Website aims to document Nikkei baseball players

The Nisei Baseball Research Project, a nonprofit organization founded to preserve and celebrate the history of Japanese American baseball, announced the launch of an online registry created to document all players of the often overlooked Japanese American baseball leagues of the past.

Family members, friends and baseball fans are encouraged to visit www.NiseiBaseball.com/Registry and share information about former ballplayers who played in the Japanese American leagues, pre- and post-war, and also inside the concentration camps the United States government established during World War II.

The project announced in a statement released Feb. 14 that it aims to compile the information into a single resource and share it with the public in the near future.

Much like Jackie Robinson and his peers in the Negro Leagues, Japanese Americans were forced to play in their own leagues from the 1900s to the 1940s because of bigotry and discrimination.

During this same period, Japanese American baseball teams also participated in goodwill tours to Japan and other parts of Asia, where they helped export the American style of play while building cultural bridges between the U.S. and Japan.

Nikkei baseball is still one of the great untold stories of history,” said Bill Staples Jr., board member of the Nisei Baseball Research Project.

“Despite this lack of awareness, the impact of their leagues is quite visible in today’s game,” Staples said. “The presence of players like Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and now Yu Darvish, clearly demonstrate that the national pastime has officially become the international pastime. And the game wouldn’t be where it is today without the contributions of these great Japanese American baseball pioneers.”

Staples, who is also the author of “Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer,” is scheduled to participate in a book signing at the Japanese American National Museum on Saturday, March 24, from 2 to 4 p.m. at 100 North Central Ave. at Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. For more information about the event, including the cost of admission, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org/events/2012/03/#24. NBRP founder Kerry Yo Nakagawa will join him for a panel discussion and celebration of Japanese American baseball.

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