By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Sports Editor
Like a great many American kids, Mike Gin grew up playing baseball in the back yard, local parks and at school. Something was missing, though, and it took him a while to figure out what.
“There were not a lot of Asians that I could see playing baseball,” Gin said Wednesday at the Far East Cafe in Little Tokyo, during the announcement of the inaugural Asian Adult Amateur Baseball Classic.
The friendly exhibition tournament, which will feature four teams of some of the best local Asian and Asian American players, takes place Oct. 29-30 and Nov. 5-6.
“We would like to get more Asians and Asian Americans involved in baseball, and hopefully, this tournament will do that,” Gin explained.
He noted the case of San Marino High School–where the tournament is being held–in a city that is slightly more than 50 percent Asian, yet only four players in the school baseball program are of Asian descent.
“We feel there should be more Asian Americans involved in baseball, especially in a city like San Marino,” he added.
The idea for the AAABC came up when Gin organized a friendly game in July, along with Akira Sato, the president of the Southern California Japanese Baseball League.
“I’ve been playing in the Japanese league, so I’ve been exposed to a different style of play, and that’s how I met with Akira,” he said.
Soon afterward, Gin contacted Richard Lee of the Teadogs, whose players mostly have ties to Taiwan, and Kevin Park of the Los Angeles Korean American Baseball League to float the idea of a tournament.
“We are all big baseball fans and we play in some local leagues, so this kind of competition makes sense,” Lee said.
The tournament’s mission statement expresses goals including “build bridges of understanding among different ethnic Asians through the great American pastime of baseball” and that it will strive to “promote brotherhood, respect and celebrate achievements through spirited competition between the baselines.”
Gin also cited U.S. Census data that lists some 15.5 million Asians in the nation, with a third of those residing in California. Yet in the major leagues, only 2.1 percent of the players on current rosters are of Asian heritage. He hopes that the AAABC will lead to efforts such as MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program, which has sought to expose more youngsters, mostly of minority backgrounds, to the game.
Nearly 80 players will take part on four teams–Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the USA–in the round-robin style tournament. Each team will play once against the other three, with the top two playing for the championship and the others playing a consolation match on the final day. Participants age 21 or over with distinct ties to the country team that they represent.
Admission to the games is free. For more information, visit http://www.leaguelineup.com/aaabc or call (213) 226-8728.