Japanese Americans in Baseball

By Kerry Yo Nakagawa.

Through a Diamond was a metaphor for looking through the prism of baseball and discovering our culture, family legacies and the soul of our ancestors. Whether your grandpa, grandma, father, uncle or aunt played the game or not; the pioneering spirit and stories of our past and living treasures must be passed on and preserved.

Recently I was honored to share our American baseball roots with fifteen million students via a satellite classroom at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Former Negro League legend of the Kansas City Monarchs, Buck O’Neil, Sharon Robinson (Jackie’s daughter), Roberto Clemente Jr. and President of the Hall of Fame Dale Petrosky, were all part of this historic program.

The Hall of Fame is embarking on a ten city tour for the first time with an exhibit called “Baseball As America.” Showcased in one of the icon display cases is the original wooden home plate from Zenimura Field at Gila River and a San Fernando Ace uniform representing four generations (Prewar, Manzanar, Postwar, and current legacy yonsei players).

ESPN Sports featured our Internment history and how baseball was a positive savior for internees with their program, “Outside the Lines.” It is now being considered for an Emmy award.

Ichiro Suzuki is the MVP winner of major league baseball and the Cool Papa Bell recipient from the Negro League Museum. He was given the opportunity to compete and showcased his world class heart and skills to America. He validates our prewar Nisei ballplayers like Jimmy Horio, Sai Towata, Johnny Nakagawa, Lefty Honda, George Aratani, Wally Yonamine and many others. They could have played major league baseball seventy years ago...but never got the call or the chance. The baseball pendulum is swinging in a very positive way for Japanese Nationals and Japanese Americans inside and outside the lines.

Enjoy the moments and stories of our Issei and Nisei heroes that made it possible for todays and tomorrows generations to excel in every capacity.

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