Sometimes I find myself wishing that I liked baseball more. I long for that nostalgic tinge that seems to creep into the voices of our parents’ generations when they sit back and recount their days listening to grand voices telling grand tales of athletic triumph. But it’s just not there for me. I love watching baseball live, sitting in the ballpark and hearing the cracking of the bat and the popping of the catcher’s glove as he frames one right into the strike zone, Picassoing painted-black pitch into a wild, celebratory strike call from an official.
But watching the game on TV leaves me empty. Tired. Exhausted from closeups of Jim Leyland staring blandly ahead and of Mike Trout’s 11th cup adjustment in the last three innings, I usually find myself channel surfing right past such milquetoast entertainment in favor of something better. (*Author’s note: take, for instance, my recent fascination with the cinematic genius of Sharktopus on the SyFy channel.)
But there’s a new power rising to the North and to the East. A brand of glitz, glamour, and high-octane entertainment worthy of its own Fast and Furious spinoff movie. If you don’t know who I’m talking about yet, you must have missed the freshest breath of air in baseball since Rollie Fingers’ mustache hit a Worlds of Fun loop the loop right across his grinning face or Brian Wilson opened his mouth.
His name is Munenori Kawasaki. And he’s batting .215 for the Toronto Bluejays. Obviously it’s not the stats that have made him one of most watchable, charismatic, and inane players to watch this year. It’s the Tumblrs. And the GIFS. And the outrageous interviews that leave my jaw unhinged and my curiosity piqued.
For instance, here’s a GIF of him warming up. Or more like: warming up?
While this kind of exercising clearly isn’t helping his batting average it does make him the most interesting man in baseball. If that GIF alone isn’t enough to send you sprinting to the internet to buy a Kawasaki Blue Jays jersey, then check out the interview of the year. This is moments after driving in the game winning run for his team:
Now, let’s pretend for an instant that you’re a jaded cynic (*Author’s note: welcome to the club!) and that you are skeptical of anything that’s gaining this much meme-steam. Let’s pretend you’re not a huge fan of baseball, or sports-related internet phenomenons — which Munenori is fast becoming. That’s fine. But let’s think for a minute of something that everyone loves. A cross-cultural, boundary-shattering piece of delicious hilarity. Bad dancing. Ladies and gentleman of the Burnpoetry jury, I would like to submit for your approval: Exhibit K.
How does he not have his own reality show on E! yet? Or his own 30 For 30? This little gem is from last year when he was playing for the Seattle Mariners.
What’s that? You were hoping for more dancing? Crank up the funk!
What’s that? You were hoping for some awkward, slow, dude-on-dude dogpiling? You weren’t? Too bad!
So you can see, this is why, if it was up to me, Munenori Kawasaki would be the leading vote-getter for the MLB All-Star Game this summer. He would get to host the home run derby, challenge any and all competitors to a recklessly impassioned danceoff to ’80s music, and probably sing the national anthem before that bad boy kicked off. Or at least let him sing O! Canada.
My final plea to Bud Selig, a desperate last-ditch effort to get people to tune into the All-Star game at Citi Field: at least let Kawasaki have a pre-game special where that is strictly him reacting to the tattoos of other players.
Baseball’s ratings have been in a steady decline over the past few years, and the sport has suddenly blundered into a goldmine of infectious enthusiasm? You have a guy that is somehow an American Hero, even though he’s a Japanese dude playing for a Canadian team? You have to capitalize. Your move, Bud Selig.