It started inauspiciously enough. In March, 2013, Kawasaki signed with a minor-league deal with Toronto after one less-than-stellar season with the Seattle Mariners, and began the season at Triple-A Buffalo. But after starting shortstop Jose Reyes was injured, Kawasaki was called up to the big club and shortly became the first Japanese-born position player to appear with the Jays.
However, that doesn’t explain how a light-hitting utility infielder became a cult hero in Toronto.
It began with a postgame interview after Kawasaki helped propel Toronto to a win in late April.
And with that interview, a sports star was born.
Later that year, Kawasaki helped stretch a winning streak to nine games with his first, and so far, only Major League home run.
Despite not playing much, fans and teammates all seemed to gravitate to his love for the game and sunny disposition. When he was sent back down to the minors later that year, his teammates were quick to express their admiration for Kawasaki.
Kawasaki’s stay in the minors would be short-lived, and after his recall the hits off the field were much more prominent than on it.
Despite not playing a very large part in the Jays first postseason appearance in 22 years, his postgame interviews became must-see TV.
Upon learning that his time in Toronto was over, fans quickly jumped on social media to express their appreciation.
'Bye, Munenori Kawasaki. I'll always remember you for that awesome play you made....wait. NVM, I'll miss bowing at you when you're at bat.'— Adrian Lee (@AdrianKLee) January 21, 2016
So farewell Munenori Kawasaki, who led the @BlueJays in dance moves. Wrigley Field's ivy is a great spot for a bush party— Derek Raymaker (@draymaker) January 21, 2016
Even Mayor John Tory chimed in.
It seems Kawasaki shared the city’s love for him. Here are his parting words to the fans.
I am really excited to join the Chicago Cubs organization starting next season.And at the same time, I would truly like to thank...(1/2)— ムネリン通信〜川﨑宗則〜 (@MuneKawasakiWB) January 21, 2016
the Blue Jays organization, the city of Toronto,Buffalo and the fans!I had such a great time playing there and will miss you guys a lot(2/2)— ムネリン通信〜川﨑宗則〜 (@MuneKawasakiWB) January 21, 2016
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