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Friday, June 27, 2014

Japanese Baseball Player Kawasaki Provides Personality

Just because I am a Toronto Blue Jays baseball fan and I write a little bit about Japan, you might think that this particular blog is a no-brainer.

A Japanese ball-player playing for the Blue Jays - but that's not WHY I have made Kawasaki Munenori the focus of a few of my blogs.

It's to show off his wonderful sense of humor... something that seems to be all too rare in the Japanese ball player we see here in North America.

Look at that photo above... yes, he just won the game, but everyone on the team loves this guy.

Everyone who comes over from Japan seems to possess a dour, serious look, and rarely do they ever connect personally with the fans outside of their baseball talents.

And then there is Kawasaki, who like his motorcycle name tends to 'let the good times roll' - that's an old advertising slogan which would probably tell you I'm older than the average AKB48 girl band fan. (By the way... I am probably NOT older than the average male AKB48 fan, whom I suspect in Japan may have a thing for young Japanese women who look like they are 16. Not my bag.)

Kawasaki is not an everyday major leaguer for the Blue Jays - in fact, if it were not for injuries, he would be down in Triple A right now (though I think he should consider going to a National League team who could use his talents more at a big league level).

But, unlike other current Japanese MLB stars pitcher Tanaka Masahiro (surname first) or outfielder Suzuki Ichiro (surname first) both of the New York Yankees (they also have pitcher Kuroda Hiroki (surname first) - but I don't know what he is like personality-wise), Kawasaki has personality, shows his personality and has been speaking English and Spanish, whenever he can in order to better fit in.

Suzuki, despite being one of the best hitters in all of baseball for years and years and having lived in Seattle and New York for a total of 14 years, he still conducts all interviews with a Japanese translator.

I also don't understand why he is the ONLY person in North American baseball who has his FIRST name on the back of his jersey. Either it's a mistake that has been allowed to continue, or its his ONLY way of being on a first-name basis for ball fans. Yes... Ichiro is on the back of his jersey... it should read Suzuki. The Yankees, however, tend NOT to have their names on their uniforms as a form of baseball tradition. But Suzuki was like this with the previous team, the Seattle Mariners.

"Ka-wa-sa-ki! Ka-wa-sa-ki!" My eight-year-old son and the crowds at the Blue Jays games chant his name this way. He is a beloved player for his effort and smiling visage, even if not for his talent - which is still better than many players in the game today.

Want some information on his exploits in Japan - click HERE

So... check out the SportsNet video below showing the affable Kawasaki first mimicking Blue Jays teammate Melky Cabrera watching a pitch blow by him, then his still somewhat stiff running gait... and then watch him purposely mock sports announcer Jamie Thomas and the Connect crew.

His accent is so effing thick, but you get the gist!


What is stunning to me, by the way, is that Kawasaki idolizes Suzuki and has for his career... and while he is not in the same 'league' as Suzuki as a hitting machine even though he tries to emulate him, Kawasaki is far above him showing off his love for the game, his team mates and the fans.

I'm not saying Suzuki isn't all those things, I'm just saying he does not express himself or have his translator express himself in a manner that an eight-year-old remembers best from a ball game.

And, to be fair, in 2001, Suzuki's first year in North America, he was: an All-Star; Rookie of the Year; Batting Champ, Stolen Base Champ, American League MVP, Silver Slugger and Golden Glove winner... the Golden Glove implies he is the best at his position defensively. In 2004 he had 262 hits in one season becoming the Major League record holder - breaking a record that had stood for 84 years. That's a helluva ball player.

Still, he's no Mister Personality, perhaps choosing to let his bat do TOO much of the talking.

"Thank you very much. My name is Munenori Kawasaki, I come from Japan, I am Japaneeeeese. My teammates gave me an opportunity, so I wanted to do something about it."

That was Kawasaki (he said it just that way!) giving his first post-game interview on May 26, 2013... a game my son Hudson were at, where Kawasaki was the spark plug and the hero in the Blue Jays win.

Ka-wa-sa-ki! Ka-wa-sa-ki!

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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