Idaho

Minidoka project will rebuild internment camp baseball field

Minidoka Relocation Center, where thousands of people of Japanese ancestry were held during WWII, is seen here as it appeared when occupied.
Minidoka Relocation Center, where thousands of people of Japanese ancestry were held during WWII, is seen here as it appeared when occupied. Statesman file

The Minidoka internment camp, also known as the Hunt camp, sits on a spare, dry expanse of land near Jerome. From October 1942 to August 1945, the U.S. government held more than 13,000 people of Japanese descent there following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The old camp has been the site of annual pilgrimages and a few remnants and relics of the internment era remain on the site, including a couple of barracks, various outbuildings and a mess hall. The Friends of Minidoka and Boise State University worked together recently to reconstruct one of the eight guard towers located around the perimeter of the camp.

Now the group, which works to educate the public about the internment and to restore the Minidoka site, is partnering with the National Park Service to bring volunteers together to rebuild one of the camp’s 14 baseball fields on Saturday, May 28.

Mia Russell, director of the Friends of Minidoka, said restoration of the field will help visitors connect to the story of the internment as well as to understand the complexities of life and recreation in the camps.

“The restoration of the baseball field isn’t just a ‘feel good’ story, but it gives a picture of how people were able to carry something along,” said Russell.

Playing baseball, participating in recreation helped recreate some semblance of a normal life at a time when very little else was normal, said Russell. “It was a double-edged swored. For many children, being in the camp was the first time they had seen their parents have leisure time. It’s an interesting complexity of life at camp.”

The idea to restore a baseball field at camp came from two older men who had been held at the Hunt Camp as children with their families.

Russell and other organizers are inviting the public to be part of “Field-in-a-Day” at the site on Saturday, May 28, either as volunteers or donors. In addition to volunteers to help with construction, set-up, registration, refreshments, children’s activities and more, organizers are seeking donations of materials for the scoreboard, backstop, benches, and bleachers; used baseballs, bats, gloves, and other equipment for future community use of the field; and WWII-era baseball equipment for educational use at Minidoka National Historic Site.

If you would like to donate materials, sponsor a field element, or sign up as a volunteer on May 28, email Friends of Minidoka at info@minidoka.org or Minidoka National Historic Site at carol_ash@nps.gov. Donors can also send checks to Friends of Minidoka, PO Box 1085, Twin Falls ID, 83303.

Donations will also be used to support both the Field-In-A-Day event and the dedication of the field on June 26. Any money leftover from the project will help maintain the field. The field will be open for use to visitors, school groups, and special events.

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