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Vancouver baseball legend celebrates 100th birthday

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The Lower Mainland baseball community came together in Burnaby Saturday to honour one of British Columbia’s all-time great sporting legends.

Kaye Kaminishi turned 100 years old in January, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, his big party was delayed a few weeks.

“I’m really glad to see all the fans coming to my birthday,” said Kaminishi, the last surviving member of the Vancouver Asahi baseball club that played in Oppenheimer Park between 1914 and 1941.

Kaminishi joined the squad as an infielder in 1939 and quickly earned a reputation as a reliable defender and speedy baserunner who used his expert bunting skills to beguile opposing pitchers.

His time with the championship club was short-lived though, as the team was forced to disband when the federal government began interning Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War.

“We had to move to East Lillooet for six or seven years,” Kaminishi told CTV News as he recalled his time in the camp.

The original Asahi would never take the field together again, but over the years the team’s legend grew and it was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 and the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

Kaminishi is now the last surviving member of that team.

“As he got older, I appreciated him more and more,” said his son Ed Kaminishi.

He says his father has carried the lessons he learned as a young infielder with the Asahi throughout his life.

“That’s how he lived his life, through baseball rules and I think he said fair play and sportsmanship,” the younger Kaminishi said.

In 2014, the Asahi were reborn as a youth baseball program that now boasts more than 100 players, all of whom look up to Kaminishi as someone who paved the way for them.

“It’s a real honour to be in the same area and getting to meet him,” said Wylie Waters, a current Asahi shortstop who hopes to continue his baseball career in college next year.

“He’s inspired all of us and taught us to enjoy the game of baseball.”

Kaminishi has always maintained his love of baseball, and frequently stops by the field to share it with the next generation of Asahi.

“Baseball. Play baseball. Everybody play baseball and have fun,” he said, laughing when asked about the secret to his longevity.

The centenarian’s long life is defined by the contributions he continues to make to a country that once locked him up — but could never break his spirit, or take his passion for the game. 

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