Iwakuma Honored by Seattle JA Community

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Hisashi Iwakuma (center) thanks his supporters. At right is Lori Matsukawa of KING-TV; at left is Iwakuma’s interpreter, Anthony Suzuki. (Photo by Eugene Tagawa)

SEATTLE — Local Japanese/Japanese American organizations held a reception and 32nd birthday party for Seattle Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma on April 14 at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington.

Emceed by news anchor/reporter Lori Matsukawa of KING 5, the program included the presentation of a home plate signed in English and Japanese by all of the attendees, and proclamations from King County Executive Dow Constantine (represented by his director of communications, Frank Abe) and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

The county’s “Hisashi Iwakuma Day” proclamation reads, in part: “Hisashi Iwakuma was born in Higashiyamato, a city in the Tokyo, Japan metropolitan area, on April 12, 1981 … Hisashi began playing baseball in first grade, led his high school team to the semi-finals of the West Tokyo tournament as a senior, and was selected by the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes in the fifth round of the 1999 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) Amateur Draft …

“Playing first for the Buffaloes (2001-04) and then for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2005-11), Hisashi compiled a 107-69 record in NPB, including a 21-4 mark in 2008, when he led the league in wins, ERA, and winning percentage and won the Eiji Sawamura Award, presented annually to the best NPB pitcher …

“Hisashi also thrived in international competition, playing for Japan’s bronze medal Olympic baseball team in 2004 and starting two games for the gold medal-winning squad in the 2009 World Baseball Classic …

“Hisashi was signed by the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2012 Major League season and put together a 9-5 record as a starter, leading to his selection as the Mariners’ No. 2 starting pitcher for the 2013 season …

“I encourage all residents to join me in celebrating the past accomplishments and the great potential of this world-renowned professional athlete.”

Sponsoring organizations were Dream-Vision, Eastside Nihon Matsuri Association, Seattle JACL, Japan American Society of the State of Washington, Japan Business Association of Seattle, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington, Japanese Community Service of Seattle, Japanese Presbyterian Church of Washington, Kagoshima Kenjinkai, Kawabe Memorial House, Kumamoto Kenjinkai, Lighthouse Magazine, Nikkei Concerns, North American Post, NVC (Nisei Veterans Committee)/NVC Foundation, Okinawa Kenjin Club of Washington State, Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival, Seattle Hiroshima Club, Shizuoka Club of Seattle, and University of Washington Nikkei Alumni Association.

Left: Lori Matsukawa of KING 5 presents Hisashi Iwakuma with a home plate signed by all of the evening’s attendees. Right: Iwakuma with Frank Abe, representing King County Executive Dow Constantine. (Photos by Eugene Tagawa)

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