Matsuzaka Deal

A stable force in Matsuzaka deal
By Gordon Edes, Boston Globe Staff
February 15, 2007

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There are many fathers to the saga of how Daisuke Matsuzaka wound up with the Red Sox. Dan Okimoto (Poston block 327-4-C) is the only one born in a racetrack stable.

Okimoto's parents were Christian missionaries from Japan, living in California on temporary visas, when Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States declared war on Japan. Returning to Japan was out of the question. In the hysteria that followed, Okimoto's father and pregnant mother were among the 120,000 people of Japanese descent herded into internment camps in World War II. While waiting to be shipped to the Poston Relocation Camp (III) in Arizona, they were held on the grounds of the Santa Anita racetrack in Southern California.

"They made one of the stables a makeshift maternity ward," Okimoto said. "I was literally born in a stable. My parents named me Daniel, because of the metaphor of Daniel in the lion's den."

He chuckled. "You could say I got off to a fast start," he said. "The year I was born, 1942, was the Year of the Horse. Maybe I should have been named after a horse."

Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino has been friends with Okimoto since they were classmates at Princeton. Okimoto roomed with Bill Bradley -- All-America basketball star, Rhodes Scholar, NBA player, and senator -- and later was a top policy adviser in Bradley's presidential campaign.

"Any time we think of doing something with a Japanese component," Lucchino said, "my first call is to Dan."

That was true in San Diego, when Lucchino was with the Padres and Okimoto spearheaded the team's doomed pursuit of Hideki Irabu, who insisted on pitching only for the Yankees even after the Padres acquired his rights. And it remained the case after the Sox entered a bid on Matsuzaka and Lucchino placed a call to Okimoto, who had overcome his humble origins -- the US government formally apologized for the internment in 1988 -- to become a professor of international studies at Stanford.

Okimoto had gotten himself mixed up in baseball by chance. He'd been visiting San Diego, where he was raised after his family was released from the camp (Poston III), and saw a picture of Lucchino in the paper.

It was over lunch that Okimoto agreed to help Lucchino and the Padres find a Japanese player who might be as successful as Hideo Nomo was at the time with the Padres' biggest rival, the Dodgers. Okimoto protested that he didn't follow the Japanese leagues, but Lucchino persisted and Okimoto agreed to launch a search.....

Source: http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2007/02/15/a_stable_force_in_matsuzaka_deal/

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