Editor's note: this article has been updated for clarity and accuracy.
Diamond in the Rough: Japanese & American Baseball Players Join Forces in Ridgefield
Bobby Valentine’s Sports Academy, the Japanese American Association of New York (JAANY) and Kizuna Foundation welcomed 10 junior high school baseball players from Ofunato City in Iwate, Japan to participate in a baseball training camp and tournament with young American baseball players, during a goodwill visit to Ridgefield, CT and New York. The tournament will conclude on Saturday, August 19.
The Program, entitled Bobby Magic 2017, is a continuation of the Organizers’ efforts to promote healing in young survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 through a mutual love of baseball, and to deepen connections between the United States and Japan.
Hiroaki Konno, the Ofunato Magic coach, states that the 2017 program is “the kind of program made possible only by the deep bonds that were forged between us and Bobby (Valentine), and the commitment of those involved in the 2014 program, transcending nationalities and backgrounds. While it all started as an earthquake relief effort, it has now become much more than that; it connects participants through our shared passion for baseball.”
Toma Maekawa, a Japanese high school pitcher who participated in the 2014 program, reflects on his experience back in 2014: “It was a truly life-changing experience, and helped me rediscover my love of baseball. I plan to continue playing baseball in college, and nothing would make me happier than to get the chance one day to play against my friends at their U.S. college teams. What I shared with all the players during the camp is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Dan Corbin, a coach on the Bobby Magic 2014 tour said of the Program: “We went over to Japan thinking we were going there to help them: the kids, their families and the people of northeast Japan, and to let them know they had not been forgotten, but we took home a lot more from them than we gave... that was very moving for me, and I had to reciprocate the hospitality and kindness we received from our new found friends.”
The young Tohoku baseball team’s visit to New York reciprocates the trip taken by 15 young American baseball players in August of 2014 to the city of Ofunato, where they trained and participated in a tournament with their Japanese counterparts. During that 10- day stay, strong, life-changing friendships were created and young people on both sides of the Pacific learned about resilience and the importance of helping others.