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Kellen Hatanaka and the Toronto Blue Jays Honor the Legacy of the Asahi Baseball Team

A trailblazing Japanese-Canadian club that paved the way for generations to come.

Kellen Hatanaka is a Japanese-Canadian artist who creates work at the intersection of sports and culture. In the past, he has created a number of gestural compositions for publications, such as the VICTORY JOURNAL, along with commissions by pro clubs such as the Utah Jazz.

Originally from Toronto and now based in Stratford, Ontario, Hatanaka was recently tapped by his hometown Blue Jays on a new feature that sheds light on the Vancouver Asahi baseball team. Having competed in an all-Caucasian league from 1914 to 1941, the Asahi ball club became a beacon of hope for many Japanese immigrants looking for new opportunities in life. Physically smaller than most of their opponents, the Asahi members developed their own unique style of play, dubbed “Brain Ball,” which constituted of stout defense, base stealing and bunting.

Despite their success in attracting non-Japanese fans, the team was disbanded during the Japanese-Canadian interment during WWII and largely forgotten in the eyes of the international community. Hatanka took it upon himself to revisit this chapter through a solo exhibition of paintings titled “SAFE|HOME” which went on view earlier this year at the Nikkei National Museum in B.C.

To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, Hatanaka and the Blue Jays spotlight the Asahi team’s legacy over 80 years later. Watch the full video in the gallery above.

Elsewhere in the world of art, Yoshitomo Nara’s latest sculpture calls for peace.

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