Playing Baseball to Heal Hearts

Today Japanese high school baseball officials made a decision on whether the spring national high school baseball invitational tournament at Koshien would be held. I haven’t heard the verdict yet, but I do know that many professional sporting events have been cancelled. This is partly out of respect for the earthquake and tsunami victims, and partly to save energy, and partly because many foreign teams and individual players have left the country.

Iranian-Japanese ace pitcher Yu Darvish  spoke out in favor of postponing the start of the baseball season. Although the Japan League will begin their official games next week as originally scheduled, the Pacific League, of which Darvish’s team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, is a part, won’t start till the end of April. Darvish was the  pitcher for his Tohoku High School team, which went to Koshien four times. Tohoku has been hard hit by last week’s tsunami.

I’m not sure if the team from that region would be able to make it to Koshien, but I can’t help thinking that a high school baseball tournament is just the thing to buck up the country right now. Wouldn’t it be inspiring to see the future of Japan out there on the field, playing their hearts out? Wouldn’t it give everyone hope? And maybe it would uplifting to watch the  teams play in another city that was once damaged by a huge earthquake and then rebuilt. My son, who is in favor of having the tournament, said that everyone would be able to see the team from Tohoku doing their best.

My husband, a former high school baseball coach, thinks it’s better not to hold it this spring. I do understand the argument against it. For many, it is unseemly to play at a time like this. Plus, it would cost  a lot of money better spent by the Red Cross or in rebuilding, and use up a lot of gas and electricity. And if the team from the stricken area can’t make it and/or isn’t able to practice, that would be unfair, wouldn’t it?

Prime Minister Kan says that Japan is in its deepest crisis since World War II. During the war,  the national high school baseball tournament at Koshien sponsored by the Asahi Shinbun was suspended. However, in 1942, The Ministry of Education decided to hold a special tournament to boost morale. It was called the “Promote the Fighting Spirit” tournament. Only 16 teams participated, instead of the usual (at that time) 23. The winning team was Tokushima Commercial High School. According to my husband, locals take no pride in that victory. “They shouldn’t have played,” he says. “It was during the war.”

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