Kenso Zenimura, Nisei who played baseball with Hiroshima Carp, dies

Howard Kenso Zenimura, a Nisei baseball legend from the Fresno, Calif. area who would play professionally with Japan’s Hiroshima Carp, passed away Dec. 13, 2018, the Nisei Baseball Research Project announced on its Facebook page. He was 91.

“Kenso was a Nisei baseball pioneer, one of the founding members of the NBRP, and a good friend to many in our community,” stated a Dec. 15, 2018 post on the Nisei Baseball Research Project Facebook page. “Long before he could walk or talk, he held a baseball in his hands.”

The Zenimura family was forcibly relocated to the Gila River concentration camp in Arizona in 1942, according to the NBRP. There, Kenso was among the camp inmates who helped his father Kenichi — known as “the father of Japanese American baseball” — build a baseball field.

“The Block 28 diamond (aka Zenimura Field) provided a sense of hope for the community unjustly incarcerated behind barbed wire,” the NBRP post said. “After the war Kenso became a star player with the Fresno State Bulldogs,” the NBRP noted. “In 1951 his team-leading .424 average carried the Bulldogs to a 36-4 record and the conference title.”

Kenso and his brother Kenshi joined Japan’s Hiroshima Carp in 1953.

According to the Nisei Baseball Research Project, after a career in teaching, Kenso became a coach for the Fresno team in the International Boys League, a tournament for players ages 14-15 in the U.S., Japan, Mexico and Brazil. He was inducted into the Fresno State Baseball Hall of Fame as both an individual player and as part of the 1951 team.

“Kenso Zenimura was a ‘hero’ and Nisei baseball pioneer on many levels,” Kerry Yo Nakagawa, director of the Nisei Baseball Research Project, told the Nichi Bei Weekly. “He was a ‘hero’ for his high school Gila River Eagles on the sacred land of Pima Indian concentration camp during WWII. A ‘hero’ as a Fresno State Baseball hall of fame player; A ‘hero’ for the Hiroshima Carp in the early 1950s when he and his brother … raised the ‘spirits and hopes’ of the community after the devastation of the atomic bomb.

“He was the last of his generation and will be missed.”

Howard Kenso Zenimura was born in Fresno, Calif. on May 16, 1927 to Kenichi and Kiyoko Zenimura, the middle son of three.

According to The Fresno Bee, Zenimura is survived by his four children, Kathy (Randy) Yano, Cheryl Zenimura, Alan Zenimura (Debbie Tingley), Kirk (Teresa) Zenimura, five grandchildren, and one great granddaughter.

Funeral services were held at the Fresno Dharma Center on Dec. 22, 2018.

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