Japanese teens stay, play baseball Arundel-style Kanagawa stars visiting in Sister State program

August 28, 1998|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Arundel High School families are hosting this week an all-star boys baseball team from central Japan's Kanagawa prefecture, a region south of Tokyo with more than 200 high-school squads.

The team of 18 players, plus an eight-man staff, is playing three games while staying with families in the Crofton/Gambrills area of Anne Arundel County.

The visitors will tour Camden Yards and, weather permitting, are to take in tonight's Orioles-Kansas City Royals game before leaving for home Sunday.

The Japanese visited the Babe Ruth Museum on Wednesday and Washington, D.C., yesterday, seeing the National Air and Space Museum, the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.

"They had a great time -- always have smiles on their faces," said Arundel sophomore catcher Brian Pugliese, whose family is hosting two Japanese players, Sadaki Otsuki and Shigeharu Dobashi.

"They know just a little English, and if one of them doesn't understand, the other one does," said Brian.

Pugliese said his guests have been "constantly at our pool table and love our beagle, pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. They eat a lot but not between meals. The only thing they've done that I wouldn't do is wear flip-flops sightseeing."

In January, the Maryland Sister State program contacted Arundel athletic director and baseball coach Bernie Walter about an exchange program with a group from Kanagawa, with which Maryland has been associated for 16 years.

Active in the American Baseball Coaches Association and U.S. Baseball Federation, Walter is known internationally after leading the 1988 USBF junior-national 17-18 team to a world championship in Sydney, Australia and, two years later in Havana, Cuba, a bronze medal.

Maryland Secretary of State John Willis, who attended Arundel Junior High and graduated from Westminster High, and Sister States' Molly Hughes coordinated the exchange, which earned Willis first-pitch honors in a game Wednesday at Arundel.

Walter presented the visitors a Maryland flag as the teams exchanged gifts before Kanagawa rolled, 11-1, over the Arundel Cats, a summer club team.

Last night, after presenting the visitors with Orioles caps, the national 16-year-old champion Maryland Orioles beat the Japanese, 5-3, highlighted by Derek Dixon's home run.

Kanagawa concludes its series against the Arundel Cats at noon today.

High school baseball in Japan is exceeded in popularity only by professional baseball. National high-school champions are determined in both spring and summer. A Kanagawa school, Yokohama High, won both this year, with one of its players being scouted by major-league interests. Yokohama coach Motonori Watanabe manages the all-star team.

High school baseball is "very, very popular in Japan," said Kanagawa Baseball Federation president Hajime Kurotsuchi through interpreter Yoshiko Beard, the wife of local umpire John Beard. "About 50,000 fans attend the grand championship."

Kurotsuchi and assistant Yasunao Murayama, who speaks limited English, were impressed with the excellent, grassy, Arundel High baseball stadium, which has lights for night games.

"It's huge, wonderful, very big compared to our public schools in Japan," said Kurotsuchi. "We have mostly dirt infields and no lights, except for some of our private schools. We take our baseball serious."

Arundel Cats coach Jeff Lloyd observed that "the only difference vTC between our kids and theirs is the language barrier. They enjoy the same things but might be a little more disciplined."

Pub Date: 8/28/98

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