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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wakamatsu becomes first Asian-American manager

The Seattle Mariners named Don Wakamatsu as their manager on Wednesday, making the 45-year-old former catcher the first Asian-American to manage in Major League Baseball.

"This is something I've looked forward to for a long time," Wakamatsu told the official major league website mlb.com.

Wakamatsu, who played 18 games for the 1991 Chicago White Sox, takes the helm of a team that lost 101 games last season after serving as bench coach for the 2008 Oakland Athletics.

He replaces interim manager Jim Riggleman.

Before joining Oakland, Wakamatsu coached the Texas Rangers from 2003-07, including four seasons as bench coach for manager Buck Showalter.

Wakamatsu's professional playing career covered 12 years and seven different teams starting in 1985.

A fourth-generation Japanese-American whose father was born in a World War II internment camp, Wakamatsu knows only a few words of Japanese but is proud to have broken a barrier for Asian-Americans.

"I'm honored to have a history and to carry it on," Wakamatsu told a news conference.

"My parents and grandparents have a long history here in the Northwest, and I'm proud to represent what they went through in their lifetimes.

"If I can be a stepping stone for future Japanese-Americans and for equality in baseball, I'm glad to wear that burden."

Seattle features two Japanese players in its starting lineup in outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and catcher Kenji Johjima.

"We wanted energy, a passion and the skills to translate that passion to the players," general manager Jack Zduriencik said.

"We wanted leadership, a presence that could help us as we define the 'Mariners Way' to win. We wanted someone that both the community and the players could embrace.

"Don embodies all of those traits."

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