Well, our friend Glenn Mickens is at it again, trying to stir things up by pointing out the Kauai Americans of Japanese Ancestry baseball league allows only certain players based on race.
Mickens knows a little something about this. He had a brief Major League Baseball career as a pitcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers (we should point out that anyone who makes it to the bigs had to be a great player) and pitched at the famed Ebbets Field when he was a young man. Mickens played with a man by the name of Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. He didn’t like it when people of different skin color were not treated the same then, and he still doesn’t like it. So, usually once a year, as the AJA season begins, Mickens writes a letter politely sharing his concerns with TGI and its readers.
Here’s some of what Glenn wrote this year:
First, Tom Shigemoto (Kauai AJA president) and his volunteers who keep baseball going on Kauai must be thanked for all they do. Since I coached a summer baseball team for 10 years at UCLA I know how much work it is to take care of the equipment, practice, raise money for what it takes to participate, and see to it that there are at least nine players and two umpires there on game day.
The one big exception to our league and the AJA league was that any player who had the ability to participate could play, white, black, red, yellow, brown, male or female; only ability mattered and nothing else and, in this non- discriminatory world that we are trying to make, this is the way it should be.
He went on to write:
Tom, you can only make your league stronger and without discrimination if you allow anyone with the talent to participate. In their wisdom Japan let foreigners play, and it has made them far stronger, just as the the NL and the AL have been strengthened with players like Suzuki and Ohtani playing in it.
For me, there is no downside for letting any boy or girl with the ability play baseball on Kauai, and since the Japanese were smart enough to keep baseball going it is the only baseball that can be played in the HS off-season.
Now, that doesn’t sound like the ramblings of some guy who is mad at the world. Let’s not tell him to go away, go back to the mainland if he doesn’t like the way things are here. His commentary is courteous, complimentary and respectful, as it should be. We appreciate that. So, when Mickens questions why AJA restricts who can play in its league, not based on talent, but race, let’s ask ourselves if he’s right, wrong, or should just be quiet and let the games go on as they have for decades, dating back to the 1920s. And, frankly, it hasn’t really been much of an issue for anyone, it seems, except Mickens. So what’s the problem, and why are we bringing this up now?
First we should also provide a bit of background about the Kauai AJA Baseball League, per its website, that might help explain how we got here and why:
“The indignities endured by our families, relatives and friends in World War II are but memories of the distant past but do serve as the spark that keeps the legacy of AJA baseball here on Kauai alive and well. The success of our association is largely due to the very committed and dedicated officials who year after year embrace the perpetuation of this very-important tradition. We want our players to be proud of our Japanese heritage but to appreciate who we are as citizens of this wonderful country and for the ability to participate together as friends with a common thread. Yet through our organization we have to remember the time-honored values of respect, honor and dignity so valuable to our cultural heritage. We have evolved into a program which enhances relationships through friendly competition amongst players and coaches which has brought our island community closer.”
This is definitely and without doubt a league Kauai can and should be proud of. Its coaches, organizers, players and volunteers have done an outstanding job. People have been involved for decades and take pride in the excellence of this league, as they should. They love what it does for its players, their families, the island.
And like Mickens, we praise the AJA league for its sportsmanship, competition, commitment to culture and its dedication to a great game and maintaining its legacy. No one questions the heart of this league and its intent to honor its Japanese heritage.
But we respectfully point out in this day and age of political correctness where almost any remark, expression or action can become a point of contention and lead to accusations of racism and create division, we would want to take every step to be sure all people are treated equally at every turn. We would want to take every step to be sure that race is not a factor that determines if a person can shop in a store, buy a house, attend a school, or join a sports team.
Perhaps it is time for organizers of AJA to consider, as Mickens requests, opening its doors to all young men and women who have the talents and the desire to compete at that level. It would seem this would enhance the league, as well as bring people even closer together to share their passion for this great game. If others of other races would like to enjoy the wonders and camaraderie of this outstanding baseball group and fine people, perhaps it is time to let them.