Show of respect: Blue Jays hold team meeting to announce demotion of Munenori Kawasaki

In a sign of respect and appreciation you don't often see in professional sports, the Toronto Blue Jays held an impromptu team meeting on Wednesday to announce the demotion of shortstop Munenori Kawasaki to Triple-A Buffalo.

Kawasaki's demotion was made necessary by the return of all-star shortstop Jose Reyes, but rather than allow the popular player to vanish overnight or clean out his locker in the presence of disappointed teammates, the Toronto Star reports that manager John Gibbons decided to bring his team together so they could all give Kawasaki the send-off he deserved and earned over his 60 game tenure.

“I’ve never seen that,” said Buehrle, a veteran of more than 14 seasons. “Usually you come in the next day and look at the guy’s locker and say, ‘Oh, that guy got sent down, this guy’s coming up.’”

It wasn't necessarily Kawasaki's play that made him so popular with his teammates and Jays fans, though he did come through with a game-winning double on May 26 and hit his first career home run in a critical spot during a dramatic win this past weekend — both coming over the Baltimore Orioles. It was the moments he was a part off of the field that not only showcased his entertaining personality, but helped bring the Blue Jays together at a time when their season was spiraling.

Of course that really began with the interview after the Baltimore victory in May.

But there was also the unusual stretching techniques, the playing catch with fans at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, and the Kawasaki victory dance he debuted on their flight to Tampa.

That doesn't cover everything, but it does go to show that if you love the game and allow your teammates and fans to see your real personality, you'll earn their respect in a heartbeat. That's a big part of earning acceptance at the big league level. Unfortunately, though, results are a bigger part of the equation, and respect doesn't lead to results, which is why Toronto had to free up Kawasaki's roster spot.

No one understands that more than Kawasaki, and not surprisingly his parting words were every bit as positive and classy as you'd expect.

“It’s not as if I’ve died,” he said through a Japanese interpreter following Tuesday’s game. “I’m still a baseball player. It’s just that tomorrow the field will be different. I’m still around and I’m still here to help the team when they need it. And it’s been a terrific experience and I really appreciate everybody — and I love everybody.”

Beaming wide, Kawasaki thanked the fans in Toronto as well as his teammates for their support.

“I can’t believe it. I absolutely can’t believe the way I’ve been accepted by the players here and by the fans. This one strange Japanese guy to come here and be accepted the way he has has really been an unbelievable experience.”

The more we see and hear from Munenori Kawasaki, the easier he is to like. For the love of baseball, I hope he's back in the big leagues soon.

Big BLS H/N: Larry Brown Sports

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