Atlanta reunited: Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki runs into Carp mascot from his Japanese club

ATLANTA – Cubs president of baseball operation Jed Hoyer served as a middleman for the meeting.

After batting practice at Truist Park on Tuesday, a man in red track pants and a matching red t-shirt that read, “Mascot Security,” – Hoyer had complimented the shirt – asked if Seiya Suzuki had already gone in.

“He might not recognize me,” he added.

Because so many of the times they’d interacted before, the man’s face was covered by a furry blue mascot head piece.

Jacob Mosella served as the mascot for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, Suzuki’s club in Japan, in 2018, he said. Suzuki was a veteran at the time, having debuted in Nippon Professional Baseball in 2013 at 18 years old.

Now, Suzuki is in his rookie Major League Baseball season, having signed a five-year deal worth nearly $100 million, including the posting fee the Cubs owe to the Carp. And Mosella is the Braves’ mascot coordinator.

“I’m really happy because we’re both here at the same stage in the Major Leagues,” Suzuki told the Sun-Times through interpreter Toy Matsushita “… Seeing him here made me really happy. And surprised.”

Hoyer told Suzuki that Mosella was looking for him. On Tuesday, Mosella picked up a selection of Japanese snacks – matcha mochi, Pocky, wasabi peas – before the game, and Braves mascot Blooper delivered them to Suzuki on the field pregame. They got to catch up a bit more Wednesday during warmups.

“When I was there [in Japan],” Mosella said, “I was like, this guy will definitely go to MLB at some point.”

For Mosella, Japan presented an opportunity to get into pro sports, bridging his experience at the University of Alabama and his later work in the Braves organization. He was one of two people who served as Slyly, the Carp mascot, in 2018. Picture a blue version of the Philly Phanatic with a colorful mane.

Mascots stayed in the player dorms, so they all became friends, Suzuki said. He was out of the dorms by 2018, but the building had its own chef. So, according to Mosella, Suzuki would stop by for a meal now and again, sometimes pulling up a chair at the mascots’ table. Mosella spoke limited Japanese, but luckily his teammate was better versed in the language.

The Carp was the top team in the Central League that season. And when they clinched, Suzuki spotted Mosella and his mascot partner during the beer shower celebration. Peering through swim goggles, Suzuki pointed at them, strode across the room and doused them in beer.

“It was a cool moment to share,” Mosella said, “… It was like, these are guys who we hang out with every single day and now we’re getting to revel in the glory with them.”

Suzuki spent his whole NPB career with the Carp, becoming a five-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner, before making the move to MLB.

“When I’m playing over here and I hear all the fans cheering for me, I have that flashback to playing in Japan,” Suzuki said. “And I notice how great the fans were in Japan as well.”

Playing stateside was also the fulfillment of a longtime dream. Suzuki has made the transition look easy, winning NL Player of the Week 10 games into his MLB career. He’s cooled off a bit from a 12-game on-base streak and was still slashing .333/.458/.632 entering the series finale against the Braves on Thursday.

Mosella had this series circled. He’d get to see Suzuki again, and Blooper could lay the groundwork for a relationship and recurring bits with the emerging star.

“Maybe [next time],” Mosella said, “I can teach Blooper some Japanese.”

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