Tuesday, April 29, 2014

4 Kids | Let's Play Ball

It's baseball time again -- loud applause here, please -- and so for you dear readers who share my love of this sport, let's take a moment to explore what might be an unknown part of our beloved sport's history.

But first, a little explanation: many of you may be hearing things like "critical thinking," "common core," and "informational text" in school these days. There are lots of changes going on in terms of what your teachers are teaching. But the great news is that non-fiction is getting some long overdue appreciation. So every week I'll be sharing non-fiction books with you. That's right: Non-Fiction! And I promise to share really great stuff. Informational stuff that's told in such a great way you'll think you're reading fiction! But you'll actually be learning something too. Trust me: this is going to be fun!

Back to baseball.
I just read Barbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss and Yuko Shimizu. It's a short book that tells the story of Kenichi "Zeni" Zenimura. Zeni loved baseball. And he was really good at it. He played in the Fresno Nisei League and the Fresno Twilight League, and in fact, when the New York Yankees came to Fresno to play an exhibition game, Zeni was one of a few players asked to play with them! There's even a picture of Zeni standing with baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
But here's where the story takes a sad turn: When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, 120,000 Japanese Americans living in the United States were sent to internment camps (think prison, not fun camp) because they were considered "possible spies." Zeni and his family were sent to just such a camp in Gila River, Arizona. It was a dry desert.
Even in these dire circumstances, Zeni did not lose his love of baseball. He decided to build a baseball field right there in the desert! Grass, bleachers, and chalk lines made out of flour -- he did it! And the first game played there was watched by 6,000 people!
It's no wonder that Zeni is considered the father of Japanese American baseball. Amazing what one person can accomplish, don't you think?
This is a non-fiction book, by the way. It reminds me of another great book on the same subject: Bat 6 by Virginia Euwer Wolfe. Although Wolfe's book is fiction, its story of girls' softball teams in Oregon in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and Japanese-Americans being sent to internment camps is very compelling.
I always look for a lesson whenever I read a book -- something I can take and apply in my everyday life.
I have a copy of Bat 6 autographed by the author. Her words: Fair play for (and from) all of us!
Play ball! And happy reading!

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