This guy is Toronto's shortstop... playing there because star player Joe Reyes has been injured since the first week. The idea was that Kawasaki come in and play defense because his bat simply isn't all that great. It's not because he's Japanese, or anything like that, merely because he's a shortstop. Middle infielders are supposed to be lithe athletes lacking pop in their bat. I'm cool with that, but I also know that guys like Cal Ripken or Roberto Alomar Jr. could hit and hit for average.
Still... Kawasaki was just supposed to be a stopgap until Reyes return... someone to play defense behind the pitcher and not let guys score. I wanted to write about him for weeks now. I really like this guy. His big goofy smile... but I kept expecting him to fail.
The trouble is - he hasn't.
On Sunday, May 25 in a game I could not watch because it was on a pay per view type station, the Toronto Blue Jays were losing 5-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning.
Suffice to say that they won 6-5 with Kawasaki delivering the game winning double to bring home two runs.
But that wasn't the best part.
Later when I watched the news, I saw Mark DeRosa - another so-called spare-part player give the post-game interview when he called over the true hero of the game, Kawasaki.
Now, why no Kawasaki interview from the Toronto media - Sportsnet, owned by my former boss Rogers Communications, who also own the Blue Jays - ?
Because he doesn't speak much English and I'm afraid we don't have a Japanese translator on the team. We should get one, but I get the feeling Kawasaki understands a lot more English than he can speak... much like how I could understand a lot more Japanese than I could speak (not really).
Anyhow... what happened next was pure gold:Except Major League Baseball deleted it because the video poster probably did not receive the expressed written consent of MLB.
However... here's the gist of it:
Sportsnet reporter Arash Madani initially spoke to Mark DeRosa, who scored the winning run. But DeRosa deferred to the ebullient Kawasaki, who was asked by Madani: "What do you have to say for yourself?"
"Thank you very much! My name is Munenori Kawasaki! I am from Japan. I'm Japanese!"
The infielder then referred to a phrase book and added, "My teammates gave me an opportunity so I wanted to do something about it." - which was greeted with a pie in the face from Emilio Bonifacio and a Gatorade dousing by Jose Bautista and another teammate.
No one on the team understands Kawasaki when he speaks Japanese, but they sure as Hell understand the fun and skill he brings to the ballpark each and every single day.
Consider me a fan!
Andrew "A Jay" Joseph
PS: And yes, Kawasaki is his family name. It's pronounced like the motorcycle company.