By Andy Reed
Kensaku (Ken) Akiya is not your average University of Jamestown Student.
Ken hails all the way from Tokyo, Japan where he was born and raised until he was 18 when he left to pursue his dream of a University education and collegiate level baseball.
Kens journey to America starts with a tryout of him, and other Japanese baseball players showcasing their skills to teams in the NWAC (Northwest Athletic Conference), Washington, Oregon and British Columbia’s elite junior college sports conference.
“We hopped on a plane and headed for Washington,” Ken explains. “I tried out for Edmonds, Tacoma, Centralia, Clark, Chemeketa and Skagit Valley. Every school we went to, we either got offered a spot right there, or we did not make the team. Every college wanted me, which made me very excited and gave me a lot of options to choose where I would go.”
Ken goes on about his choice, “Chemeketa’s head coach told me that I could be in the starting rotation right away if I signed, so it was a pretty easy decision.”
Chemeketa Community College is located in Salem, Oregon and is in the South Division of the NWAC..
Ken informed me that he did not speak English at all when he first got to Salem.
“The advisor told me what classes to take, I didn’t understand her, so I just said yes. Class didn’t really teach me English, my teammates did.”
Ken spent two years at Chemeketa and completed all his courses while playing baseball. He received his Associates in Arts and Sciences and became fluent in English. The journey was not over however, Ken had dreams of playing for a University and getting an Undergraduate Degree in Health and Fitness Administration.
Ken had offers from schools in NCAA Division 1, Division 2 and NAIA coming out of Chemeketa.
“University of Portland, Upper Iowa University, Western Oregon University, Concordia University, Corban University, Saint Martin’s University and University of Jamestown all offered me scholarships. I chose Jamestown because Coach Hager called me two or three times one week and he was very persuasive and persistent which made me feel like he really wanted me to play there.”
Ken signed his letter of intent and headed east to Jamestown, North Dakota. Ken moved into an apartment in Liechty Hall. His roommates are three other players from the NWAC, including myself.
Ken explains how he feels about Jamestown after having lived here for a little more than a semester, “It is very different here than anywhere I have ever been before. It is way too cold.”
Ken and the Jamestown Jimmies played 5 games in the fall. Ken started the 2nd game of fall against Valley City.
“I was very excited to start my first game against our rivals. I gave up 6 runs, but it is okay because we won.”
Ken has 5 innings under his belt with plenty of more to come. The future is very bright for this persistent young man with a dream.