent in Japanese.
When the waitress came around, Matsuzaka said, "Iced tea, please," in English, then "crunchy chicken wrap, cole slaw," again in English.
He has great posture and perfect manners. He kept his napkin on his lap at all times and did not start eating until everyone at the table was served. He drank his iced tea through a straw.
The entire session was on the record and both pitchers politely and patiently answered ( through the interpreters) everything thrown their way.
Dice-K said he has "no hesitation" about golf during the season. He shoots around 80. He said Manny Ramírez and David Ortiz always give him a big greeting in the clubhouse. He appreciates Schilling's attempts to communicate in Japanese. His favorite American movies are "Lethal Weapon," "Cliffhanger," and "When Harry Met Sally." He likes Jackie Chan movies. He watches The Golf Channel, MTV, and "SportsCenter." He likes Angelina Jolie (which makes him a member of a very big club). He said he did not grow up as a Yankees fan but has always liked wearing pinstripes.
Asked about his expectations for the 2007 season, he paused, thought hard, and said, "I think the fans certainly have great expectations for me and I would like to respond in kind, but if the fans have a number [of wins], I don't know what it is. Within myself, there is maybe a baseline for success. I have certain expectations for myself, but as for giving you a hard number, what that might be, that's just something I can't do."
He sort of explained his decision not to talk after his last start: "I want to make sure I'm ready to head into the season, but these are things I consider highly personal and I'm not comfortable talking about these objectives and I guess for that reason I'm not comfortable talking with the media very much, anyway. Once we get into the regular season, good or bad, I will be there to face the media."
Major leaguers past he wishes he could meet: Cy Young and Nolan Ryan.
Does he enjoy the attention paid to the mystery of the gyroball?
He smiled. He paused. He smiled more and shook his head and turned in his seat. He thought for a full 45 seconds before speaking.
"I'm always excited and interested in learning about new pitches," he said. "So if we were talking about somebody else, I think I'd be enjoying it a lot more. If it was somebody else's new pitch and I were on the outside looking in, I'd probably be having a better time."
With that, I grabbed a dinner roll from the basket, held it in front of Dice-K, and asked him if he could demonstrate the gyro grip, using the sour dough sphere.
"I can't show you," he said politely. "There's a grip, but I can't show you. Sorry."
The tab, including tip, was $268.73, making the Globe's share about 46 bucks.
Money well spent. I just hope that $103 million forearm is OK.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.