From the railroads to the farms to the baseball fields
An early highlight in Scottsdale is the bat of first-baseman Travis Ishikawa. He is only 25 and has just 65 days of major-league service under his belt, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more serious and mature player in the clubhouse. While others are texting and playing games on their hand-helds, Ishikawa is working a crossword puzzle. He’s quiet and methodical, a family man whose wife gave birth to their second child in September.
Maybe that’s why he fits in so well at the over-55 mobile home community where he’s living during spring training. His parents bought the place as a retirement residence, but both are still working in Seattle, where Ishikawa grew up.
“I like getting away from everything and having some quiet,” he says, sitting in the living room of the mobile home the other day. Outside, a golf cart putters past the white-pebble front lawns and cacti and the occasional gnome.
Ishikawa has come a long way in a year. Last spring, he was working out with the Double A-ers and now he’s the front runner for the starting job at first base.
“Until they tell me otherwise, that’s my spot,” he says. “If something happens and I’m on the bench, I’ll be the best left-handed hitter off the bench.”
Ishikawa is half Japanese on his father’s side. His great-grandparents came over from Japan to work on the railroads and settled in Chicago. During World War II, his grandparents were imprisoned in an internment camp in Colorado. They now are in their 90s and living in Southern California – where decades ago they owned and worked farmland before the freeways came through. Travis has never asked his grandparents about the internment camp.
“They never give you an opening to talk about it,” he says. “My father has never talked about it. I think it’s a cultural thing. There are some things you just don’t talk about.”
Travis never even knew his father had played much baseball until he was going through some old boxes in the attic. In one dusty box were newspaper clippings of Alan Ishikawa throwing a no-hitter and a one-hitter in high school.
Alan Ishikawa, a controller for a chain of Washington supermarkets, is 5 feet 8. His son is 6-3. Obviously, Travis didn’t get his size from his dad. But his paternal bloodlines seem to have passed down strength and resilience from the railroads and farms, and more than a little bit of baseball talent.