Japanese, Alameda High School (California) ballplayers share love of baseball
March 8, 2017 The Mercury News

Baseball players from Alameda High and Fukuoka Institute of Technology, of Fukuoka, Japan, are photographed after a friendly game at College of Alameda in Alameda on March 3. The Japanese school brought two teams of 30 players who played a series of baseball games against Alameda and Encinal high school baseball teams during the weekend. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
ALAMEDA Some still refer to baseball as our national pastime. In Japan, its more than thatYes, Japanese professional baseball has a big following. So does high school baseball. The quality of play makes it easy to see whyPlayers take the field highly prepared physically and mentally, combining a disciplined what some might even call, an academic approach with a deep love and respect for baseball. A strict attention to fundamentals offensively and defensively quickly becomes apparent even to the most casual observer. In short, teams strive to play a level of prep baseball that few here ever have seenAlameda recently received a taste of this when the Fukuoka Jyoto High School team visited the Island. Between arriving on March 2 and departing Wednesday, Fukuoka Jyoto played a series of scrimmages at College of Alameda against its Alameda and Encinal high school counterpartsEven the locals came away impressed. On March 3, for instance, the visitors opened with an 11-0 win over Alameda Highs junior varsity team in the afternoon, then prevailed 10-2 over the Hornets varsity in the nightcapDespite the rigors of travel and feasting on the goodies provided by the Alameda families with whom they stayed, Fukuoka Jyoto players still displayed quality all over the field. Overall, the scrimmages looked every bit a showcase of two distinct baseball culturesWere not going to face a better high school team than we did today, Hornets coach Ken Arnerich said. This team we played today is a baseball school. They practice three hours a day before school and five hours after school. They bring in kids from all over the country; they have dormitories at the school. At a young age, they are better than us fundamentallyInternational baseball at all levels including this months quadrennial World Baseball Classic among the top professionals offers a study in cultural contrasts. Some argue the Japanese regard a baseball field as a place of honor. At the very least, those at this past weekends scrimmages readily saw that Fukuoka Jyoto treated the game with a respect typically given to any serious academic pursuit. But the visitors did not simply play by rote memory, but rather as students of the game enjoying baseball to the fullestAt this level, we spend more time playing games in Japan, Fukuoka Jyoto head coach Munekazu Yamamoto said through the translation of assistant professor Takatoshi Higuchi of the Fukuoka Institute of Technology (FIT), to which Fukuoka Jyoto is attached. We are more mature (in terms of baseball) at this age level which doesnt mean we are better. We learn more at an earlier age, which (U.S. players) will learn at a later ageStudents in Japan attend three years of high school before heading to universities (Fukuoka Jyoto brought only first- and second-year students to Alameda). Some of the schools specialize in physical education, of which baseball is part of the curriculum. And though Fukuoka Jyoto, a private school of about 2,000 students, does not offer credit for baseball, the game still looms largeIve been there four times, and (baseballs) amazingly big, said Hornets assistant Rich Krinks. (Fukuoka Jyoto) has 105 players in its program. If they go to the national championship at Koshien (Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya this summer), they will have played maybe 100 gamesA spring invitational also takes place at the same location, and upward of 50,000 spectators sometimes pack the stands for games of both tournaments, which also receive national television coverageBaseball over there is everything; you just cant describe it, said Arnerich, whose Hornets traveled to Fukuoka and stayed in Fukuoka Jyotos dormitories during the 2008 spring breakWhen we went over there, (Fukuoka Jyoto) treats you like royalty, Arnerich said. They roll out the red carpet for you. Theyre very generous hostsThe Hornets had hoped to return in 2011, but travel restrictions brought on by the Japan earthquake and tsunami that struck three days before the scheduled trip led to cancellation. Still, Arnerich hopes to bring his team to Fukuoka Jyoto again at some future time. In the meantime, Fukuoka Jyotos visit to Alameda served to reciprocate for 2008For its part, Fukuoka Jyoto exposed Alameda and Encinal players to a level of high school baseball they likely never will see in league, tournament and sectional play. Alamedans responded with their own special Island hospitalityIts a very beautiful city, Yamamoto said of Alameda through Higuchis translation. Were very fortunate to have friends overseas. This is a rare opportunity for (our players). Were looking forward for (Alameda) to come to Japan. Were looking forward to playing more games in the futurern