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An all-star men’s fast pitch softball team from Springfield’s sister city, Isesaki, Japan, is in town this weekend to play several friendly games with local teams at the Killian Sport Complex. The first game is Friday night June 29 and will include opening ceremonies in Killian Stadium. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has details.
Fourteen players, ranging in age from 24 to 62, spent a day sight-seeing in Springfield before gearing up to play their first game. This weekend’s games mark the ninth softball team exchange between Isesaki and Springfield since the first exchange in 1993, according to Cindy Jobe, coordinator of the Springfield Sister Cities Association.
Mayor Bob Stevens welcomed the team to the city at a brief ceremony in downtown Springfield. The visiting team presented the mayor with traditional gifts from Japan, who in exchange presented the team with complimentaries of the area.
For many of the visitors, it’s their first experience of American culture. Jobe says the team will also spend time going to places like Killian Park, Fantastic Caverns and Nakatos Japanese Steakhouse for lunch.
“[It's a] very cool exchange. One of the reasons why we so often do athletic exchanges and music exchanges—that’s the common language. When you’re sliding into second, it doesn’t matter what language you speak. That’s one of the reasons why these exchanges, although complicated because there’s always a large of people, and we have so many things to arrange, it really does simplify the actual experience between the people.”
Softball, she says, especially men’s fast pitch, is incredibly popular in Isesaki.
“Unfortunately, men’s fast pitch softball in Springfield is not so popular anymore. In Japan, there are 92 men’s fast pitch softball teams in our sister city alone. 92. Springfield, by the way, has four.”
Isesaki, by the way, has just over 200,000 people living in it. It’s a city about the same size as Springfield.
Jobe says these visitors traditionally work throughout the week, including Saturday, and usually spend all of Sunday having fun. But, unlike many Americans, their recreation day is spent outside, playing sports.
“They often work on Saturdays; they go to school on Saturdays. Sunday is their recreation day, and Sunday is when everybody—I mean everybody—descends on the parks. You are either going to play volleyball or softball or croquet or whatever it is, but everybody descends on the parks on Sunday. That’s when they have their softball leagues.”
The players from Japan know very little English. However, one of the coaches of the team did want to wish the people of Springfield a friendly welcome.
He is very grateful, he says, that the softball membership game in 2012 between the sister cities is happening in Springfield.
For more information about the games or the players, you can visit PeaceThroughPeople.org or contact the Springfield-Greene County Park Board.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.
The team plays its first game against Springfield-Greene County Park Board Men’s Fast Pitch league all-stars Friday (tomorrow) night at 7 p.m. Before the game, there will be a ceremonial first pitch beginning at 6:30. Admission is $1.50. Games continue throughout the weekend, with a doubleheader on Saturday. In between games, the exchange team will be honored guests at an induction ceremony for Springfield Softball Hall of Fame. The final game is on Sunday.