BY WES ARMSTRONG – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
This has been a very good year for MLB baseball fans in Japan. Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish is leading the MLB in strikeouts, Hisashi Iwakuma is turning in a career season for the Seattle Mariners, and Norichika Aoki of the Brewers may hit .300. However, arguably the most beloved Japanese player of them all right now is former Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and current Toronto Blue Jays infielder Munenori Kawasaki.
Editor’s note: Wes Armstrong is a Canadian currently teaching and living in Japan.
Legions of Toronto Blue Jays fans have been chanting his name, “Ka-wa-sa-ki” at any baseball stadium the Jays go. His fun-loving attitude and energy are infectious and they blur the armchair baseball fan’s vision from his actual numbers on the playing field (.213 AVG, one home run, 20 RBIs). Therefore, when the Blue Jays optioned him to triple-A Buffalo a couple of days ago in order to call up Brett Lawrie, this came as no surprise to baseball fans who crunch the numbers. But it was a sad time for the many “Mune-natics”.
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Without getting into a debate about the tangible versus intangible elements that Kawasaki brings to the Blue Jays I thought that now that he is in Buffalo (again), just a short time after his late game heroics created excitement and optimism for Blue Jays fans, it would be a good idea for me to take advantage of my current position as an English teacher in Japan to see what some of my students think of Munenori-san. For readability sake, I will include just the paraphrased quotations from students rather than the full text of what was said.
Question 1: What do you think of Munenori Kawasaki?
“He loves Ichiro. He wants to be Ichiro. That’s why he went to Seattle. But it was difficult for him. Now he’s on their farm, Toronto.”
I explained to this friendly, salt-and-pepper haired engineer that Toronto has a Major League team and isn’t Seattle’s farm team, and he responded with, “No, no, no. It is joke. You always joke. Toronto is Canada.” Ergo there are no Major League Baseball teams in Canada. In fairness to him, I once told this class that I kept a bear as a pet. They haven’t let me live it down.
“I don’t like baseball. It isn’t interesting.”
“He played for the Softbank Hawks.”
“Now that he’s in America, he’s a comedian. In Japan, he was a serious man.” I explained that he actually plays for a Canadian team. “Really? Canada has a Major League team? Is it American League, National League?” I answer “American League.” His reply? “Why? Canada is not America! It is joke. You are funny guy.”
Question 2: What do you think of Munenori Kawasaki being sent down to triple-A Buffalo?
“Why? He must be Toronto’s best player.”
“Hmmmm… that is difficult to answer.”
“Kawasaki? He wasn’t on the Buffaloes (an Osaka-based Japanese baseball team’s name), he was on the Hawks.”
Well, there you have it folks. Toronto Blue Jays sensation, Munenori Kawasaki through the eyes of random English students in Japan.