Jays backup shortstop Munenori Kawasaki has become even more of a fan favourite after Sunday’s game.
The Toronto Blue Jays trailed the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 in the ninth inning when Kawasaki stepped up to bat and hit a fastball pitch to centre-left field, bringing in J.P. Arencibia from third and Mark DeRosa from first.
The hit won the game for the Jays and earned the Japanese player, who joined the team this year, a standing ovation.
After the game, Kawasaki gave an on-field interview where, with the help of a Japanese-English phrase book, he said: “Thank you very much. My name is Munenori Kawasaki. I am from Japan. I am Japanese! My teammates give me an opportunity so I wanted to do something about it.”
His victory speech was cut short, however, as his teammates pied him and doused him with Gatorade.
The antics continued in the clubhouse, reports the National Post, where a Japanese reporter was on-hand to help Kawasaki translate, but he preferred to speak in English, saying his heroics made him: “Very, very, very happy.” And adding: “I’m Japanese. Next, please.”
Kawasaki’s presence on the team has been a bright spot in an otherwise poor season for Jays fans, who used social media to celebrate their favourite player after his winning hit.