ABOUT THE BARONS ATHLETIC ORGANIZATION
The first Barons basketball team was formed by a young man named Newell Noda in 1970. Playing for the best AA team in the state, the Sacramento Counts, Newell was ready to retire as a player and decided to form a team that would participate in the Nisei Athletic Union (NAU) A division. The first Barons team was comprised of players who had graduated from high school and were eager to continue playing basketball in the competitive NAU league.
Because of Newell’s roots from the Counts, the team followed the theme of nobility and selected the name “Barons”. They also retained the Counts colors - red, blue and white.
Newell, a hairstylist by profession, brought a flare to the NAU not seen before or duplicated since. Newell introduced the “Pat Riley” look long before Pat Riley. With Newell’s sense of style, the first Barons team had to have complete uniforms, travel bags, and warm-up jackets - A tradition that has continued to influence the Barons organization over the years.
As with any fledgling endeavor, finances were a priority. The team needed to raise money in order to survive. That first team washed cars, made “house calls” and waxed cars, sold the now famous “Baron Booster” pins to loyal fans, and even painted the outside of Newell’s parents’ home.
The first “corporate” sponsor of the Barons was Fred Kunisaki and Walsh Station Automotive Service. Fred was a major benefactor for the Barons. Perhaps, Fred was motivated by the fact his
oldest son, Gordon, was a member of that inaugural Barons team. Gordon had a strong desire to be a “star” on the Barons and thus, “Uncle Fred” provided a steady influx of cash.
As the years passed more Barons teams were formed to compete in the NAU. Aki Kushida of Aki’s Ranch Market had joined Fred as the primary sponsors of the Barons.
With the addition of more Barons teams, the Barons Athletic Organization was formed. Organization by-laws were developed, a board was elected and a group of parent advisors were
One of the most important events during the growth of Barons teams was the addition of the Sacramento Squires. Welcoming the Squires had immediate returns - you see, Gordon’s younger brother Rodney was a member of that Squires team!
The Barons began hosting tournaments over 25 years ago. For two consecutive years the Barons’ tourney was rated the Best Tournament in California. AA Championship games were
filled to capacity. Eventually, the Barons also added an annual crab feed as the other major fundraiser for the teams’ expenses. Both the tournament and crab feed have become annual
events and rousing successes due to the invaluable contributions of longtime supporters of past and present Barons players.
In 1998, the younger Kunisaki brother, Rodney, and his wife Julie wrote a new chapter in the Barons story. Up until then, the Barons Athletic Organization had sponsored teams for
NAU competition. A women’s team had been added to the family (a team that included Gordon’s daughters, Kristy and Pam!). But the organization’s focus had always been on basketball
competition after high school. In 1998, the organization took the next natural step-Youth teams. It started with a boys and girls teams for the grandchildren of our founding father, Fred Kunisaki, and has grown to 7 teams. At the core of these teams are long time Barons players and supporters.
As the children of other Barons alumni grow, so will the organization. The one constant that has existed throughout the 33 years of the Barons is the strong support of family and friends of the hundreds of players that have worn a Barons uniform.