Don Wakamatsu was named the field manager of the Seattle Mariners in Novmember 2008. Don is half Japanese (father) and half Irish (mother). He is the first Asian-American manager in Major League Baseball history.
Even though he is determining history today, his family is a big part of American history. His father was born in the Tule Lake War Relocation Center, a Japanese American internment camp located in Northern California near the Oregon border.
In 1942, during World War II, the Wakamatsus were kidnapped from their Hood River home, put on a train downtown and shipped to a camp in Portland. The crime: being Japanese. They were among the more than 100,000 Japanese Americans detained after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The family never discussed their internment along with other Japanese Americans during World War II. Leland’s parents didn’t bring it up to him, so he didn’t bring it up to his children. The silence ended sometime in the late 1980s when a 20-something Don observed his father’s reaction to opening a government check.
As a kid, Don relished the opportunity to roam between the two dissimilar households of his Japanese and Irish grandparents.
"I’d eat rice at one house and bacon and eggs at the other," he recalled, laughing.
He never felt different. He turned his multicultural upbringing into an asset, displaying a rare ability to relate to everyone. Besides being a great athlete with professional baseball aspirations, Don had a reputation as the friendliest guy in the room.