Heart Of A Champion

Heart Of A ChampionBy Ellen Schwartz

It’s 1941 and ten-year-old Kenny Sakamoto wants to play baseball.  His brother, Mickey, is a star player on the Asahi baseball team in Vancouver.   But Kenny has a weak heart, and his parents won’t allow him to do anything strenuous – especially baseball.

Kenny is determined, so he asks Mickey to coach him secretly.  In a few months, he will try out for the Clovers, the baseball team for his age group.  He is slowly improving, but when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, everything changes.

Canada soon declares war on Japan, and all those of Japanese ancestry have their rights slowly taken from them.  Although Kenny and his siblings were born in Canada, they quickly become “enemy aliens”.  Eventually the Sakamotos, along with all the other Japanese-Canadian families, are moved to an internment camp in the B.C. interior.

With only shacks to live in and no recreation opportunities, it is easy to lose hope.  But Kenny has other ideas.  He decides that he will turn an area used to dump old construction materials into a baseball field.  He organizes the work, recruits helpers, and soon finds that he is much stronger than anyone thought.

Heart of A Champion is an inspiring story about a boy who learns that he is a very capable human being.  It also touches on Vancouver history.  Many Japanese lives were changed during the internment – homes and boats were taken, businesses destroyed.  This is one story among many about a dark time in Canadian history and the resilience of Japanese-Canadians.