News


2015-03-24

Sri Lankan man's Koshien dream comes true behind the second base bag
March 24, 2015  THE ASAHI SHIMBUN



Umpire Sujeewa Wijayanayake signals that a runner is safe at second base during a game on March 23 at the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.
NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo Prefecture--While all Japanese high school baseball players dream of playing in the hallowed Koshien Stadium, a Sri Lankan man on March 23 got his wish to umpire a game there.
"I was really nervous, but I was able to do my best to make the right calls," said Sujeewa Wijayanayake, 31, who worked as the second base umpire for the second game of the day at the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament. "I'm happy that my dream has come true."
A resident of Kasuga, Fukuoka Prefecture, Sujeewa works for a hotel on weekdays and umpires amateur baseball games on weekends.
Sujeewa began his baseball career as a high school player and was eventually named a pitcher for the Sri Lanka national team. He said he came to Japan in 2006 to study umpiring because of a dearth of quality umps in his home country, due to the lack of players.
"Improving the quality of umpires is key in advancing the skill of our baseball players," he recalled thinking at the time.
Sujeewa said he hopes to work as an umpire at an international level someday and help baseball in Sri Lanka advance to the next level.