Inspiring words at Koshien before players take the field
March 19, 2017, Vox Populi, Vox Dei, a popular daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.

March 19 was the scheduled start of the national high school baseball invitational tournament at Koshien Stadium in Hyogo PrefectureIn recent years, we’ve heard many impressive, well-written player’s oaths at the outset of the annual tournament, which have given us another reason to watch the opening ceremony for the eventThese days, we no longer hear the conventional, screaming oaths that were once the norm. Most are now written in casual language and uttered in a soft tone pleasant to the ear“We were born 16 years ago in the year when the Great Hanshin and Awaji Earthquake occurred,” one player said six years ago in his oath of fair play, referring to the 1995 earthquake that devastated Kobe and surrounding areas. “Now, as many lives have been lost in the Great East Japan Earthquake, our hearts are filled with sorrow.These are passages from one of the most memorable player’s oaths at Koshien, pronounced in 2011 shortly after the earthquake and tsunami ravaged Pacific coastal areas in the northeastern Tohoku region. “With a sense of gratitude for the life given to us … I pledge to play fair.These words, uttered in that March when the nation was gripped by anxiety, struck a responsive chord in the breasts of many Japanese“With the help of my teammates, I fiercely racked my brains to write and polish the text,” says the player, Shinsuke Noyama, 22, who was the captain of the baseball team of Soshi Gakuen High School in Okayama PrefectureHe thought three words had to be included--“hisaichi” (disaster-hit areas), “nakama” (friends) and “kansha” (gratitude)He also received help from the team’s manager in improving the textAfter his performance, the school was flooded with letters from all over the nation expressing sympathetic reactions to his messageNoyama, who was a first-year high school student at that time, becomes a working adult this springDuring his efforts to find a job, he realized that making an oath at the storied stadium on that day was an invaluable experienceIn his job interviews, he proudly said that making the oath on that day was the most important performance of his lifeSpeaking of player’s oaths, we have learned that children at a kindergarten were made to cheer for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by saying in their pledge for the institution’s athletic meet: “Prime Minister Abe, hang in there. Prime Minister Abe, hang in there.For a player’s pledge at a kindergarten athletic meet, the children should have been advised to speak in their own language about their enthusiasm for a footrace or the traditional “tamaire” event in which two teams throw red or white balls into a basket atop a high poleIf players make an oath of fair play expressed in their own carefully chosen words, the experience will someday play an important role in their livesA member of the baseball team of Sakushin Gakuin in Tochigi Prefecture was to make the oath at the March 19 opening ceremony for the tournament. I hope that his voice will fill the sky over Koshien with a loud sound carrying a message of hope fit for a young man