2015 was a great ride for the Toronto Blue Jays. After 22 years of hearing fake war stories, complaints about the spending of the Yankees and Red Sox, and a long series of odd management moves, the team finally emerged from the shadows and landed in the postseason. There were a number of key deadline acquisitions that helped to make this happen.
As fans, we wished that this team could be held together for one more run at it. Realistically, we knew it wasn’t possible, but we hoped against hope that they could find the money to bring everyone back for another kick at the can.
Alas, reality set in, and it became clear that not everyone would be back with the 2016 Jays. The saddest day of all for fans was when we learned that one of our beloved had left the cozy confines of the Skydome (aka Rogers Centre) to ply his trade in one of the most iconic stadiums in baseball, for one of the most storied franchises. He had only been with us a short time, but his impact to the team will never be forgotten.
I am of course referring to none other than Munenori Kawasaki, of bush party fame. His rise to stardom with the Jays was inevitable from the time he emerged. He was the perfect star for a Toronto team in need of someone to cheer for. Toronto has a long history of valuing character, grit and determination above all else. The town that revered Tie Domi and scores of others who toiled in anonymity elsewhere was the perfect place for Muni to announce his presence. He is the epitome of the old line from the movie Major League: you don’t have to do something good to be famous. You just have to do it colourfully.
Other people may remember the bat flip, but for me, the lasting memory of the 2015 season was Muni during the celebration trying to bridge the gap with a rather persistent reporter. “I’m drunk. English too hard. Speak Japanese please” was the perfect way to capture the emotion of the moment for a team that had waited 22 years for playoff success.
Farewell, Muni. Judging by the ovation every time you appeared on the field in Toronto, you will be missed by a great many fans. May you always keep smiling, and keep the bush fires going. Just don’t light up the ivy at Wrigley.