Munenori Kawasaki's personality a perfect fit for Joe Maddon's Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon summed up his leadership style in two sentences Friday before the Cubs played their Cactus League home opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

“I don’t want to take things too serious,” Maddon said. “Just serious enough.”

The Cubs alternate between light and serious moments on a daily basis. At the beginning of every day comes a light one, usually coordinated by strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss. Friday might have been the best moment of the spring as infielder and funnyman Munenori Kawasaki took center stage.

“He’s definitely one of my favorites,” third baseman Kris Bryant said later in the day. “He’s hilarious. [Team] Stretch was dedicated to him.”

Kawasaki performed Aerosmith’s "I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing" in front of the entire team, and then during warmups, his teammates wore headbands with Japanese sayings on them.

“I like movies,” Kawasaki said. “I saw 'Armageddon' 33 times.”

Kawasaki is referring to the movie that has the Aerosmith song as its theme -- and the sayings on those headbands?

“They’re energy words,” he explained. “Means No.1 and fighting spirit and [must win].”

If there were ever a player who was a perfect fit for a Maddon-led team, it’s Kawasaki. He endears himself to everyone he’s around, both with his smile and his honest but comedic attempts at fitting in with his new culture. He's serious and funny at the same time.

“You have to have a guy that isn’t afraid to do those kinds of things,” Maddon said. “He loves karaoke. We’ve been planning this for a bit, and of course it got more inappropriate as we went along, which made it even better.”

Bryant added: “That guy is hilarious. You know what’s so cool about him? He really tries to learn.”

As he’s learning English and the way things are done in the United States, he’s having fun at the same time. That’s right up Maddon’s alley. Even though Kawasaki has a small chance to make the Cubs, he’s making a big impact in an already loose clubhouse.

“It’s a tough song, but I tried my best,” Kawasaki said. “Everyone is happy, Kawasaki is happy. Everyone had good energy.”