Asian Pacific American Heritage Month


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Chan Ho Park with the New York Yankees in

As we near the close of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I thought I’d do some quick research on the first player to make it to the Major Leagues from Asian countries (see table below). While players from some countries – like Japan and China – made it to the majors decades ago, other nations have been represented only recently.

In the 1990s, we welcomed players from South Korea (Chan Ho Park, left, was the first), Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines. Today, however, Asian-born players make up a small proportion of all major leaguers. Currently, MLB has only one player born in Hong Kong (Austin Brice), nine from Japan, six from South Korea, and five from Taiwan).

This is obvious a topic deserving of in-depth research, so, stay tuned!

~ baseballrebecca

Country First MLB Player Debut Year Team Years Played Notes
 China Harry Kingman 1914 New York Yankees 1914
 Indonesia Tom Mastny 2006 Cleveland Indians 2006-08 Grew up in Indiana; played for the Yokohama BayStars in 2009
 Japan Masanori Murakami 1964 San Franciscon Giants 1954-65 Also played for Nankai Hawks (1963, 1966-74); Hanshin Tigers (1975); Nippon-Ham Fighters (1976-82)
 Philippines Bobby Chouinard 1996 Oakland Athletics 1998-2001 Played high school baseball in Oregon
 Singapore Robin Jennings 1996 Chicago Cubs 1996-97, 1999, 2001
South Korea Chan Ho Park 1994 Los Angeles Dodgers 1994-2010 Also played for the Orix Bufaloes and Hanwha Eagles in the Korean Baseball League
 Taiwan Chin-Feng Chen 2002 Los Angeles Dodgers 2002-2005 Also played for the Lamigo Monkeys in the Chinese Baseball League (2006-16)
 Vietnam Danny Graves 1996 Cleveland Indians 1996-2006 His father is American and his mother Vietnamese
Kingdom of Hawaii Johnnie Williams 1914 Detroit Tigers 1914
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The All-Samoan Lineup


[Note: Click here for an updated list.]

Continuing last week’s theme of baseball in American Samoa, and to usher in Asian Pacific American Heritage month, here’s a brief look at all of the MLB players with links to American Samoa:

First baseman Tony Solaita (1947-1990) is the only Major League player born in American Samoa. At the age of 8 his family moved to Hawaii and later to San Francisco.

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Benny Agbayani in 2009 (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Tony played for the Yankees, Royals, Angels, Expos, and Blue Jays in 1968 (one game) and from 1974 to 1979. He played in the Japanese League from 1980 to 1983. After his retirement he returned to American Samoa and established a youth baseball league with his brother Ben.

Left fielder Benny Agbayani was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1971; he is part-Filipino and part-Samoan. He is the second Filipino American to play in the major leagues. Agbayani played for the Mets, Rockies, and Red Sox between 1998 and 2002. He played for the Chiba Lotte Marines in the Japanese Pacific League between 2004 and 2009. As of 2015, Agbayani was living in Hawaii and working at a school in Oahu.

Mike Fetters, pitcher, was born in Van Nuys, California, in 1964 and moved to Hawaii at the age of 9. His mother, Su’apaia, was from American Samoa. Fetters, a relief pitcher, played for nine MLB teams between 1989 and 2004. Fetters is currently the bullpen coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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Matt Tuiasosopo in 2013 (photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Wikipedia)

Utility player Matt Tuiasosopo was born in Bellevue, Washington, on May 10, 1986. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2004 and later played for both Detroit and Atlanta. Matt comes from a family of athletes. His father, Manu Tuiasosopo was a defensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. His brothers Marques and Zach also played football.

According to Murray Cook, other MLB players with ties to American Samoa are outfielder Chris Aguila and pitcher Wes Littleton. Of course, currently the most famous MLB player of American Samoan descent is Sean Manaea, who recently threw of no hitter for the Oakland A’s.

Happy Asian Pacific Islander Month!

~ baseballrebecca