Major League Baseball Japan to launch youth tournament
Major League Baseball Japan Tuesday announced a new youth tournament next year with the finals to be played in one of the cities hardest hit by Japan’s 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.
The MLB Cup 2016 will start in May with the finals being played from the end of August through September in Ishinomaki, organisers said.
“There is a beautiful stadium in the venue,” said Tony LaRussa, chief baseball officer of Arizona Diamondbacks, who joined a Tokyo press conference with former team stars Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez.
“You will add a lot of excitement, especially with the realisation of what the area has gone through and fought through in this rebuilding and restoring something like normal life.”
More than 18,000 people died in the 2011 tsunami which destroyed many coastal communities, setting off a years-long rebuilding effort.
Fourth and fifth year elementary school children will compete in the tournament in baseball-mad Japan, which has more than 700 little league teams.
Hall of Famer Johnson, a lanky left-handed pitcher nicknamed “The Big Unit”, said he hoped the tournament would improve the children’s skills on and off the field.
“It’s also the stepping stone to understanding what it takes to be a good teammate, playing for the team and being disciplined,” he said.
The Diamondbacks delegation visited Ishinomaki this week, with Johnson and Gonzalez giving baseball clinics to local children.
Johnson is one of the most well-known MLB stars in Japan. He pitched 22 seasons for Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona, San Francisco and the New York Yankees.
SPORTS AUG. 19, 2015