OAKLAND, Calif. — The Nichi Bei Foundation held their “Nichi Bei Day with the A’s” fundraiser as the Oakland Athletics played against 2021 American League MVP Shohei Ohtani and the visiting Los Angeles Angels April 2.
The 950 attendees who purchased tickets through the nonprofit received a T-shirt with rookie Oakland Athletics pitcher Shintaro Fujinami’s name on it, and a select few received autographs and were able to take a photo with Fujinami prior to the game.
Donald K. Tamaki, a senior counsel at Minami Tamaki LLP, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in recognition of his role in overturning Fred Korematsu’s wartime conviction 40 years ago as well as his current role on the state’s Black reparations task force.
“I’m relieved, but I’m grateful that the Nichi Bei Foundation gave me that opportunity and I’m glad I didn’t embarrass the community or myself,” Tamaki told the Nichi Bei News.
Unfortunately for fans of Japanese descent attending the game April 2, Fujinami did not face Ohtani because he pitched the previous day. In his big league debut April 1, the Sakai, Osaka Prefecture native pitched 2-1/3 innings, giving up five hits, eight runs, walking three and striking out four.
Despite Fujinami’s rough outing, Dale Minami, Tamaki’s former law partner, told the Nichi Bei News he believes Fujinami has “all the talent to become a successful pitcher.”
Gail Nanbu, a Nichi Bei Day attendee, spoke about how “great” it would be if Ohtani “hit one out of the park,” and a couple innings later, he did.
Ohtani crushed the first pitch he saw in the fifth inning over the right center field wall much to the delight of a large contingent of Japanese fans in the crowd. Ohtani’s first home run of the season was “wonderful to see,” Minami said. He added that he’s been a fan since Ohtani came to the major leagues, not only for his two-way ability, but he “exhibits the qualities of sportsmanship, he’s very gracious, very humble too.”
Angels star outfielder Mike Trout hit a two-run home run in the previous at-bat. The Angels shut out the Athletics 6-0.
In recent years, many Japanese players have come to the major leagues from Japan, including Ohtani, Fujinami and new Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida. Minami said some of the Japanese baseball pioneers, including Masanori Murakami, who is known as the first Japanese player to play in the majors, had to “take enormous risks of being unsuccessful.” He added that the number of Japanese players coming to the major leagues shows “how much Japan loves baseball” and “how much talent they develop…”
Nanbu said Japanese players going to the big leagues “gives them great experience, it gives them a lot of money and it brings honor to them when they go back to Japan because they were able to play with the best.”
Nichi Bei News staff writer Derek Tahara is a Yonsei or fourth-generation Japanese American born and raised in Sunnyvale, Calif. He earned his B.S. in Journalism at the University of Oregon. He is a lifelong fan of the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants.