This Spring, Baseball Returns to Manzanar

The Manzanar Baseball Project will stage two games at the Manzanar National Historic Site.

Here's an incredible project that could use your eyes and dollars -- a unique community event that combines sports, history, memory and social justice. This spring, The Manzanar Baseball Project will stage two baseball games on a newly restored field at the Manzanar National Historic Site in the Mojave Desert.

Manzanar was the first of ten detention camps where Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Overall, it was the largest mass incarceration in American history with 120,000 people being imprisoned between 1942 and 1945.

For many incarcerated Japanese Americans during this time, resilience meant creating a sense of "home" in any way possible, including playing sports. And in the 1940s, baseball was the most popular sport in the country -- including and especially in the camps, where dozens of leagues were formed with hundreds of players.

Dan Kwong, director of the Manzanar Baseball Project, says that baseball was a vital part of surviving camp life.

"People were so hungry for a sense of normalcy, a way to feel proud, and a way to express their Americanness, games might draw a thousand spectators standing and sitting on bare ground in the blazing sun," Kwong says in the fundraiser for the project. "It has been said that, without baseball, life would have been unbearable."

The Manzanar Baseball Project is an attempt to honor the determination and unbreakable spirit of the Japanese American community and its ballplayers. The main baseball field at Manzanar is currently being restored to its wartime configuration, and on May 18, 2024, players from the Japanese American baseball leagues of California will take the field for a doubleheader:

Li'l Tokio Giants vs. Lodi JACL Templars - the two longest continuously active teams in California

North vs. South All-Star Game - with players wearing custom-made 1940s-style uniforms and using vintage equipment.

The day will also feature taiko drumming performances by Makoto Taiko, a musical performance created by Nobuko Miyamoto, and a special appearance by The Samurai Centerfielder (performance artist Dan Kwong). The goal is to make this event an expanded annual tradition.

They are currently raising awareness and funds for the project through a GoFundMe campaign. For further information, and to make a donation, go here.

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