Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors

by Hands On Tokyo
Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors
Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors
Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors
Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors
Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors
Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors
Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors
Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors

Project Report | Aug 30, 2019
Baseball Project Fall 2019

By Jay Ponazecki | Project Volunteer/Former Board Member of HOT

Thank you very much for all your generous donations so far this year!  You have helped make so many dreams come true and have helped inspire the next generation in Kumamoto and Ishinomaki to aim high.  


The 2019 Baseball Project for Natural Disaster Survivors for junior high school baseball players from Kumamoto and Ishinomaki was held in Tokyo, Orange County and Los Angeles from July 26th to August 2nd.  18 baseball players, three coaches and one intern (a senior high school student — a young woman — from Kumamoto who participated in the baseball project in prior years) participated in the Project.  They received team building, baseball, sportsmanship, fair play, leadership and communications training, participated in a volunteer activity and gained further confidence and life skills that will help them throughout their lives.  We are very pleased to report that the Project was an outstanding success.  


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) in 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 of the 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.  Eight 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, school baseball fields have been used as locations for temporary housing.  


This Project was inspired by Shohei Ohtani joining the Los Angeles Angels as a pitcher and designated hitter.  Ohtani is a hero and great inspiration in the eyes of many young Japanese baseball players.  Not only did these young baseball players and their coaches get to see Ohtani play in two baseball games and to see Ohtani in pre-game batting practice at Angels Stadium, but they also got to meet him!  They never dreamed this could be possible and now they know, based on this experience and other experiences during the Project, that so many other things are possible.  Their futures will not be limited by the words “never” and “impossible”.


Before traveling to Los Angeles, we held an orientation in Tokyo.  One of the first things we did was divide the young baseball players into four teams with members from Ishinomaki and Kumamoto.  These kids from two different areas of Japan had never met or played baseball together.  It was important to try to create one team from the start so the first thing we did was engage in a fun team building game.  Then they engaged in sportsmanship and communications training by sharing one by one what sportsmanship means to them.  (After the Project, they also had to write how their understanding of sportsmanship changed as a result of the Project.)  By dinner time, they were all saying how happy they were to have made new friends.  It demonstrated just how easy it can be, in this complex world, for people from different communities in one country to come together as one.  


A key part of the Project was playing baseball.  These young baseball players gained further confidence and life skills by training overseas and by playing two baseball games with their peers who are overcoming challenges growing up in underprivileged communities in Orange County.  Their peers are on a team in the Angels RBI League, created by the Angels Baseball Foundation, the Orange County Boys and Girls Club and Major League Baseball to revive baseball in inner cities.  This program provides baseball and life skills training and stresses the importance of academics off the field.  


In the first game, Team Japan played against the Angels RBI League Team.  These young Japanese players had never played together as a team before and they were worried about playing with US baseballs and bats for the first time. (US and Japanese baseballs and bats for junior high schools are different.)  They played very well and won resoundingly.  They gained a lot of confidence playing that game.


In the second game,  we created two teams with players from both teams.  It was amazing to see how well they played together, never having played baseball together before and with no common language other than baseball.  Everyone was a winner! 


During and after both games, it was very powerful witnessing how quickly all these kids bonded and became friends.  Baseball has a wonderful way of bringing people together and promoting greater understanding and compassion between different cultures and communities.  


These young baseball players also received communications training by having to prepare and make presentations about their communities, how their communities were impacted by the natural disasters and what they have learned from the natural disasters.  They gave the presentations at the orientation and at a special luncheon with members of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.  It was very touching to hear how they all want to give something back to their communities. 


They also received leadership training by hearing very inspiring remarks from the president of Yakult USA.  And they gave back to the local community by volunteering.  They did beach cleanimg at Huntington Beach, picking up plastic and other debris. 


They all worked very hard each day to learn as much as they could from this Project.  They are extremely grateful for this opportunity.  They thanked everyone each step of the way.  They even stayed up late the last night to prepare a video expressing their gratitude and to write thank you messages for each of the local volunteers.  They all want to share their experiences with their local communities so others can learn from their experiences.  They demonstrated each day the importance of sportsmanship and fair play everyday and everywhere in all that we do.  The future looks bright!


Thank YOU for helping make all this possible!  We and all the participants greatly appreciate your generous support.  You have helped promising young kids from Kumamoto and Ishinomaki in a very meaningful way.  


Yes, soon we will be planning the next baseball project!  Currently we are thinking of bringing junior high school baseball players from Ishinomaki to Kumamoto for baseball and important life skills training with their peers in Kumamoto.  We will keep you posted.  Thank you in advance for your continued support!

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Jun 3, 2019
Baseball Project Spring 2019

By Jay Ponazecki | Project Manager

Mar 4, 2019
Baseball Project Report Winter 2019

By Jay Ponazecki | Project Manager

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Organization Information

Hands On Tokyo

Location: Tokyo - Japan
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hands_On_Tokyo
Project Leader:
Naho Hozumi
Tokyo , Japan

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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