In Fukushima, Japan, a Baseball Story of Coming Together and Carrying On
by Ken Belson, NY Times
ONO MACHI, Japan — When the earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan in March, high school baseball teams up and down the coast were suddenly without fields to play on, including those closest to crippled nuclear power plants in Fukushima. Radiation levels were so dangerous that schools there were abandoned and players were evacuated to towns and cities across the country.
Yet nobody wanted to miss the chance to qualify for the annual summer tournament near Osaka, where teams from across Japan battle to become national champion. So three high schools that were forced into exile cobbled together a team to pursue their dream, however remote.
And there they stood one recent Saturday, the members of the Soso Rengo baseball team, doffing their caps and taking fielding practice like normal players. But they are not. Several of the boys from Tomioka High School, Soma Nogyo High School and Futaba Shoyo High School lost family, friends or homes. Their towns near the stricken reactors may be off limits for years. Instead of graduating with their friends, most of them are now strangers in new communities.
Amid the turmoil, baseball has provided some equilibrium.
“The players don’t feel sorry for themselves,” Noriyuki Sampei, a coach from Soma Nogyo, said before the first game of a doubleheader. “They just acknowledge the reality of what they can do right now, which is to try to do as thorough a job as possible.”