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.

TravisIshikawa.jpg

Travis Ishikawa and his mom.jpg

6 Comments

Joan – there is a great book about baseball in the internment camps – it’s called “Baseball Saved Us’ by Ken Mochizuki. His parents were in an internment camp. I used it with my second grade class – but it would be okay for all elementary grades. Good luck for Mr. Ishikawa.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Thanks for the story about Ishikawa! :) I’m rooting for him to do well and get the starting first base job!! It’s cool that he gets to go back to Seattle in May when the Giants play the Mariners. What ethnicity is his mother?

Well it’s nice to hear an update on T.I. and also that he does have some quiet time – that’s not easy with a new baby around. About the family – many old folks are set in their ways and it’s not easy for them to open up. I urge T.I. to learn as much as he can about his ancestors so he may pass on the knowledge to his children and their children. Travis is an amazing player and I sure do hope he will be the first base starter. An AMAZING, AMAZING hitter. Many ethnic groups and societies have experienced hardships for the rebuilding and (improvement) to these United States of America. Many still continue to serve. We must honor them for they are true HEROES. march-on GIANTS

Thanks for the story on Travis and I am rooting him to make it as the Giants first baseman. There has not been a good one since JT Snow (My very favorite Giant). As a fellow Japanese American and Christian, all I can say is GO TRAVIS GO!!

I come from a similar family background as travis. Im sure he knows what the term “hapa” means…There is a fantastic short film about Japanese internment and how baseball kept they’re spirits high, it’s called “day of independence” it was aired on PBS a few times and was made by the same people who made the oscar award winning “visas and virtues” if your at all interested in the baseball in the internment camps you need to check that movie out!

My dad was also in a CO internment camp — Amache — I’m pretty sure there was only one. We aren’t related, but my name is also Ishikawa — meaning “Rock River” — we welcome Travis to Wisconsin, where the Rock River (“the Mighty Ishikawa,” to my family) runs through the southern part of the state. Welcome to Travis, “The Mighty Rock”! Go Brewers!

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