Gerardo Parra Hopes ‘Baby Shark’ Magic Can Bring a Title in Japan, Too


Amid all the brand new security protocols and uncommon scenes after the delayed opening of Japan’s baseball league, a extremely unscientific but intriguing multicultural examine is underway: Can a Venezuelan participant who grew to become the emotional soul of an American franchise’s first championship run ship comparable leads to 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 youngsters’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 within the main leagues, Parra signed with the Yomiuri Giants after they approached him in November. Despite the lengthy layoff and the adjustment to a brand new nation, Parra is off to a effective begin.

He obtained a success on opening evening after his supervisor challenged a detailed out name at first base on a ball Parra had bounced to shortstop. With no followers within the stands, it might have made for a clumsy debut for his “Baby Shark” dance. The second produced solely a silent alternate 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 rejoice singles.

A much bigger second got here in Game No. 2. As the Giants broke open a detailed contest within the seventh inning towards the Hanshin Tigers, Parra blasted a chest-high pitch that clunked off an empty seat within the right-field stands for a three-run home run. He was delighted with each the outcome 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 home runs and has began in proper area in eight of their video games, however they didn’t signal him for his home 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 abilities, 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 crammed 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 within the dance that 1000’s of Nationals followers fortunately carried out final 12 months.

Credit…Yomiuri Giants

With 22 Japan Series titles, probably the most of any franchise, the Giants are Japan’s model of the Yankees, however they might use an additional dose of inspiration. They haven’t gained a title in seven seasons, their longest drought since one other seven-season dearth that led to 1989. In final 12 months’s Japan Series, they have been swept in 4 video games by the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks with out holding a lead for a full inning.

Even with no followers in stadiums after a 91-day delay of the season due to the coronavirus, the Giants are enjoying walk-up music within the empty Tokyo Dome at home video games. Once once more, Parra is stepping to the plate to the tune from Pinkfong, the Korean academic leisure firm.

“I can’t change the music now because it’s emotion for me,” Parra mentioned. “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 precisely that in Washington. Parra was launched by San Francisco in May 2019 after a sluggish begin, and signed with a Nationals workforce that had stumbled to a 19-31 file. He had been stepping to the plate to the reggaeton observe “Contra La Pared,” by Sean Paul and J. Balvin, however earlier than a doubleheader towards Philadelphia on June 19, he modified it on a whim.

“In the morning, my kids say, ‘Daddy, I want to listen to “Baby Shark,”’ so I put it on my telephone and we dance within the house for like three hours,” mentioned Parra, who estimated he had switched his walk-up music greater than 20 occasions in his profession. “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 workforce have been skeptical, however when Parra noticed how youngsters and adults reacted, he determined to maintain it. “I never seen kids and adults happy together like that before,” he recalled. “It’s beautiful when you see that.”

The power of the tune, coupled with Parra’s charisma, ultimately seeped into the clubhouse and helped construct a camaraderie that grew to become a central story line within 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 mentioned.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

In commemorating the franchise’s first World Series, the Nationals’ entrance workplace affirmed what the Yomiuri Giants hope to seize. Inside the shank of the championship ring they unveiled in a digital occasion, 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 mentioned, 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 couldn’t be together with his teammates within the United States when the workforce unveiled the ring design, he was touched to listen to {that a} member of the Lerner household, which owns the workforce, was planning to fly to Tokyo to ship his ring.

The pandemic has suspended these plans, however the Giants hope that at any time when Parra will get his Nationals ring, a second one gained’t be far behind.