Kamloops resident Kaye Kaminishi, a third baseman and the last surviving member of the famed Asahi baseball team, threw out the first pitch on Friday night at Norbrock Stadium as the 2021 Kamloops Senior Men’s Baseball League season began.
Kaminishi is 99 years old.
The Asahi first took the field in 1914, a club that was the team if you were a member of the Japanese-Canadian community in Vancouver. The Asahi developed a unique style of play to compete against bigger, more powerful teams. Dubbed “brain ball,” it involved bunts, base stealing and squeeze plays to score runs — and wins.
Think more NL than AL.
Their style of play was so successful that, in 1927, the team won a game 3-1 without technically collecting a hit.
However, when Canada declared war on Japan in December of 1941, the Asahi was disbanded as its players were scattered to internment camps all over the province. Kaminishi ended up in Lillooet and later settled in Kamloops.
In recent years, his celebrity has been reported on by Kamloops This Week and other media locally and across the province.
In the spring of 2019, Kaminishi helped Canada Post unveil a stamp honouring the team.
In the summer of 2015, Kaminishi visited the current Asahi youth teams, which were playing on McArthur Island.
“If you wore the Asahi uniform, you were a king,” Kaminishi told KTW that day as he walked across McArthur Island.
On that day, the club presented him with an Asahi hat and sweater with No. 11 — Kaminishi’s number — emblazoned on the back as the Asahi officially retired it from uniform circulation.
The Asahi story is also the subject of a Heritage Minutes television short, narrated by Kaminishi.
“We were born in Canada,” he says in the commercial, which was produced by Historica Canada.
“We spoke English. On the streets we weren’t welcome, but on the field, we were the Asahi, Vancouver’s champions. Everyone cheered for us. Our people had a voice.”
The Kamloops Senior Men's Baseball League has expanded to five teams this season. Click here for more information on the league.