BRADENTON, Fla. - There are some things that one may or may not know about Akinori Iwamura, the new Pirates second baseman.
Iwamura was born in Uwajima, Japan, located on the island of Shikoku, the fourth-largest in the country.
His late mother was a hairdresser, while his father is a retired firefighter.
His nickname is Gun in his native country, and Gun1.nifty.com is the address of his fan Web site.
He would like to meet Michael Jordan one day.
General manager Neal Huntington knew enough about the 31-year-old Iwamura to believe he would be a suitable tag-team partner for Andrew McCutchen at the top of the order. In November, well-regarded pitcher Jesse Chavez was dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays to get him.
Now it doesn't take much for Huntington or manager John Russell to envision McCutchen on first base and Iwamura at the plate, ready to spray to all fields at the left side of the plate.
"That wouldn't be a bad way to set the table for the middle of the order," said Huntington, his face lit up like the PNC Park scoreboard all of a sudden.
"A dynamic player," Russell called the veteran. "He has got a lot of tools. He's a great fit for our club."
If healthy, Iwamura has the potential to jump-start a dormant offense. He sat out three months after surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left knee last season.
"My knee feels very good," reported Iwamura, who planned to play with a knee brace this spring. "I will communicate with the trainers so I can make my knee last the whole season."
Based on his three major league seasons, Iwamura projects to 25 doubles, eight triples and 11 stolen bases in 500 at-bats. The former Ray played home games at Tropicana Field, which has smaller dimensions than PNC Park by comparison.
Otherwise, Iwamura didn't believe the National League would be different than the American League or the Japanese League, where he spent 11-plus seasons combined.
"I will be able to make the adjustment," promised Iwamura, a five-time All-Star overseas. "I played in the Central League, where they have the same rules as the National League, so it won't be any problem.
"I will play the same baseball in a different uniform. It's a different team, but other than that, it's all the same."
In fact, Iwamura has skills that are better suited for the National League, which places more emphasis on smallball and less on the long ball.
"For our club, yes," Russell said. "He can move the ball around the diamond. He can put the ball on the ground. He gets on base. He can run. He's a solid defensive player.
"Our offense doesn't have the guys that will hit 30- or 40-home runs, although we have some potential for that finally. But for the dynamic to get guys to moving (on the basepaths) and hitting behind runners, he'll be a big piece of that."
The value of Iwamura may extend beyond the numbers. He possesses many of the so-called intangibles, namely, an infectious personality that is likely to wear off on the many younger players around him.
"He has got a great personality," Russell said. "He loves to play. He likes to have fun. Not only is he a good player, but he's a good presence on the field and in clubhouse. He wants to play every day."
In media sessions, Iwamura has answered the majority of questions through interpretor Toshi Nagahara because his English is "out of shape," as he puts it. Nonetheless, he speaks the language well enough to get his point across most times. Already Iwamura has been heard to give pointers to less experienced teammates on the field.
"We have a lot of good talent in our younger players," Iwamura said. "I would like to be able to help them through my experiences. I like them not to stay negative but positive all the time."
Iwamura sounded positive that the Pirates could eventually duplicate what the Rays accomplished two years ago, when they shocked the baseball world en route to the American League pennant.
"There is a big possibility that this team could win the World Series (soon)," Iwamura said. "Like Tampa Bay, we have good teammates and staff members."
If Iwamura can help pull that off, Michael Jordan may want to meet him.