More ‘Saki, Please

Munenori Kawasaki might be the new kind of guy you build a sports franchise around. It’s not that the Japanese-born baseball player has dominated at the big league level – his batting average likely won’t approach .300 and you won’t see him launching home runs into the stands, either. But for what he may lack in offensive production, he more than makes up for in other ways. What the 35-year-old has done is become a vital big league contributor through carving out a role as a hysterical entertainer and the best teammate you’re likely to ever come across.

Born in Japan, Kawasaki grew up in a society where stoicism, no-nonsense, and conformity were often found. The baseball field was no different. But Kawasaki simply couldn’t hide his Unique personality and infectious smile on the diamond. His persona reached the highest level of Japanese baseball in 2000, and it wasn’t long until he became a fan and team favorite. Kawasaki remained in Japan until 2012, when he found a new home with the Seattle Mariners. To the delight of North American media, he would hang around for a while.

In Seattle, fans got a glimpse of Kawasaki’s dancing prowess and laidback nature, as seen below. His time at the big league level for the Mariners was short-lived, however, his impression had certainly been made. When he switched clubs to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013, he would be on his way to stardom and cult-hero status. Kawasaki became a viral sensation after his hilarious interviews began circling the internet and TV stations. Despite somewhat of a language barrier, he continuously finds ways to make his point – often in side-splitting fashion.

It’s easy to see Kawasaki as just a funny guy – a class clown fighting through a language barrier. But he’s much more than that. As his teammates and management personnel will attest, Kawasaki provides the glue and relaxation needed to maximize team performance over the course of a long Major League Baseball season. He’s a large reason why the Blue Jays were so good in 2015 – his impact on team morale and chemistry ensured the unit could cohesively approach the game from a standpoint of pure fun.

Even opposing players like David Ortiz can’t hide their love and appreciation for what Kawasaki means to a big league club. Former teammates are also in agreement when discussing his influence. “He has an incredible love for the game and a personality that rubs off on his teammates…people around him all of the sudden get happier to do their jobs. He’s the type of guy you love to have in your clubhouse,” said Brian Falkenborg. He sets a great example for others as well.

Gori Matsumoto, the spokesman for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Japan, spoke glowingly of Kawasaki when mentioning that “he was the first to arrive for practice, and the last to leave. He can really re-set his mind-set. He doesn’t keep negative feelings for long, doesn’t get discouraged. He can change his feeling quickly for the next game, and try to do better…He was a great team leader.” Kawasaki may be a character, but he’s also got plenty of Character. As Chris Colabello said, “He always says, ‘Never bad day. Never bad day.’ And he’s not lying. He’s everything you look for in a teammate because he’s the epitome of positivity.”

Watching Kawasaki on the diamond is the ultimate reminder that, regardless of the level, sports should be enjoyed. His vibrant personality and energetic means of extracting the best out of those closest to him makes him a true treasure to teammates and fans alike. Although he’s spent the majority of the 2016 season on the Chicago Cubs’ AAA team, he hasn’t left the limelight altogether. That’s due in part to the fact that Kawasaki is still the same guy as portrayed across social media. It’s not an act, and hardly meant to deceive. With the interviews and performances he’s capable of, why wouldn’t he be a mainstay on news stations and internet boards. The man is a one of a kind, and a refreshing figure that the entire sports community can appreciate.

 

Follow Munenori Kawasaki on Twitter @MuneKawasakiWB

Written by Athlete CRUSH Staff

Posted 6 September 2016