The Japan Society of Northern California (JSNC) celebrated US-Japan baseball relations on its 25th Annual Award of Honor Gala at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco on November 5th, honoring the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland Athletics and renowned members of Nippon Professional Baseball after they contributed to Japan’s Earthquake relief efforts.
The JSNC is a non-profit organization focused on “expand[ing] knowledge, increas[ing] personal interaction and facilitat[ing] discussion of important issues” between Japan and the United States, according to the JSNC website.
The JSNC also auctioned off San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics merchandises, including signed baseballs and bats and autographed uniforms from Masanori Murakami and Hideki Matsui. 25% of the proceeds were donated to the Japanese earthquake relief.
Some distinguished baseball guests were in attendance to accept their awards; others, meanwhile, received their reward through a video message. Lew Wolff, the owner of the Oakland Athletics, and Bill Neukom, Managing General Partner and CEO of the San Francisco Giants, received the Japan Society Citizenship Awards in person.
“[I’m] very honored [that] Bill Neukom from the Giants [and I] are receiving this award,” said Wolff.
Bill Neukom expressed similar sentiments: “I think it’s a wonderful event, and the Giants are delighted to be honored for citizenship of the year.” He also stressed the importance of the Giants contributing to the Japanese Earthquake relief efforts.
Masanori Murakami was also present to receive his Lifetime Achievement award. He is the first Japanese player to play in the Major Leagues with the San Francisco Giants in 1964.
Murakami was initially surprised he was chosen as a recipient, but was humbled his Major League debut revised America’s attitude towards Japanese Americans.
“The Japanese American who were looked down upon at the time [were] uplifted [by Murakami’s presence in the Major leagues],” said Murakami through a translator.
Ryozo Kato, Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball and former Ambassador of Japan to the United States and the recipient of the 2011 Award of Honor, and Sadaharu Oh, Chairman of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, were both honored through a video message. Both of these guests expressed gratitude when recognized for their awards.
Following the awards, the Gala concluded with Bill Neukom, lew Wolff and Masanori Murakami holding a discussion panel on baseball diplomacy with KCBS sports broadcaster Steve Bitker.