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Kaminishi’s incredible story not over
He has already nabbed an everlasting place in Canada’s sports history but, at 91, he hasn’t thought twice about settling down just yet.
Kaye Kaminishi — once a member of the Vancouver Asahi, a famous Japanese-Canadian baseball team — will compete in badminton this year in his 25th BC Seniors Games, now underway in Kamloops.
Kaminishi had a strong love for badminton throughout his teens, playing competitively at school, but, when his family was forced to move at the start of the Second World War, he traded in the birdie for a baseball.
He tried out for the Asahi at the age of 17.
“I was just a rookie then,” he said.
Kaminishi stuck with the squad and was part of the Asahi’s five-year winning streak between 1937 and 1941, playing a major role on a team with a reputation that has withstood the test of time.
When Canada declared war on Japan in December of 1941, the streak was over.
The Asahi, formed in 1914, was disbanded and Kaminishi and his mother ended up in an internment camp east of Lillooet.
While the team was no more, its legacy remains.
In 2003, the club was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Enshrinement in the BC Sports Hall of Fame followed in 2005.
“I am the last one left,” Kaminishi said.
“There was one other team member living in Toronto, but he passed away in June. He was 101 years old.”
There have been multiple documentaries made about the Asahi, including Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story, a National Film Board production.
Kaminishi was inducted into the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
He holds the memories of his time with the Asahi close to his heart, displaying autographed posters from the inductions on his wall alongside photographs of his old team — little pieces of Canadian history.
Kaminishi’s athletic career didn’t end with the Asahi.
In 1947, he moved to Kamloops and rediscovered badminton.
Still spry, the Sahali resident is aiming to add to his medal collection at this year’s Games.
“I have many medals,” Kaminishi said, pointing to a wall filled with gold, silver and bronze.
“We go to a different city each year,” he said. “You get to see so much, so many little places.”
On his coffee table, next to an old photo album filled with newspaper clippings and photos of his Asahi days, sits a second album.
This one is filled with 25 years worth of photos, programs, schedules and articles from each of the BC Senior Games he has attended.
Kaminishi looks at them with pride, noting the significance of a number of images throughout the album.
“I am so lucky to be able to play at my age,” he said.
This year, Kaminishi will be entering the competition without his doubles partner of 15 years, Herb Pendell of Salmon Arm.
“He is losing his vision, so he had to give up the game,” Kaminishi said. “I am very sad. I am going to miss him.”
Kaminishi will be in action today (Aug. 22) inside the Thompson Rivers University Gym.
He is scheduled to play at 9:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
On Friday, Aug. 23, he will take the court at 8:15 a.m.
He’s looking forward to playing in front of a hometown crowd — with his eyes firmly set on a podium finish.
“I am very proud,” Kaminishi said.
“Humble, but proud.”
Kaminishi’s former team, the Asahi, was honoured at the Canadian embassy in Japan on March 7, 2011.
Four days later, the country was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami that followed.
Kaminishi and his wife Florence were visiting Japan at the time. They were able to return home unharmed.