SEATTLE — The first thing Shohei Ohtani wanted to know upon his initial entrance into the home clubhouse at T-Mobile Park was where Ichiro Suzuki used to sit.
Ichiro’s legacy — at the home of the Mariners and beyond — is established. He is sure to be elected, perhaps unanimously, on the 2025 Hall of Fame ballot. His 2001 arrival from Nippon Professional Baseball was an inflection point for the sport, because his breakthrough that year as a combined Rookie of the Year and MVP inspired MLB teams to more aggressively scout and sign players from Japan.
Players like Ohtani, whose awe for Ichiro was voiced at Monday’s All-Star Media Day.
“I remember the first time I came here [to T-Mobile Park],” he said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, “I was like, ‘Oh, this is the place I always watched on TV.’ So it was really special.”
But there is so much more to Japanese baseball history than just that line from Ichiro to Ohtani. The legendary leadoff man and the incredible two-way talent both stand on the shoulders of Nikkei baseball pioneers. These athletes were marginalized, forgotten and, in some cases, imprisoned, and their story is being told during All-Star Week at a fascinating exhibit some 2,000 feet from where Ohtani sat.
The exhibit, titled “Baseball’s Bridge Across the Pacific: Celebrating the Legacy of Japanese American Baseball” is a part of PLAY BALL Park, the experiential fanfest being held this week at Lumen Field. The project leads are Kerry Yo Nakagawa, founder of the Nisei Baseball Research Project, and Bill Staples Jr., president of the Japanese American Citizens League’s Arizona Chapter.
Chronicling the journey of Japanese baseball — from the introduction of the sport to Japan in the early 1870s to the first Japanese American teams in 1903 to the early tours in Asia that helped usher in the start of pro baseball in Japan in 1936, all the way to present day in which Ohtani turns the sport on its head — the exhibit’s panels and artifacts educate baseball fans about an oft-overlooked, but increasingly important, piece of the game’s history.
Read the full article at: https://www.mlb.com/news/japanese-baseball-history-exhibit-opens-at-all-star-game