As the St. Louis Cardinals play their 2013 home opener today, Japanese or Japanese American players are no unusual site in Major League ballparks.  But that wasn’t always the case.

Samuel Regalado notes that the first Major Leaguer of Japanese American descent suited up for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1975.

Regalado’s book, Nikkei Baseball: Japanese American Players from Immigration and Internment to the Major Leagues, examines baseball’s evolving importance to the
Japanese American community.  “Nikkei” is a term not only for the value of the share on the Tokyo stock exchange, but also refers to first generation Japanese Americans.

“Ryan Kurosaki was an unassuming pioneer who brought with him, in spirit, generations of Nikkei ballplayers whose devotion to the game was overshadowed only by their love for their country,”  Regalado says.

The author says that the young pitcher’s debut was a low-key one; there was no reporting of Kurosaki’s debut on the Japanese American newspapers at the time.

“Kurosaki’s path breaking entry into the big leagues was only unassuming to the Nikkei because their community had, by then, changed from its pre-Second World War identity as a strictly Japanese American enclave to a much wider Asian American profile from which baseball’s prominence played a less distinctive role.”

 

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