You don’t have to be a baseball fan to be a fan of arguably Japan’s greatest export to the sport.
With the 2017 baseball season underway, it’s hard not to notice something severely lacking. Now a gaping void stands that was once filled by the undeniably bright character of Munenori Kawasaki, also known as “Munerin” in Japan.
Certainly a capable player, as anyone who can make the transition from Japanese to American baseball is, but Munerin is better known through his role as what the Japanese call a “mood maker,” which refers to the guy who can liven up the spirits of everyone on the team.
When it comes to mood making, Kawasaki is a sure-fire hall-of-famer putting smiles on not only his own team, but all players, fans, and reporters. Even back when he had a very limited grasp of English he was winning over fans with interviews such as this.
▼ “I love Blue Jays. I love Toronto. Thank you. I love Michael Jordan.”
However, after an adventurous five years in the Majors witnessing Ichiro’s 4,000th career hit and being a part of the Chicago Cubs during the year of their historic World Series win, Kawasaki has now returned to the SoftBank Hawks in Fukuoka where he started off.
Sadly, upon returning to Japan, this would mean an end to his famous English interviews…or would it?
As luck would have it, Nick Szasz of the multilingual media outlet Fukuoka Now caught up with the infielder for an English interview. Opening with the classic Munerin line of “I have two books” with which to study English, fans will be happy to see that not only is he maintaining his bilingualism, but he’s even more fluent than ever.
Kawasaki starts off by saying he hopes to bring a little western-style levity to Japanese pro-baseball, telling Szasz, “I bring back fun. Japan baseball good but too much serious. You know, Japanese guys. I wanna change Japanese guys’ mental, you know? American baseball is so happy, so have fun.”
In the midst of doing a few impersonations of Japanese managers as well as the Blue Jays’ field manager John Gibbons…
▼ [gravelly voice] “Ah John… Kawa come here… ah Kawa…”
Munerin offers a heartfelt message to everyone in his former home of Toronto: “Hi, how are you? I miss Toronto. My favorite place. I don’t forget Toronto. Everyday, Toronto, my heart inside. My heart Toronto OK? Don’t forget. See you soon! Take care you body, you mental, you happy. I hope you are enjoy your life.”
Hopefully another thing Kawasaki can bring back to Japan – and second language learners everywhere for that matter – is living proof of how confidence and enthusiasm can improve your communication skills just as much as diligent studying… even if you have two books.