While Liu refers to the boot-camp feel of Instructs where players run from field to field to do different scheduled drills on the cloverleaf designed complex, Zhang, a catcher, has also noticed the disparity in abilities between the Chinese player and the professional player in America.
"In China, the hardest fastball is like 90 MPH," Zhang revealed. "And here with the Yankees, everybody it seems can throw 95 MPH. It's been an adjustment, catching the fastball well. Right now I'm a little bit afraid of the fastball."
Making a valid point about catching his pitchers, Zhang also points out the difference in power isn't just on the field.
"Compared to the Dominican player and the American player, I don't feel like a good power hitter," he admitted. "I want to do some weight training here so I can get stronger. I think I can hit the ball well but it's not like long drives right now, it's mostly ground balls. I want to get some more loft in my swing."
Showing a good ability to hit the ball to the opposite field, and quite adept at blocking balls in the dirt already, he says improving his defensive game is his top priority before next season.
"Blocking balls, that's what I do best but I've also learned a lot more and gotten better at it, but I really want to work on my defense before next season and control the game better," said the 19-year old backstop.
|Kai Liu wants to improve his 85 MPH fastball. (Photo: Patrick Teale/PinstripesPlus.com)|
"I want to work on my fastball because I only have 85 miles [per hour] right now," said the 19-year old southpaw. "I want to increase my velocity. I throw a very good curveball right now, but I want to work on my four-seam fastball and increase my speed. I also want to work on my changeup."
In fact, as the two players begin their Yankee careers in a foreign land, ironically, the most glaring difference has not been a problem for either player so far.
"I don't think the language barrier is a problem right now because with the body language, the pitcher can understand me," said Zhang. "With the signals too, we're both pretty knowledgeable [on the same page]. I think the pitcher knows what I'm thinking about things. It's not a big deal for me right now but I want to learn English."
Liu also says he hasn't had any issues with not speaking English, but with his sights set towards reaching the big leagues, he does look forward to not needing his translator down the road.
"I want to learn English so I can take it with me back to China before I come back and play in the Major Leagues," Liu revealed. "That's my hope. My goal is to be here for a couple of years and then hopefully make it to the Major Leagues."
Disparities in natural strength and language barriers aside, both players' hardest adjustment is one that might be overlooked by many.
"Sleep," Zhang said is the hardest adjustment. "In China we work from morning to afternoon and sometimes even train in the evenings, somewhere around 10-12 hours per day. Here we're only working five or six hours per day. In the afternoons we go back to the hotel and we [are supposed to] sleep. It's hard for us."