Debate is on after girl told to quit helping in Koshien practice
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN  August 6, 2016

In an official workout held prior to the opening of the summer national high school baseball tournament at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, a female student manager passed the balls to the fungo hitter.  Before long, she was told to stop by the tournament secretariat. This incident has generated various opinions.

Wearing the same uniform and cap as those of male members, the female manager of the baseball club of Oita High School entered the stadium on Aug. 2, the second day of the practice there.
When the practice started, the manager, a third-year student, came onto the field and began to assist the session by handing balls to the fungo hitter.
After about 10 minutes had passed, a secretariat official noticed her and informed the teacher in charge of the team. Then, she returned to the bench.
The girl was ordered to leave in accordance with the judgment based on the rules of the tournament.
The guidelines for the schools and cheering squads that participate are distributed beforehand. They list instructions regarding the games, which clearly state that those who assist in practices are limited to male members of the clubs.
Hardball baseball is a sport that can lead to serious injuries as the ball is hard and batted balls move at high speed.
In the case of high school students, the physical stature between boys and girls can be significant. For that reason, the Japan High School Baseball Federation does not allow girls to take part in the games, and in the same vein, practice sessions in Koshien.
“Regulations about eligible participants limit players to boys. We don’t want to create a situation where girls, who have different body strength, could get hurt,” said Masahiko Takenaka, secretary-general of the federation.
As the practice at Koshien is not a “game,” the federation explained that she was told to leave the practice, which is treated the same as a game itself. However, the guidelines do not clearly state this thinking.
In the practice, 35 members are allowed to take part, which is higher than in an actual game. The guidelines state: “Scorekeepers who are not wearing uniforms should not come out to the ground."
Oita High School apparently thought it was OK for her to do so if she wore a uniform.
“As she has worked so hard, I allowed her to take part in the practice as a reward,” said the team manager, Atsushi Matsuo.
In this instance, the federation's Takenaka commented: “As for the practice at Koshien, we should have also written clearly that those who take part in the practice are limited to male members of the clubs. This is something we will give some thought to.” 

Many critical comments were posted online.
In a tweet, former sprinter Dai Tamesue, who scored bronze in the 400-meter hurdle of a world championship, said, “(High school baseball) is becoming a sport that is most out of touch with society.”
Magician Akira Fujii said, “What is wrong with this? Danger has nothing to do with gender. It should be reviewed immediately.”
Brain scientist Kenichiro Mogi said, “High school baseball is a wonderful sport festival in itself.” However, he tweeted, “There are too many mysterious formal beauties and prohibitions.”
Many Facebook posts criticized the prohibition based on gender.
“There are times when people suffer injuries irrespective of gender,” said one message.
“(Girls) should be allowed as a matter of course if they wear helmets,” said another. “How long are you going to carry on with male chauvinism?" asked another.
Meanwhile, another said, “I don’t think what happened was based on male chauvinism. But, it is based on the way of thinking that girls do not have the capacity to avoid danger. I support self-responsibility.”

All of the schools that are members of the federation probably have the same idea about offering opportunities to play active roles to students who have made efforts irrespective of their gender.
High school baseball is strongly associated as a club activity only for boys. In the 77th tournament held in summer 1995, however, a woman was allowed on the bench for the first time because she was the teacher responsible for the team.
The following year, girls were allowed on the bench to keep score for the team. Since then, many female scorekeepers have lined up with their teams before and after games on the field at Koshien to acknowledge the fans in the stands.
As for participation as members who assist in practice sessions on the field, concern over safety issues cannot be removed in any way.
A 30-minute practice at Koshien is an opportunity for schools to confirm the conditions and atmosphere of the field. They contrive ways so that their members can practice in conditions similar to those of actual games. They do not use guard nets. Several balls fly about simultaneously. The place is more dangerous than believed.
In order to prevent accidents, the federation is demanding that those who assist fungoes wear helmets even during practice in school grounds. It also recommends that pitchers in batting practices wear headgear.
Because of that, schools also bring the helmets and headgear with them when they practice at Koshien.
Today, plenty of girls are well-versed in baseball. At what level can people safely assist in practice? And at what level is it not safe? It is difficult to figure out the best criteria to make a judgment.
What is being discussed this time around is solely based on gender. Isn’t it possible to work out thorough safety measures so that anyone can also assist in practices, irrespective of their gender?
This is something that should be considered from a wide-ranging perspective.

(Yoshihiro Ando, senior staff writer, contributed to this article.)