Toronto Blue Jays: Kawasaki and T.O.’s love of unorthodox sports heroes

TORONTO, CANADA - AUGUST 3: Munenori Kawasaki
TORONTO, CANADA - AUGUST 3: Munenori Kawasaki /
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Toronto Blue Jays
TORONTO, CANADA – AUGUST 3: Munenori Kawasaki /

Whether it’s the Toronto Blue Jays or any of the other local professional teams, Southern Ontario sports fans have always embraced the underdog.

It looks like former Toronto Blue Jays fan-favourite Munenori Kawasaki will retire, after a 17-year career split between the MLB and the Japanese League. The light-hitting infielder played three seasons in Toronto, registering a mediocre .242 average, a .326 OBP, and one home run in 201 games – yet he carved out a permanent place in the hearts of Blue Jays fans.

Although he never contributed much on the field, the now 36-year-old won over Torontonians with his dugout antics,

His sweet dance moves:

And of course the infamous “bush party” declaration:

Down at the Rogers Centre you still see number 66 Kawasaki jerseys scattered throughout the stadium. The Japanese infielder will likely never make the “Level of Excellence”, but there is certainly a contingent of fans who would argue he should.

When Kawasaki came to the plate he was routinely greeted with fans chanting his name (an honour usually reserved for MVPs like Josh Donaldson, or All-Stars like Jose Bautista).

Maybe the Kawasaki love affair is due to his “go out there and get it done” attitude.

“Dont think – Just swing, just throw, just catch, just win,” he said during a sideline report with Hazel Mae and Buck Martinez after the Toronto Blue Jays won the 2016 AL Wild Card Game.

Even Red Sox legend David Ortiz was a fan of the him. Boston’s slugger embraced Kawasaki at third base during a game against the Blue Jays, later telling Sportsnet‘s Barry Davis, “that’s my boy.”

Toronto sports fans seem to gravitate towards these Kawasaki-like players; the grinders, the husslers, the journeyman, the unusual suspects.

With this in mind, here is a look at a few of those odd heroes who have become legends in Toronto sports folklore.