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Baseball history connects Mariners front office member to family history

A trip to Japan in 2019 to watch a childhood hero inspired Mason Shigenaka to connect with his culture.

SEATTLE — For an hour every day until he reaches 3,000 hours, Mason Shigenaka is connecting with his culture and practicing learning a language.

"What's my streak at, at this point? 472 days," Shigenaka said.

Shigenaka is a diehard Mariners fan and his family has had season tickets since 1994.

He's since gone from fan to front office member, as a sales analyst for the club. He describes his job as the business side of the movie "Moneyball," using numbers to forecast attendance and to understand the overall trends of the team.

His job has allowed him to meet stars like Ken Griffey, Jr.

Credit: KING 5

While Shigenaka spends his mornings with numbers, most of his evenings are spent with letters.

"(In) Japanese there's three alphabets if you count Kanji. There's Katakana, Hiragana and then Kanji. It's been a journey to learn all of them," he said.

A journey to Japan in 2019 sparked this interest.

"There was an announcement made that the Mariners and the Athletics would be playing a two-game series in Japan. I told my dad, 'Hey let's try and go to this,'" Shigenaka said, in regards to Ichiro's final game.

"The thing I remember the most is the walk-around he did after the game. That was pretty special because nobody was leaving. Just to be there and see that happen was a pretty surreal experience. Go to a game and say hey this is going to be a part of baseball history," he said.

This moment in baseball history ended up linking Shigenaka to his family's history.

"The watershed moment for me to be more active in embracing my Japanese heritage," he said.

Through his process of learning how to read, speak and write in Japanese, Shigenaka set his sights on connecting with family of the present.

"My cumulative goal of learning Japanese was to be able to write a letter," he said.

Perhaps more importantly, was his understanding of his family of the past.

"Being interned, kind of get everything taken away from you, for my grandfather that's got to be a pretty traumatizing experience," he said. "To deal with all the discrimination and racism he probably had to endure and to come out a successful head hospital chef... We still have his last check from the internment camp when he was a chef there."

Credit: KING 5

Shigenaka's dad, Gary, is looking into whether that check can be cashed.

"Because of this story, he actually sent an email out to the treasury department because he's like, 'This check hasn't been cashed.' He just wanted to figure out, is this thing still valid?" Shigenaka explained.

Meanwhile, Shigenaka is fully immersed in his rich heritage.

"Always remembering where we came from and what our family has gone through to get to this point," he said.

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