Behold, dear readers, a post about sports that does not directly have to do with race issues. This may be the only one I ever write, so treasure this while it lasts.
As people who know me know, I don’t really watch professional sports. Heck, I’ve watched way more StarCraft II matches than I ever have actual sports games. The truth is, though, that I have watched a lot of Blue Jays baseball.
It’s partly because my granddad always has it on during and after dinner, and partly because I’ve really gotten invested in the state of my team. We recently had an 11 game winning streak, and I’ve found myself looking forward more and more to each game.
One of the reasons for this was Numenori Kawasaki.
I’m talking to a friend about him right now, and he’s right in saying that Kawasaki isn’t the best player; that’s a fact I am more than willing to admit. While he only just hit his first and only home run in the major league this past Friday, he added much more to the team than runs. Kawasaki added heart.
Believe you me, I realize how ridiculous and cheesy that sounds, but what you need to realize is how goofy and cheerful this guy is. For one thing, there’s the fact that the man had absolutely no shame when it came to stretching before [and during] a game:
And that he was more than willing to engage in a victory dance to celebrate their winning streak:
And that when signing autographs he would state, very manner of factly, “I’m Japanese”:
And that the guy bowed so much that his fellow Jays had taken up the custom in the dugout:
Add all that to the fact that he is a pretty decent shortstop. I am not a man who knows his sports terminology, or who is well-versed in how skilled an athlete is, but Kawasaki could definitely whip that ball to second base.
Going back to my third paragraph, you may have noticed how I said “One of the reasons for this was Numenori Kawasaki.” I used the past tense deliberately, because as of yesterday he was sent back to Triple-A Buffalo due to the return of shortstop Jose Reyes who has recovered from a leg injury. As the article I just linked to would indicate, he will be sorely missed. Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle speaks for a lot of people when he says, “Between the fans and the guys in here, everybody’s fallen in love with this guy.”
His departure is such that Blue Jays manager John Gibbons actually held a team meeting to announce Kawasaki’s departure, which is not at all common for most players.
Before I stop stealing quotes from that article from The Star, allow me to share his parting words, which he delivered through a Japanese interpreter:
“It’s not as if I’ve died. I’m still a baseball player. It’s just that tomorrow the field will be different. I’m still around and I’m still here to help the team when they need it. And it’s been a terrific experience and I really appreciate everybody — and I love everybody.”
From watching dozens of games I’ve noticed how much life he brought to the dugout, and the huge grins he elicited just by being around. He never let his very limited English stop him from interacting with the other players, and you could just tell how much they loved having him on the team. On top of that, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the fans in the
Rogers Centre Sky Dome cheer a name like they would cheer his.