Munenori Kawasaki is so popular and beloved among his teammates that Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons actually held a team meeting on Tuesday to share the news of the infielder’s demotion. That’s something that rarely happens.
“I’ve never seen that,” veteran Mark Buehrle told the Toronto Star. “Usually you come in the next day and look at the guy’s locker and say, ‘Oh, that guy got sent down, this guy’s coming up.’”
Kawasaki was demoted because Jose Reyes returned to the team after missing over two months with a severely sprained ankle. Rather than keep the light-hitting Kawasaki as a bench player, the Jays decided to maintain their eight-man bullpen and option the Japanese infielder to Triple-A Buffalo.
The Star says that Kawasaki took news of his demotion well saying, “It’s not as if I’ve died,” and that he’ll continue to play ball, just on a different field.
Kawasaki became a cult hero because of his bubbly and humorous personality. His hilarious interview after hitting a walk-off 2-run double to beat the Baltimore Orioles in May went viral, as did a subsequent interview on MLB Network. Though he was only hitting .225 with one home run in 60 games with the Jays, Kawasaki had four doubles, four triples, seven stolen bases, and walked 24 times, giving him a respectable .337 OBP.
Kawasaki had another memorable moment last week when he hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot that tied the game against the Orioles in the seventh. The Jays won the game 7-6 to continue their winning streak.
“You feel for the kid,” Jays manager John Gibbons said Tuesday night, via The Star. “He did a tremendous job. But he’ll be back. Trust me on that one.”
The Star gave a sense of how important Kawasaki was to the team. They got reactions from multiple Blue Jays players who all shared their favorite Kawasaki moments. The paper also composed a list of the 13 reasons they’ll miss Kawasaki.
The move came at a delicate time; the Jays recently went on an 11-game winning streak to get to .500 for the first time all season. They have a winning record and know that messing with the team’s chemistry can be tricky. Let’s hope for their sake that the move won’t hurt the team. With Reyes coming back, you figure they should only receive a boost.
Below is a video of one of Kawasaki’s funny interviews from before his demotion: