AJA should be open to all

AJA baseball has started again and for those supposedly having some Japanese blood in them (not totally true) it will be a fun time for some and a chance for others to sharpen their skills for the KIF season ahead.

For 20 years I have been on this crusade to get officials of AJA baseball to open their league to anyone who wants to play the game, anyone who has the ability to play “America’s Favorite Pastime.”

There should never be a restriction for one to participate due to race, color or origin — none of these discriminatory factors should ever be a reason.

Remember that I have absolutely “no dog in this fight,” no rational for fighting this issue except my concern for kids who have a chance to play at the next level, college or even pro. They need more playing time to polish their skills, more time than KIF baseball can give them and only AJA baseball gives them that opportunity.

Today the average Major League player is making $3.4 million for six months of “work.” My first year in pro ball in 1950 I was making $400 per month for “playing” a game I had loved since I was 10 years old, and I never forgot that thrill.

This “Golden Ring” awaits any person with the ability to make it irregardless of their race, color or sex, so don’t restrict their chances to reach for that “ring” by keeping them from playing baseball on Kauai if they have no Japanese blood in them.

Realize that, miraculously, two young men from Kauai reached the big leagues and even more amazingly they are brothers: Tyler and Kirby Yates. The odds are in the millions for any baseball player to get to the top so Gary and Jana Yates have to be super-proud parents to have raised two sons that have defied all odds and made it to the majors. And yes, other brothers have reached the bigs but I do not believe it has ever happened on Hawaii and certainly not on Kauai.

And remember that neither of these fine athletes could play AJA baseball, but if they would have been permitted to, that league would have been far better represented.

Maybe my friend, Councilman Ross Kagawa, will help in getting this league integrated — opened to all.

Ross was a fine player and a great competitor for UH and I am sure he could never have imagined his team refusing to recruit and play any athlete because their race wouldn’t permit it. Only their ability and academic standards were required.

In my 25 years of coaching and recruiting hundreds of ball players at UCLA, we got some outstanding African Americans (Chris Chambliss), Latinos (Louie Gomez and Mike Gallego) and Caucasians (Eric Karros and Don Slaught) to name but a few. Only UCLA’s strict academic requirements kept us from getting more, but race was never a factor. Only a small percentage of those who were recruited and played for us reached the bigs but others became doctors, lawyers, engineers and successes in life who we coaches were proud of.

Those who have opposed integrating AJA baseball cite beauty contests like Miss Filipino, in which only female Filipino woman may compete. This is apples and oranges.

For a ball player the improvement he can get from added playing time may make the difference in his playing the game for a living — not winning a contest that the participant still has to labor through models and actresses to succeed.

The word “cultural” is also used for this discriminating practice in AJA baseball, but preventing participation because of race is discrimination and that is a fact.

I again compliment the AJA people for keeping baseball alive in Hawaii, but opening their doors to everyone can only make their league stronger and more competitive for everyone. One only needs to look at the billion-dollar Major League operation to see why this melting pot of players from all nations is so successful.

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Glenn Mickens is a resident of Kapaa.

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