Balcena, of Filipino heritage, had only two at-bats in seven big league games, but nevertheless represented the continuation of an important shift in the public mindset that started to gain momentum when Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier on April 15, 1942: that anyone, no matter their heritage, could play at the highest level.
Damon, whose mother is a Thai immigrant, was a first round draft pick selected by the Kansas City Royals in 1992. He’s a 2x All-Star, 2x World Series Champion, and lead the AL in stolen bases in 2000. Damon played a critical role in the 2004 Red Sox’s “Reversing of the Curse”, including two home runs in game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees. He last played in MLB for Cleveland in 2012, and made his debut with the Savannah Bananas in 2023.
Graves was born in Saigon, Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and a U.S. Army sergeant. He is the only Vietnam-born player in the history of MLB. Nicknamed “The Baby Faced Assassin”, Graves spent 11 years pitching in the big leagues before retiring in 2006. He is currently a baseball analyst for several sports media outlets.
Guthrie, who is of Japanese heritage, was drafted in the first round of 2002 by Cleveland. He debuted in 2004 and went on to play 12 plus seasons tallying 1,046 strikeouts and a career 4.42 ERA. The Kansas City Royals hired Guthrie as a broadcaster in 2023 and in doing so made him one of two Asian American broadcasters in MLB, along with Stephen Nelson of the Dodgers.
After spending eight seasons in the minor leagues, Katoh’s early success in 2022 was a heartwarming tale. In April, he achieved his first major league hit with the Toronto Blue Jays, which brought tears to his eyes. The versatile player revealed that it wasn’t the hit itself that stirred his emotions, but rather the overwhelming support and encouragement from his teammates in the dugout, after overcoming numerous obstacles to reach this milestone. Katoh is currently playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball.
Lincecum, whose mother is the daughter of Filipino immigrants, spent the bulk of his career with the Giants. Lincecum was a 4x All-Star, 3x World Series Champion, 2x CY Young Winner, and 3x NL Strikeout Leader. He also pitched two no-hitters, and finished his career with a 3.74 ERA and 1,736 strikeouts. Lincecum had a unique delivery that generated seemingly impossible power from his small frame, earning him the nickname “The Freak”.
Sakata, who is Japanese American, was selected by the Brewers in the first round of the 1975 draft. He posted a .230 career batting average, and was the first Asian American to participate in and win a World Series (1983). His three decades as a minor league manager resulted in his number fourteen being retired by the San Jose Giants and induction into the California League Hall of Fame. Sakata is also known as being the last Baltimore Oriole to play shortstop before Cal Ripken began his famed “Iron Man” streak. Read our feature on Sakata.
First Asian MLB Manager
In 2008, Wakamatsu, a Japanese American, made history by becoming the first Asian American manager in MLB. His dedication to the game and his ability to build strong relationships on and off the field were widely praised. Even famed baseball executive Fred Claire acknowledged Wakamatsu’s reputation, stating that he was “well-known and highly respected within the game.” Wakamatsu served in various bench roles across the league and eventually won a World Series ring in 2015 with the Kansas City Royals. He also gained notoriety for his beautifully-written lineup cards, as seen in the photo below. Wakamatsu retired after the 2021 season and more than 25+ years in the game.