Like many a baseball player in Japan, Munenori Kawasaki looks up to Japanese baseball legend Ichiro Suzuki. But Kawsasaki has been especially well known for his unflinching support of the future Hall of Famer. Even during his younger days of playing the sport in Kagoshima his style was compared to that of Ichiro.

Years later, on 21 August it would seem the stars aligned just right for Kawasaki as he found himself on the field just as Ichiro made his 4,000th professional hit in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. But Kawasaki’s pure enthusiasm that night might have even eclipsed his hero’s milestone.

Just as Ichiro was making the transition to Major League Baseball back in 2001 as a Seattle Mariner, Kawasaki started his career as a Japanese professional. He went on to have a successful career in Japan even being called upon to join the national team for the Olympics and WBC.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Kawasaki got the call from Seattle to join their minor league team. Unfortunately, he had very little playing time with the Mariners as a teammate of Ichiro before his idol was traded to the Yankees.

Later that year, he was released from Seattle himself and got picked up by Toronto in 2013. For most of the season he played for their AAA team occasionally filling in for disabled starters. As luck would have it, Kawasaki was to start just as Ichiro and the Yankees rolled into town right when he was expected to make his 4,000th career hit.

At the bottom of the first inning, Ichiro grounded it into left field and easily hustled it to first base as if he’d done it 4,000 times before. Then the Yankee bench cleared as the team came out to congratulate him while Kawasaki watched on applauding, just happy to be there. Ichiro then gave a modest bow to the crowd and got back to the game.

While it’s a great achievement that puts Ichiro in the rarified air of Pete Rose and Ty Cobb for career hits, the real story was going on behind the scenes as Kawasaki gets his hands on the 4,000-ball.

As seen around the 01:30-mark in the video below, in a truly endearing moment Kawasaki gets the milestone ball passed to him on the way back to the mound. He wound up to make the throw but then thought better about the opportunity. He rubbed the ball with both hands for a brief moment when an umpire told him to hurry up and throw it. He gives it a final clutch with both hands and finally lets it go. Watching Kawasaki’s face light up when he finally does throw the ball is a priceless little moment.

Soon after the 4,000th hit, Ichiro stole second which just happened to be where Kawasaki was standing. In yet another touching moment (around 2:38 – 2:48 in the video) we can see Ichiro give his fan a little fist bump action.

Unfortunately, Kawasaki and his Blue Jays lost this game, and he still has work to do to solidify his position in Major League Baseball. Nevertheless, we’re pretty sure he went home with a smile that night.

And in a sport that’s constantly throwing us reasons to be cynical these days, it’s refreshing and encouraging to see moments of sincerity like this however momentary they are.

Source: YouTube – NBA MLB, Jpn Sporta, swim ming
Original Article by Megumi Sawai
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