Legacy of Japanese American Incarceration in Arizona Preserved Through the Prism of Baseball

January 10, 2023

The following are highlights from speeches delivered on January 25, 2023, at the grand opening of the “Rebuilding Homeplate” exhibit. 

Rev. Michael Tang, Arizona Buddhist Temple 

“It’s odd when you walk into an exhibit and see a bunch of family members in the exhibit … it can be a little overwhelming … Mas Inoshita is my grandfather … and my wife’s grandfather is James “Step” Tomooka.” Click here for the full speech.

Corey Woods, Mayor, City of Tempe 

“It is important to look back at history and to recognize injustice … If we are able to move forward and continue to make this city, state and our country better, we must confront the realities of our past and work towards a better future filled with diversity, equity and inclusion.” Click here for the full speech.

Adrian Fontes, Arizona Secretary of State “Our future is bright. We know what this history is because of the hard work of so many of you who have helped bring this work. Let us not waste the moment. Let us learn from it. Let us pass it on. And let us enjoy sport without having to see it as a method to persevere.” Click here for the full speech.

Monica Antone, Lt. Governor, Gila River Indian Community 

“My people the Akimel O’otham, the river people. We embraced our sisters and brothers from the Japanese culture and it’s a beauty to see how we celebrate today. We try to turn negative into a positive by being together and honoring those that have left us and those that were in the camps.” Click here for the full speech.

Liz Kapp, Museum Curator, Arizona Historical Society 

“By building that home plate and that ball field, Kenichi Zenimura brought joy into a prison. He gave his fellow inmates something to cheer for when no one was cheering for them.” Click here for the full speech.

Mike Phillips, Founder, Arizona Baseball Legacy & Experience 

“We celebrate Arizona baseball … some of the stories are pretty obvious like spring training and the Cactus League. many of the stories are less obvious, like “Rebuilding Home Plate” exhibit … all of our history is precious and important. It’s part of who we are, how we got here, and it continues to shape what we can become.” Click here for the full speech.

Kerry Yo Nakagawa, Founder, Nisei Baseball Research Project 

“We are connected. Maybe not through faith or the color of our skin, but through our humanity … Today, I am kind of like a proud godfather to this exhibit. To see our all of communities come together. I can’t tell you how proud we are…”  Click here for the full speech.

Bill Staples, Jr, Baseball Historian / JACL-AZ President 

“I personally think that Zenimura was a Bodhisattva, one who postpones their own pursuit of enlightenment (nirvana) out of compassion to help others … This home plate is not just some old wooden material from the era of WWII. Zenimura’s home plate is a religious artifact – one that should be treated with reverence – and handled with the spirit of love and respect in which it was made.” Click here for the full speech.


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