Amid all the brand new security protocols and strange scenes after the delayed opening of Japan’s baseball league, a extremely unscientific but intriguing multicultural examine is underway: Can a Venezuelan participant who turned the emotional soul of an American franchise’s first championship run ship related outcomes in Japan together with his beloved Korean-produced youngsters’s music?
Nearly two weeks into Nippon Professional Baseball’s coronavirus-delayed season, the early outcomes are promising.
Gerardo Parra is remembered in Washington for utilizing the kids’s music “Baby Shark” to encourage a workforce and its fan base on the best way to the Nationals’ 2019 World Series championship. But whereas his walk-up music and on-base celebrations might have galvanized the workforce, his on-field manufacturing was mediocre, and the Nationals declined to re-sign him after his one-year contract expired.
With an more and more unkind free-agent market to veterans in the main leagues, Parra signed with the Yomiuri Giants once they approached him in November. Despite the lengthy layoff and the adjustment to a new nation, Parra is off to a wonderful begin.
He acquired a hit on opening night time after his supervisor challenged a shut out name at first base on a ball Parra had bounced to shortstop. With no followers in the stands, it could have made for an ungainly debut for his “Baby Shark” dance. The second produced solely a silent trade of gestures: the umpire overturning the decision with a sweeping extension of his arms after which Parra pinching his thumb and index finger collectively privately — simply as he and his Nationals teammates had completed in 2019 to have a good time singles.
A much bigger second got here in Game No. 2. As the Giants broke open a shut contest in the seventh inning towards the Hanshin Tigers, Parra blasted a chest-high pitch that clunked off an empty seat in the right-field stands for a three-run house run. He was delighted with each the end result and the response from his teammates.
“For this one, I do the big ‘Baby Shark’ dance,” Parra mentioned in a postgame telephone interview, referring to the chomping gesture made with each arms. “When I turned back and looked at the dugout, everybody do that. Everybody. I be happy for that, because when the team is together, everything is positive.”
The Giants lead the six-team Central League with a 6-2-1 begin. Parra is batting .286 with three house runs and has began in proper subject in eight of their video games, however they didn’t signal him for his house run prowess. He hit simply 88 in 11 U.S. main league seasons, together with eight for the Nationals final 12 months. The Japanese membership appreciated his strong profession batting common of .276 and his versatile protection, which incorporates two Gold Gloves and greater than 200 video games at every outfield place.
Beyond these expertise, it has been apparent since his signing that the Giants additionally embrace his contagious power.
At his introductory information convention in January, the Giants blared the identical tune that stuffed Nationals Park final 12 months all through the room. Everyone on the dais acquired a pair of blue-and-white Baby Shark hand puppets adorned with a Yomiuri cap in entrance of the dorsal fin.
Even Manager Tatsunori Hara slipped one on every hand and smiled broadly as he joined in the dance that thousands of Nationals fans happily performed last year.
With 22 Japan Series titles, the most of any franchise, the Giants are Japan’s version of the Yankees, but they could use an extra dose of inspiration. They haven’t won a title in seven seasons, their longest drought since another seven-season dearth that ended in 1989. In last year’s Japan Series, they were swept in four games by the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks without holding a lead for a full inning.
Even with no fans in stadiums after a 91-day delay of the season because of the coronavirus, the Giants are playing walk-up music in the empty Tokyo Dome at home games. Once again, Parra is stepping to the plate to the tune from Pinkfong, the Korean educational entertainment company.
“I can’t change the music now because it’s emotion for me,” Parra said. “It’s my life to see all the people and kids happy. Right now, we can’t see fans in the stadium, but I know they like it because they send me video and pictures by Instagram and everything. It brings energy, and we need that to help make a championship team here.”
He was credited with doing exactly that in Washington. Parra was released by San Francisco in May 2019 after a slow start, and signed with a Nationals team that had stumbled to a 19-31 record. He had been stepping to the plate to the reggaeton track “Contra La Pared,” by Sean Paul and J. Balvin, but before a doubleheader against Philadelphia on June 19, he changed it on a whim.
“In the morning, my kids say, ‘Daddy, I want to listen to “Baby Shark,”’ so I put it on my phone and we dance in the apartment for like three hours,” said Parra, who estimated he had switched his walk-up song more than 20 times in his career. “When I go to the stadium, I said, ‘Hey, I want to change the walk-up song.’ I never think I want to put ‘Baby Shark,’ but it was still on my phone and I kept hearing it. After so many times, I said: ‘You know what? That’s the song I’m going to use.’”
Some on the team were skeptical, but when Parra saw how children and adults reacted, he decided to keep it. “I never seen kids and adults happy together like that before,” he recalled. “It’s beautiful when you see that.”
The energy of the tune, coupled with Parra’s charisma, eventually seeped into the clubhouse and helped build a camaraderie that became a central story line in the Nationals’ title run.
“Of course, you have to play strong on the field, but when everyone is together like that in the clubhouse, everything is possible,” Parra said.
In commemorating the franchise’s first World Series, the Nationals’ front office affirmed what the Yomiuri Giants hope to capture. Inside the shank of the championship ring they unveiled in a virtual event, they included an etching of a shark holding the Commissioner’s Trophy to honor Parra’s emotional inspiration.
“Henry Blanco send me the video and I’m in shock — no talk, like ‘Wow,’” Parra said, referring to the Nationals’ bullpen coach. “That ring is beautiful, and now ‘Baby Shark’ is part of baseball for our life. It brings us together.”
While Parra could not be with his teammates in the United States when the team unveiled the ring design, he was touched to hear that a member of the Lerner family, which owns the team, was planning to fly to Tokyo to deliver his ring.
The pandemic has suspended those plans, but the Giants hope that whenever Parra gets his Nationals ring, a second one won’t be far behind.