Koichi Kaye Kaminishi, the last surviving member of the legendary Vancouver Asahi baseball team, celebrated his centennial birthday this week.
Born Jan. 11, 1922 in Vancouver, Kaminishi grew up in Hiroshima, Japan, where he learned to play baseball at school, before his mother took him back to Canada in 1933 after his father's death.
In 1939, he joined the Japanese Canadian baseball team as a rookie at 17. The Asahi was a powerhouse in the West Coast during the 30s, winning many league championships during a time when Japanese Canadians faced discrimination in employment and political participation.
During the Second World War, Kaminishi and his teammates along with 22,000 other Canadians of Japanese descent were sent to internment camps — a slice of history featured in a Heritage Minutes video released in 2019.
"Baseball helped get us through the internment," Kaminishi says in a voiceover on the video.
On Tuesday, Kaminishi enjoyed his birthday cake at his home in Kamloops, B.C., where he has been living for many years and is still active in local baseball events.
"I feel really good and appreciate it very much," Kaminishi said Thursday to host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast.
Ed Kaminishi, his son, says he's proud of his dad's baseball legacy.
"I knew about dad's baseball history when I was a young kid, but I never realized it was this close to dad — it's a part of him that he really treasures so much.
"I'm so thankful that he's around, and the longer he's around, the more I appreciate that history and what he's gone through," he said.
Since October, the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby, B.C., has been running the Safe | Home exhibition featuring the Vancouver Asahi team's history, and showcasing paraphernalia such as Kaminishi's baseball jersey and glove.
Museum curator Sherri Kajiwara praised Kaminishi for his leadership in fighting anti-Asian racism.
"You are such a living treasure and an incredible example of how the best quality of sports can help transcend barriers of racism and hate and really bring people together," she said in a birthday greeting to Kaminishi on On The Coast.
Former CBC broadcaster JJ Lee also shared a greeting and talked about his "pilgrimage" to Kamloops to meet Kaminishi in person.
"I want to say 'thank you' to you for being such a great role model of forbearance and kindness and patience," Lee said on On The Coast.
"You taught me some tricks about how to play third base, and I've carried that lesson," he continued. "I'm just really grateful for you the way you are, the time you have for people and the great example you set."
Kaminishi says after many years since Asahi, he's still living the spirit of baseball.
"I'm really proud of it," he said. "Sportsmanship, as well as fair play, is our motto."
LISTEN | Kaye Kaminishi celebrates his 100th birthday with son Ed and family: