Before Monday night’s game, many baseball fans were shocked to hear the announcement that Mariners Manager Don Wakamatsu was fired. Likewise, Asian Americans who weren’t necessarily huge baseball fans were also saddened by the firing. Wakamatsu was the first Asian American manager in Major League Baseball (MLB).
When Wakamatsu was hired, he was hailed by General Manager Jack Zduriencik as the one who’d lead the Mariners to a new era. In 2009, Wakamatsu turned the hurting team around.
Unfortunately, 2010 has proved to be a bad year, and Wakamatsu’s firing came during a time when the Mariners were in last place in their division.
With a few weeks left in the current season, some have observed the timing of the firing as odd. However, Wakamatsu has chosen to take the high road. When pressed about what went wrong this season, he declined to go into specifics. Instead, he graciously thanked the Mariners for giving him his first job as a major league manager. For those of us who have met and known him, this is not a surprise.
“The organization makes the decision to move on, and I respect that. I respect that they gave me the opportunity,” Wakamatsu told The Associated Press.
Naturally, it would be easy to place blame. But we’re going to follow in Wakamatsu’s example of keeping mum about where the fault lies. Rather, we’d like to focus on the future. We’d also like to thank the Mariners. The organization took a chance on a man who wasn’t a big name before coming to the Mariners and gave him a great responsibility. The hiring of Wakamatsu also opened doors for other Asian Americans in MLB and for that, we’re also grateful.
Wakamatsu is not a man who is Japanese only in name and by blood. Whenever we talked to him, he seemed proud of his heritage and readily talked about his grandparents’ internment experience in order to shed light on the past.
Another lesson learned here is how important it is to take measured risks. Think about how many people of color and how many women have benefited from someone taking a risk during moments in history when there had never been a minority or female in a certain position or career? The world today is vastly different than it was only 30 years ago in terms of equality in the workplace. We have all those unsung risk-takers to thank for that.
We still see a bright future for Wakamatsu. Who knows where a man with his talents will show up next? For the time being though, Wakamatsu told news outlets that he is stopping over in Hood River, Ore. to visit his grandparents — now in their 90s — before heading back home to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to see his sons play football. ♦