This year inductees are Negro League Great Josh Gibson, our own Fernando Valenzuela, and Kenichi Zenimura. Mr. Zenimura is an interesting story.
Born in Hiroshima, Zenimura acquired a passion for the game in his youth and, after moving to Fresno, California in 1920, he founded the Fresno Athletic Club, a Japanese-American baseball team that lasted more than fifty years and attained national recognition. Despite being only five feet tall and weighing 100 pounds, Zenimura was an intense competitor as a shortstop and catcher, and he organized goodwill tours of Japanese-American teams to Japan in the 1920s and 1930s. During World War II, the Zenimura family was sent to internment camps in Fresno and Gila River, Arizona, where under Kenichi's guidance, baseball fields were constructed and teams and leagues were formed behind barbed wire. Huge crowds flocked to the games and baseball was credited with bonding wartime internees, giving them a sense of normalcy and community pride. The late actor Pat Morita, a former Gila River internee, said Zenimura left an indelible mark on that fraternal community in the desert by showing "that with effort and persistence, you can overcome the harshness of adversity." Zenimura returned to Fresno after the war, where he continued playing (he caught his last game at age fifty-five) and coaching until his death in 1968.I have never been to one of their events nor am I a member, but I do plan on showing up on this Sunday afternoon.