November 19, 2008
Written by C.N.
The Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball (MLB) are expected to name Don Wakamatsu to be their new manager. If so, that would make him the first Asian American manager/coach of not just MLB, but of any major professional American sport (to include the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League):
Wakamatsu becomes Seattle’s fifth manager since Lou Piniella left following the 2002 season. He replaces Jim Riggleman, who took over in June when John McLaren was fired after a 25-47 start to a season in which the Mariners were expected to contend for the playoffs. . . .
The native of Hood River, Ore., who grew up in Hayward, Calif., says he knows only a little Japanese — always a consideration in Seattle, with All-Star Ichiro Suzuki as the franchise cornerstone — though it has improved recently while with the A’s and Rangers.
Wakamatsu was the minor league catching coordinator for the Angels from 2001-02, after playing in the minors as a catcher from 1985-96. He played 18 games in the majors with the White Sox in 1991.
He managed Arizona’s rookie league team in 1997, then at Class-A High Desert, Double-A El Paso and Double-A Erie from 1998-2000.
Although I consider myself a baseball fan, I have to admit that I had never heard of Wakamatsu until now. From his picture above, he also looks to be multiracial/Hapa and without knowing much about him, I do not know how strongly he identifies as Asian American.
Nonetheless, this is still a huge day for the Asian American community, and for American society in general. As I’ve said numerous times in this blog, there is no denying that American society is becoming increasingly diverse — demographically, politically, and culturally.
We’re seeing more examples of this social trend everyday, from Barack Obama being elected as our next President, to Orange County’s (CA) first Asian American mayor, to Don Wakamatsu becoming the first Asian American manager/coach of a major professional sports team.
Congratulations to Mr. Wakamatsu and I wish him the best success.
Update: Thanks to comments from readers below, and as shown in the following ESPN news clip from the Seattle Mariners’ news conference earlier today, I am happy to learn that Don Wakamatsu indeed does strongly identify as Asian American and wants to serve as a trailblazer and pioneer for all of us: