An Opening Pitch
Kato’s ability to navigate his way through a speech as well as Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ¬- while gaining the trust of Americans and Japanese alike – has enabled him to maintain and cultivate the Japan-U.S. alliance through tumultuous post 9-11 times. During his diplomatic career, he has become deeply respected in both countries. On a personal note, it has also afforded him the opportunity to throw opening pitches at ten different major league ballparks along the way, including Yankee Stadium and here in Washington.
During our interview at his office in the embassy’s residence, I inquire more about his passion for baseball – I can tell instantly tell he has a passion for the game.
“It was a great thrill to throw a first pitch at the Nationals game,” he boasts with a gleam in his eye. But then, feigning humility, he adds, “but I threw it a bit too high.”
He is a baseball aficionado – and he has the baseball memorabilia collection to prove it.
“One of the rarest collector’s items I have is a baseball signed by both Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio,” he says.
He also has a 1955 New York Yankees autographed baseball; an autographed home plate from Coors Field; a bat autographed by Ted Williams and another signed by an entire Nationals squad; a personally signed baseball from Cal Ripken, Jr.; and enough autographed jerseys to make a teenager give up Xbox360. Forever.
Throughout our trip down memorabilia lane, his wife, Hanayo Kato, has sat silently amused – after nearly 35 years of marriage she is well-acquainted with her husband’s passion for baseball. Meanwhile, I can’t help but wonder how in the world he convinced her to convert one room of the residence into a shrine for major league baseball memorabilia. I’m convinced that in later years he will playfully list this among his many foreign policy achievements.