Thank you so much for all your donations and for making it possible for us to bring junior high school baseball players from Tohoku and Kumamoto to Tokyo for the 2018 Baseball Project. This year’s theme was Be the Wind of the Future and the Project was held in Tokyo from August 10th to August 13th.
With your generous support, we were able to bring 18 junior high school baseball players from Kumamoto (including one girl), 18 junior high school players from Ishinomaki, and some of their coaches to Tokyo for the Project, and we were able to have 15 junior high school baseball players from Central Tokyo and some of their coaches participate in the Project.
Kumamoto experienced several earthquakes in April 2016 including a 6.2 magnitude (on the Japanese scale) earthquake on April 15th and a 7.0 magnitude earthquake (on the Japanese scale) on April 16th. More than 50,000 people were evacuated from their homes and more than two years later many are still living in temporary housing. Many buildings, including schools and the iconic Kumamoto Castle, were severely damaged. Kumamoto is still very much a city undergoing long-term reconstruction.
Ishinomaki in Tohoku was one of the areas most severely impacted by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. A 33 foot wall of water traveled more than three miles inland leveling 80% of the homes and destroying many other buildings. 7.5 years later Ishinomaki is still rebuilding and many are still living in temporary housing.
In both cities, school buildings and sports training facilities were impacted. For example, sports fields have been used as locations for temporary housing.
The Tokyo-based junior high school baseball players have not yet experienced a natural disaster but at some point in their lives they are very likely to. Therefore, it is important for them to learn about resilience, teamwork and preparedness from their peers.
We are very happy, with your generous support, to have been able to provide all these junior high school baseball players with baseball, leadership, communication, teamwork and preparedness training and to afford them with an opportunity to experience the power of volunteering and to create many happy new memories.
On the first day, several U.S. Marines led the young baseball players through a difficult exercise drill that all U.S. Marines are required to do as part of their training and endurance building. After lunch at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Japan at which two players from Kumamoto gave remarks in Japanese and English, the young baseball players visited Major League Baseball Japan and attended a Yokohama DeNA BayStars and Hanshin Tigers baseball game at Yokohama Stadium.
On the second day, it was time to play baseball! The young baseball players and their coaches participated in a baseball skills building clinic led by Takashi Saito, who was a professional baseball player in Japan and the United States for 23 years. He pitched for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, L.A. Dodgers and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He now works in the front office of the San Diego Padres. He was born in Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture and was very happy to participate in this Project as Tohoku is always very close to his heart.
During Saito-san’s hands on baseball clinic, the young players learned so much about how to pitch, throw, catch, field, hit and run like a professional baseball player. Through Saito-san’s wonderful integrity and professionalism, they also learned how to be a leader, a team player and a solid citizen of their communities. After the baseball clinic, they were able to apply what they learned by playing two baseball games.
In the morning of the third day, the Kumamoto and Ishinomaki teams played a baseball game and applied what they had learned over the prior two days. Both teams demonstrated great pitching, hitting, fielding, teamwork and respect for the umpires, their coaches, the other team and the sport.
In the afternoon, everyone participated in a leadership, communication, teamwork and preparedness workshop by forming small groups, each of which had to create the best possible baseball team and to identify five key elements or characteristics of a winning team. While the groups were working, Saito-san talked with each group about their work product and asked them questions. Each group then presented its team and key elements for success with each group member gaining public speaking experience by partaking in the presentation. Each group also fielded questions from the audience. Afterwards Saito-san gave a keynote speech about the importance and core elements of teamwork and about his experiences as a team player. During the baseball clinic and the workshop, the kids learned many important skills that will help them on and off the baseball field and throughout their lives.
In the morning of the fourth day before heading home, all of the students and coaches and some of their parents participated in a volunteer activity and made care packages with basic essentials like towels, wet tissues, energy bars and cool packs and with messages of encouragement for survivors of the tragic flooding and landslides in Western Japan earlier this summer who are now living in emergency shelters and temporary housing. After we delivered the care packages, a volunteer in the area said how impactful it was for survivors to receive messages of encouragement from children and adults who deeply understand how natural disasters impact people’s lives. The volunteer was also inspired to continue working hard to provide disaster relief in the deeply impacted areas of Western Japan. We shared this feedback with the young baseball players and their coaches. They now have firsthand experience seeing the importance of volunteering and how each person can make a difference.
The Project was a great success and we are already preparing for the 2019 Baseball Project next summer! All the junior high school students worked very hard during the four-day project and they learned so much. We received lots of positive feedback from the students, their coaches and their parents. They are extremely grateful to have been able to participate in the project. They have inspired all of us at Hands On Tokyo to work even harder and we hope they will inspire you too.
Thank you again for your generous donations and for making it possible for us to hold this Project and to provide baseball, leadership, communication, teamwork and preparedness training to all these promising young kids who are -- and will continue to be -- the Wind of the Future in their local communities. We hope you will support our future baseball projects as well.