• Kyodo


With Japan facing the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of former baseball players from overseas have been hitting social media with public service messages for a country that captured their hearts.

So far over 20 former players have posted videos online in coordination with the Japan Retired Foreign Player Association, reminding Japanese fans of the things they need to do as individuals to defeat the coronavirus.

"I was thinking, we need some awareness, so let's get the guys to do some videos," JRFPA founder William Brooks said Thursday by telephone.

Matt Winters, a popular left-handed slugger for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and currently a scout for the club, put his message across with the help of a magic demonstration on the value of hand-washing.

"Japan's my adopted country," he said. "You can worry about (when baseball will start) but there's a bigger worry."

Carlos Mirabal, who pitched for the Fighters from 2000-05, was one of the founding members along with late Hanshin Tigers great Gene Baque, and was eager to contribute.

"William talked to me about it, and he sent an email out to everybody, saying it would be good to put out a 1-minute or 45-second video, giving your support for the fans in Japan," Mirabal said.

"He started posting them. Twitter seems to be getting the most views, and the Hanshin Tigers (players) seem to be getting lots of views."

Indeed, former Tigers have been well represented with Matt Murton and Craig Brazell joining big names from the previous decade — George Arias, Matt Williams and Trey Moore — and one from the decade before that, Tom O'Malley.

The videos are being posted on the JRFPA's Twitter feed, Instagram account and Facebook page. The messages are from players who loved their time here and who want Japan to be safe — even if that means sacrificing for the good of the team.

In his unscripted video, Mirabal reminds viewers it is all right to stay home and do one's part for the safety of others, "keeping our distance and doing the proper things we're told to do."

"This is like a team and there are times when the coach asks you to sit on the bench," he said.

Brooks, a longtime Tigers fan, founded the organization in 2018 with the help of Mirabal and Baque. Since then he's promoted visits that allowed the former players to interact with fans and rekindle the relationship they once enjoyed here in uniform.

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