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"I AM JAPANESE!" A Profile Of Cubs Infielder Munenori Kawasaki

A funny man for all seasons.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Munenori Kawasaki was born on June 3, 1981, in Aira, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. He is 34 years old. He played for 11 years in Japan, with what was then known as the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (they are now the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks).

Kawasaki was mostly unknown on the national level during his high school career, possibly due to his team's failing to make any national tournaments in those three years, but he made a name for himself locally, earning the nickname Satsurō, a portmanteau derived from Satsuma (the name given to a former province of Japan in present-day western Kagoshima) and Ichiro Suzuki's first name for the similarities in their playing styles. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 1999 NPB amateur draft by the Hawks.

In his rookie season, he earned the starting shortstop job on the minor-league team, hitting .300 (good for fifth in his league). He debuted in the ichiban, the Japanese Major League, the following year, going hitless in four at-bats after stealing 29 bases in the minors. In 2002, he hit .367 and won the batting title, again appearing in the ichiban in September. He also played on the Japanese National Team that year.

In 2003, he started for the first time in NPB, and stayed there for eight years, with good results, performing as a member of the winning team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic (he also played on the 2009 team) and being selected for the 2008 Japanese Olympic team (he missed playing due to injury). He averaged over .300 during his Japanese career, and could be described as a star player.

He made his way to the USA in 2012 on a minor-league deal and eventually played 61 games for the Seattle Mariners. He was released after the season and was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays. He spent his years with Toronto shuttling between Triple-A Buffalo and Toronto. It is said that a good deal of Kawasaki's value is intangible. He is known to be possessed of quite the sense of humor and has a variety of non-baseball skills like singing and stand-up comedy.

He was a fan favorite in Toronto, where he didn't play very much. In 2016, he came to the Cubs, and has already made his presence felt. He has also been released and re-signed. His role is insurance against injury and late-inning defensive replacement.

He's on the Major League team right now, but that's subject to change. It depends on what the Cubs' needs are as far as players and pitching -- he is likely to be replaced on the club by Javier Baez when Javy returns from a minor-league stint.

At 5-10 and 175 lbs, Kawasaki is not a power threat, and his stolen-base potential is somewhat limited due to his age. Here is his baseball-reference page and his Fangraphs page, for playing data. He has one son, Issho, was born on August 16, 2013, in Toronto. His idol is Ichiro Suzuki. He wore No. 51 in Japan as a tribute to Ichiro.

You could spend an entire day on his YouTube Topic channel, and it would be a day full of laughter and good feelings. Here's the video from which the headline of this profile is derived:

Let's enjoy him while he's here. I don't want to miss a thing.