Through a Diamond: Kerry Yo Nakagawa and the impact of baseball in his own family

Kerry Yo Nakagawa is the author of Through a Diamond: 100 Years of Japanese American Baseball. He stopped by the Museum Store and we talked about how baseball has been a connecting force through generations of Japanese American families. After our conversation, he wrote this especially for our Museum Store Online! I hope this inspires some intergenerational story-telling in your own families. Enjoy!!

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Baseball has been in our family for four generations. Grandpa Sentaro Nakagawa played on the plantations in Hilo, Hawaii; my dad threw a nine inning no-hitter for his Caruthers high school team in 1928 and his older brother Johnny, was considered the Babe Ruth of the Niseis in the ’20s. He was on Lou Gehrig’s team as they beat Babe Ruth’s team 13-3 in 1927 and he once hit a 400 ft. home run in Honolulu Stadium off a Navy team. My uncle Lefty gave up two home runs to Jackie Robinson in 1937, but feels he helped Jackie’s career...he gave him a lot of confidence. My uncle Mas toured with the Alameda Kono all-stars through Japan, Korea and Manchuria, China in 1937 as a baseball ambassador. I was an all league shortstop and now my son Kale is on track to play college baseball as a catcher.

Baseball has been a very positive dynamic for our family and our family has been good for baseball. Baseball has so many opera-esque dramatic moments that hinge on success, failure, excitement, frustration, elation and resolve. It has given our family the ability to bond with their teammates, meet new friends, travel to different regions and countries and expose themselves to different cultures and ways of life. As I coached my son in little league, I realized he needed to hear the stories of all the great pioneers in our family that sacrificed so much for his generation. I knew other families would also be affected by our cultural and historical tie to the American pastime. Our ancestors were great pioneers in agriculture, in the fishing industry, battle fields in Europe and the Pacific and on the ball fields around the globe.

As I have always crusaded, through the prism of can really discover our proud heritage, history, and culture.

—Kerry Yo Nakagawa

In addition to writing Through a Diamond, Nakagawa is the project director for the non-profit Nisei Baseball Research Project (NBRP), curator of the Diamonds in the Rough: Japanese Americans in Baseball exhibition which was displayed at the National Museum in the summer of 2000, a consultant to the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame tour entitled Baseball in America, and an independent producer/filmmaker, actor, researcher, and writer.

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