Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
The narrator is small for his age. At his old school, the kids call him names and don’t choose him for team sports. Then Pearl Harbor happens.
The government forces his Japanese-American family to leave their home and get rid of most of their things. The family is housed in a horse stall at first. Eventually they are moved to an internment camp in the center of the country.
The weather is different at the camp: hot days, cold nights and many dust storms. They have to stand in line to eat and to go to the bathroom. Everyone lives in barracks.
In the internment camp, the adults don’t work. They have nothing to do with their time but wait. Sometimes this causes their kids to treat them disrespectfully.
The father in the narrator’s family sees that people at the internment camp need something to do. He and the narrator begin to pull up sagebrush and flatten the land. Others see what they are doing and join them. Together they create a baseball field.
The guard watching them from a tower lets them build a baseball field. Once the land is hard-packed, they build bleachers. The women make uniforms from the covers of mattresses. People write to their friends at home. They ask for baseball equipment, and soon it is sent to the camp.
Then everyone starts to play baseball. There are adult leagues and kids’ leagues. The narrator isn’t very good at the game, but he tries. When no one is on the field, he goes on it and practices. Sometimes the narrator thinks the man in the tower is watching him. That only makes him practice harder.
At the end of the season, the narrator’s team is losing by one run and has two runners on base. It is the bottom of the ninth and the narrator’s turn to bat. He gets two strikes almost immediately. Then the narrator sees the guard in the tower watching. This makes the narrator mad. All the guards do is watch.
The narrator hits the ball and it flies past the left fielder. He runs around the bases, and his team picks him up as a champion. Even the guard smiles and gives him a thumbs-up sign.
After the war, each family leaves the camp and tries to start their lives again. At his old school, the narrator is lonely. Kids don’t talk to him or eat lunch with him. He joins the baseball team. His team recognizes his ability as a baseball player, and they start to give him some respect.
At a game, the narrator realizes there is no one else on either team who looks like him. When he doesn’t catch a ball, he is called “Jap!” Only his team cheers for him. He goes up to bat. He quickly gets two strikes. The crowd continues to jeer at him. He hits the ball over the fence and makes his teammates very happy.
The narrator’s father does not stand for disrespectful speech from his children. He also sees that his kids and the people at the camp need something to do. He takes it on himself to start building a baseball field. Other adults join him in his endeavor.
The narrator is derogatively called a Jap.
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