The Los Angeles Dodgers will once again host Japanese Heritage Night at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, June 15, when they take on the Angels at 7:10 p.m.
This year, there will be an array of activities and special guests during the fun-filled evening.
To commemorate the night, a special exhibit about Japanese American baseball history will be on display in the Left Field Pavilion. Fans can take in the moving exhibition titled “Baseball’s Bridge to the Pacific: Celebrating the Legacy of Japanese American Baseball,” which pays tribute to the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and the 150th anniversary of U.S.-Japan baseball diplomacy (1872-2022).
The exhibition consists of historical panels and prewar artifacts that chronicle the introduction of baseball to Japan in the early 1870s to the first Japanese American teams in 1903. The early tours by these Nikkei teams to Asia starting in 1914 helped usher in the start of professional baseball in Japan in 1936.
“I am very proud of my Japanese heritage and honored to be managing a team with such a rich and pioneering history,” said Dave Roberts, manager ot the Dodgers. “Having played with and managed both Japanese and Japanese American players, it has been a privilege to help cultivate a sense of how much alike we truly are through the teaching of this wonderful game. Throughout time and under varied circumstances, baseball has always brought people together and as the Dodgers’ manager, I take great pride in helping lead the franchise at the forefront of Pacific Rim baseball.”
Academy Award nominee and Japanese superstar Ken Watanabe will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Watanabe appeared in “The Last Samurai” and “Godzilla,” amongst other movies, as well as “The King and I” on Broadway, for which he received a Tony Award nomination in 2015. Additionally, Japanese Consul General Akira Muto will be throwing out the honorary first pitch.
Prior to the game, a performance by the drumming ensemble L.A. Taiko Ichiza will take place on the field. Additionally, a classical Japanese dance group will be performing “Tanko Bushi” in the Center Field Plaza during pre-game festivities. This “ondo” dance is popular at Japanese summer festivals and is a favorite among many.
Dodgers’ Japanese and Japanese American baseball history:
The Dodgers have held three postseason tours of Japan by Brooklyn and Los Angeles teams following the 1956, 1966 and 1993 seasons. The Tokyo Giants visited Vero Beach during Spring Training five times (1961, 1967, 1971, 1975, 1980).
In 1966, the Dodgers received a two-ton, 10-foot-tall stone lantern gift from Japanese Hall of Fame inductee Sotaro Suzuki as a token of friendship between the Dodgers and Japan and to commemorate the opening of Dodger Stadium in 1962. The stone lantern is still on Dodger Stadium grounds.
After the 1993 season, the Dodgers played five exhibition games in Asia as part of the Friendship Series tour, three in Taipei, Taiwan and two in the Fukuoka Dome in Japan.
In 1995, RHP Hideo Nomo became only the second Japanese-born player to appear in the Major Leagues. The Nomo signing and his success spawned Nomo-mania and opened the door for Japanese players in the U.S.
In 2002, longtime Dodgers executive Akihiro “Ike” Ikuhara was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame for his contributions to Pacific Rim baseball relations.
In 2008, former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda received the Order of The Rising Sun from Japanese Emperor Akihito for his contributions to Japanese baseball.
Since Nomo, the Dodgers have had more Japanese players than any other Major League team: RHP Yu Darvish, LHP Kazuhisa Ishii, RHP Masao Kida, RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP Kenta Maeda, 3B Norihiro Nakamura, OF Dave Roberts, RHP Takashi Saito, and 1B Yoshitomo Tsutsugo.
In addition, the Dodgers have had four players of Japanese ancestry over the years: INF Darwin Barney, RHP Brandon League, LHP Onan Masaoka, and OF Shane Victorino.
The current Major League traveling staff includes five Japanese Americans: Manager Dave Roberts, Senior Director of Team Travel Scott Akasaki, Manager of Integrative Baseball Performance Emilee Fragapane, Manager of Performance Operations Will Ireton, and Assistant Athletic Trainer Yosuke Nakajima.
For tickets to the game, visit http://dodgers.com/tickets.