PHOENIX – After seven seasons as a star in Japan, Norichika Aoki feels like a rookie again. Aoki reported to the Milwaukee Brewers spring training camp Thursday and admitted to being a bit overwhelmed.
“I feel like it’s a brand-new feeling being able to play in this environment,” Aoki said through an interpreter. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke listened to Aoki and quickly tried to make the 30-year-old outfielder comfortable. “He doesn’t have to come into this camp thinking he has to make our team,” Roenicke said. “He talked about being like a rookie, he doesn’t need to come into this camp thinking he’s got to make our team.” Aoki arrived two days before the first full-team workout Saturday.
The Brewers are counting on him to add depth in an outfield that includes NL MVP Ryan Braun, who had his positive test for a banned substance overturned just hours after Aoki arrived in camp.
Aoki spent his entire professional career with the Yakult Swallows. He hit over .300 in six of his seven full seasons and was a three-time batting champion in Japan’s Central League. He was the league’s 2005 rookie of the year and is a six-time