Mune’s Stamp of Approval! New Foreigner Hague Already a Japanese Master
MLB free agent Munenori Kawasaki (34) opened his workout to the public in Fukuoka City on the 19th and gave newly acquired Hanshin Tigers foreigner (with the Blue Jays) Matt Hague (30) his stamp of approval. He praised not only his former teammate’s baseball playing ability but his cheerful personality – a double approval. He even revealed that his old mate has been working on his Japanese in anticipation of his arrival in Japan.
Kawasaki is a guy who has crossed paths with a lot of players, so his word can absolutely be trusted. During his training session in Fukuoka, he sang the new Tiger import’s praises.
“Yeah, Matt. When the deal was sealed with the Tigers, I was as excited as if it had happened to myself. I think the Hanshin players can learn a lot from Matt, too. I think they got themselves a good player.”
Hague and Kawasaki played together for the Blue Jays organization last season.
We ate sushi together and got along fine off the field.” He’s not just excited for his mate, but sure that he’ll put up good numbers in Japan. “He’s got skill enough to catch the eyes of Hanshin scouts, so it’s obvious he has talent.”
There’s no questioning his ability as he shone last season, amassing the most hits in the league (177). But the recommendation goes beyond that to his personality.
“He’s a great guy, too. Really cheerful. Really chipper but really serious, too.”
According to Kawasaki, Hague started showing an interest in Japan during last season. “He would always come and ask me questions like ‘What’s Japan like?’” He didn’t just gather data though, but picked up a few Japanese phrases while the two of them talked.
“I taught him. Well, it’s not so much that I taught him as that I just speak Japanese. He just listened to what I was saying and mimicked it, Matt did.”
His success will hinge on whether or not he can adapt to his new environment. In some cases, that is even more important than ability. We can’t help but wonder what words he was taught by the bubbly dancing character who captured the hearts of fans across America. “Kono yaro- (you fool!) and stuff like that.” He hides the true answer with a joke. “I’m excited to find out which words he remembered,” he smirks. He’s looking forward to seeing the fruit of his labors. That’s how confident the teacher is that his student will make it in Japan.
“But if he learned any dirty words, I told him ‘Don’t tell them “Kawasaki taught me that.” Tell them it was Tanaka, Darvish, Aoki. All your clean Japanese came from Kawasaki.’”
He ended with a rare serious comment. His future is up in the air, but as he opened up his hitting, fielding and sliding practice to the public, he said, “My body is in great shape. This is the best I’ve ever felt.” If talking about his good friend can make Mune even more hyper than usual, we know we’ve got a nice guy on our hands.