Now that AJA (Americans of Japanese Ancestry) baseball has once again started, a few comments should be made about this fine league.
First, those running this organization are to be congratulated for keeping America’s favorite pastime running for so many years. The volunteers and the finances it takes to keep it operational are difficult to find, so, again, all those people need to be saluted.
But, having said that, I would be extremely remiss in not bringing up my long battle with these AJA heads to open their league to any person, male or female, black, white or yellow, who has the ability to compete in their league.
Eligibility for playing AJA baseball has been restricted to those having Japanese blood and, for me, it taints this fine league with being discriminatory. And I know that there are those on this wonderful island who strongly disagree with me but I would simply ask those who want to keep this league “closed” to those who do not have Japanese blood in them, what could possibly be the downside of letting everyone play who has the ability?
Once Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the big leagues, the sport became greater than it was without those African Americans. I had the honor and thrill to play with Jackie along with the other greats, Campanella, Newcomb, Black and Gilliam, and saw what discriminatory practices those players had to tolerate in the South just to play baseball. Those greats could not even stay in the same hotels (1953) as we other Dodgers, nor eat at restaurants with their Dodger teammates.
Branch Rickey was a genius to have signed Robinson, who was not only a great ball player but one who had to keep his mouth shut when getting called every dirty name in existence and getting knocked down or spiked.
Hope all of you who read this letter got to see “42,” the Jackie Robinson story, as it was outstanding, showing what discrimination was and that it still exists in certain areas.
Today in the big leagues we see players from around the world who have made baseball stronger and more watched than any time in its history. With our UCLA alumni baseball team we played in tournaments and against teams in France, Spain, Italy, The Prague, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Australia and Canada.
Whenever we lost we showed nothing but respect for those players who beat us, and they in turn showed us respect when we beat them. No fights, no demonstrations, just goodwill taking place.
My point is that our AJA baseball league could only be stronger by opening their doors to everyone; to possibly give some kid a chance of sharpening his talents in the high school off-season so he can go to a major college, even with a possible scholarship. Let us never forget that two brothers, Tyler and Kirby Yates from Kauai, reached the big leagues, defying odds in the millions against them to get there.
Maybe they did not want to play AJA baseball, but wouldn’t it be embarrassing if they did but could not because of the league rules? This island can only be super proud of these two young men for doing something that may never be done again.
Please, AJA baseball, eliminate your Japanese-only policy and welcome anyone who wishes to play. The Japanese welcomed me to their “big leagues” for five years, and treated me royally.
Glenn Mickens is a resident of Kapaa.