Wakamatsu to talk on baseball in Japan

Wakamatsu to offer insight at museum

KANSAS CITY -- As the first Japanese-American manager in Major League history, Don Wakamatsu will forever have a special place among barrier-breakers.

He also understands the significance of it, so when he was asked to participate in a two-part program this week to discuss the Negro Leagues' relationship with Japanese baseball, he immediately accepted the offer, and will talk about his barrier-breaking experiences at 10 a.m. local time (8 a.m. PT) on Wednesday at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

"Just to be asked is one heckuva honor for me," he said.

On Saturday, the Museum will host a screening of the film "American Pastime," a movie about the Philadelphia Royal Giants, led by future Hall of Famers Andy Cooper and Raleigh "Biz" Mackey, playing a 24-game exhibition tour in Japan in 1927. Financed by a Japanese businessman, the tour drew huge crowds, and the Royal Giants left Japan with a 23-0-1 record and a new legion of fans.

Baseball historian and a producer on the film, Kerry Yo Nakagawa, will also take part in a discussion of the film, which focuses on the harsh realities of life at Japanese internment camps, while giving portrayal to the joys of baseball.

Wakamatsu's grandparents were interned at a camp in Tulelake, Calif., during World War II.

The programs will also highlight a group of barnstorming Negro Leagues players, who are given credit for bringing baseball to Japan.

"I'm sure they want to hear a little about my background and what this year has been like," Wakamatsu said, adding that former Negro superstar catchers Roy Campanella and John Roseboro of the Dodgers were important voices in his growth as a catcher.

Wakamatsu, who spent the 1992-93 seasons with the Dodgers, recalled his talks with the two catching greats during Spring Training.

"Campy used to come out [and watch practice] in his wheelchair, and I got a chance to sit down with him in the cafeteria and talk to him about catching," Wakamatsu said. "Roseboro would come to Albuquerque and work with the catchers."

"These program offerings help further substantiate the importance of the Negro Leagues by opening eyes to the league's global impact," Bob Kendrick, NLBM vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "Major League Baseball is a global game today in large part to pioneering spirit of Negro League players who showcased their world-class brand of baseball in Canada, Latin America and, to the surprise of many, Japan."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.