Bodhisattva at Bat: Baseball as Buddhist Practice for Kenichi Zenimura

I recently had the good fortune of presenting at a Buddhist conference comprised on both scholars and practitioners. Here's the official conference info:

The Pure Land in Buddhist Cultures: History, Image, Praxis, Thought (Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2, 2013) at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. The event served a dual purpose as The 3rd Annual Conference of the Buddhism and Contemporary Society Program and the 16th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies (IASBS).

And here's an abstract of my paper/presentation:

“Bodhisattva at Bat: Baseball as Buddhist Practice for Kenichi Zenimura”
Kenichi Zenimura (1900-1968) is recognized as “The Father of Japanese American Baseball” for his legacy as a player, manager and international ambassador. He was also a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist. During WWII he was among the 120,000 people of Japanese Ancestry sent to internment camps by the U.S. government. Behind barbed wire at Gila River, AZ, he constructed a ball field and organized leagues that gave his fellow internees a sense of hope and normalcy. In describing Coach Zeni one of his players said, “He indeed possessed a tremendous knowledge of baseball savvy, but above all, he wanted every player to become a better human being by realizing his responsibility and compassion for his fellow man.” For Zenimura, baseball was more than just a game – it was how he knew best to bring happiness into the lives of others, break down barriers to foster peace and understanding, and to minimize suffering in the world. This paper will reflect upon Zenimura’s career and demonstrate how he used the game of baseball as a vehicle for Buddhist practice.


I met a lot of wonderful people, many of whom asked where they could learn more and purchase the Zenimura book. With that, I'd like to offer a special price on the book for conference attendees.

Special Offer for 2013 Pure Land Conference Attendees
Special pricing and shipping for residents of U.S., Canada and Japan.
$23.99 USD + Shipping

And here's more information on the book for those conference attendees who did not get a chance to attend the session.

Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer
Bill Staples, Jr.
Foreword by Don Wakamatsu

McFarland, 2011
Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-6134-9
75 photos, appendices, notes, glossary, bibliography, index
282pp. softcover (7 x 10) 2011

About the Book
While the story of the Negro Leagues has been well documented, few baseball fans know about the Japanese American Nisei Leagues, or of their most influential figure, Kenichi Zenimura (1900-1968). A talented player who excelled at all nine positions, Zenimura was also a respected manager and would become the Japanese American community’s baseball ambassador. He worked tirelessly to promote the game at home and abroad, leading goodwill trips to Asia, helping to negotiate tours of Japan by Negro League All-Stars and Babe Ruth, and establishing a 32-team league behind the barbed wire of Arizona’s Gila River Internment Camp during World War II. This first biography of the "Father of Japanese-American Baseball" delivers a thorough and fascinating account of Zenimura’s life.

**Award Winner Winner, SABR Baseball Research Award**

About the Author
Bill Staples, Jr., is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), a board member of the Nisei Baseball Research Project, and a past speaker at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He lives in Chandler, Arizona.

About McFarland
McFarland is a leading independent publisher of academic and nonfiction books. McFarland is especially known for covering topics of popular appeal in a serious and scholarly fashion, and for going to great lengths to manufacture our books to the highest standards and library specifications (both print  and ebook). Many of them have received awards as outstanding reference or academic titles. McFarland is recognized for serious works in a variety of fields, including pop culture, sports, military history and transportation, among other topics.

Once again, it was a pleasure meeting everyone at this fascinating and informative conference and I look forward to the next time we meet again. If you need to contact me for any reason, here's my info -- phone: 602-614-0538 or email billstaplesjr[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks.

p.s. Don't forget to vote for Zenimura for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Buck O'Neil Award. 

p.p.s. Many people have asked where they can learn more about Japanese American Baseball. The following are excellent resources/materials.


Nisei Baseball Research Project

The Densho Project (archive of internment materials)

Children's Books

Baseball Saved Us

Barbed Wire Baseball

A Diamond in the Desert


Motion Picture

American Pastime


Diamonds in the rough: The legacy of Japanese American Baseball (DVD)

TV Asahi Japan (2011)

NHK Japan (2011)
(Archive: right column, 4th from bottom)
(Zenimura details)