Japanese youths from quake-hit areas practice with baseball legend

ABERDEEN, Maryland (Kyodo) -- A group of young Japanese baseball and softball players from the country's disaster-hit northeast enjoyed a special practice session Wednesday with major league Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. in Aberdeen, Maryland. On a field of the Aberdeen Project complex where Ripken runs a youth baseball academy, the former Baltimore Orioles shortstop coached the 16 junior and senior high school students from Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures on fielding techniques. "I know how everyone (in Japan) loves baseball," Ripken said. "We will teach them a few things and I hope they can be better players." After the practice, Takahiro Ikeda, a 17-year-old junior at a senior high school in Fukushima's Futaba, said excitedly, "He's so experienced and his teaching was very easy to understand. I would like to apply what I have learned here to playing baseball with all my high school teammates in Japan." Ripken, a record-holder for the most number of consecutive games played in Major League Baseball, also told reporters he plans to visit Japan in the near future. "In many ways, a part of our goal is to use put a smile on your face," he said in reference to what he hopes to do for the survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami during the trip. Visiting the United States at the invitation of the U.S. government, the Japanese students also met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, and received a tutorial from Baltimore Orioles pitchers Jason Berken and Michael Gonzalez. They plan to stay in the country through Tuesday.
(Mainichi Japan) August 18, 2011