Trio of APIA Yankees help make MLB history

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Yankees Kyle Higashioka. photo by Scott Nakajima Photography |Isiah Kiner-Falefa. photo by Scott Nakajima Photography|Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe (top). photo by Scott Nakajima Photography

Isiah Kiner-Falefa. photo by Scott Nakajima Photography

OAKLAND, Calif. — On June 28, three New York Yankees of Asian Pacific Islander heritage contributed to a history-making night at the Oakland Coliseum. Catcher Kyle Higashioka and super utilityman Isiah Kiner-Falefa — both of Japanese descent — and Filipino American shortstop Anthony Volpe helped New York starting pitcher Domingo German earn the 24th perfect game in major league history. German retired all 27 Oakland batters he faced as the Yankees walloped the A’s 11-0 in front of 12,479 fans.

Higashioka, Kiner-Falefa and Volpe were all in the starting lineup and combined for four hits, three runs and three RBI. The trio sparked a six-run outburst in the fifth inning that turned the game into an early rout. Kiner-Falefa led off the inning with a walk and Higashioka drove him home with a double. Volpe then laid down a perfect bunt along the first base line which the A’s misplayed, resulting in another Yankees run. Kiner-Falefa capped the scoring in the fifth inning with an RBI single that gave the Yankees a commanding 7-0 lead.

But the Yankees offense was a mere sideshow compared to the history-making performance of the Yankee battery mates of pitcher German and catcher Higashioka. The duo combined to complete the fourth perfect game in Yankees history, and the first perfect game in the majors since Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez’s 2012 gem.

Yankees Kyle Higashioka. photo by Scott Nakajima Photography

When asked if he sensed something special was happening, Higashioka said he was “just trying to stay in the moment,” but he became aware that no A’s batter had reached base by the fourth or fifth inning. “But I started getting nervous after the eighth inning,” said the Yankee backstop.

Even with the nerves of being center stage of a history-making night, this wasn’t Higashioka’s first experience with a no-hitter. On May 19, 2021 Higashioka was behind the plate for Corey Kluber’s no-hitter against the Texas Rangers. That was the last no-hitter by a Yankee pitcher. But according to the Yankee catcher, that’s where the similarities end.

“Those were two completely different experiences for me,” said Higashioka. “Kluber never shook me off once the entire game. Domingo was shaking me off the whole time,” said Higashioka while he smirked.

German, 5-5, corroborated his catcher’s recounting of the game. “We’ve worked together for a long time, so it’s common for me to shake him on some pitches here and there,” said German, originally from the Dominican Republic, through an interpreter.

“But that’s what it’s all about — sometimes you have an instinct on what pitch to execute. He (Higashioka) quickly goes to the next one and it’s exactly the one that I want. We’ve worked together as a team for a long, long time. I guess we just know each other very well.”

Higashioka downplayed his role, saying “I just felt like I was along for the ride. I was trying to make sure I caught the ball and didn’t mess up.”

The Yankees catcher is playing in his seventh season in the majors. He was drafted by the Yankees in 2008 after he had originally committed to play college baseball at the University of California at Berkeley. Higashioka has been New York’s regular backup catcher since 2020.

Kiner-Falefa has become the Yankees’ super utilityman this season after having played seven different positions over the course of this season. He debuted in the majors with the Texas Rangers in 2018 and won an American League Gold Glove Award at third base during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe (top). photo by Scott Nakajima Photography

Volpe was the Yankees’ first-round pick in the 2019 draft. The 22-year-old rookie won the starting shortstop job out of spring training and was heralded as the heir apparent to Derek Jeter, the five-time world champion who played 20 seasons as the Yankees shortstop in a Hall of Fame career.

NOTES: Higashioka, Kiner-Falefa and Volpe weren’t the only players of Asian descent to have a mark on the historic game. Oakland A’s rookie pitcher Shintaro Fujinami scattered three hits while striking out two over two scoreless innings, but did not factor into the decision. Fujinami, now 4-7, leads all A’s pitchers in wins, while brandishing a lackluster 9.57 ERA in his rookie campaign.

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