Masanori Murakami, Japan’s first major leaguer, is now the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ first athlete to act as a goodwill ambassador.
It is not that Japanese players do not support charities, but rather that they tend to do so quietly. Murakami said the subtle action of Japanese players is related to traditional aversions to standing out in a crowd.
“If someone takes a leadership role, there are still people who will feel envious and be critical,” Murakami said Saturday. “But that’s an old way of thinking. Times have changed.”
Murakami cites Major League Baseball’s annual Clemente Award as a way of encouraging social contribution Japan lacks.
The award, first given in 1971 and called the Commissioner’s Award, is meant to honor the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.