U.S., Japan strengthen partnerships through baseball

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The Japan Air Self-Defense Force Southwestern Composite Air Division members and the Allstars pose for a group photo Oct. 15, 2016, at the Cellular Stadium in Naha, Japan. U.S. consul, Naha and military members stationed on Okinawa make up team Allstars. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force Southwestern Composite Air Division members and the Allstars pose for a group photo Oct. 15, 2016, at the Cellular Stadium in Naha, Japan. U.S. consul, Naha and military members stationed on Okinawa make up team Allstars. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Omari Bernard)

U.S., Japan strengthen partnerships through baseball

by: Senior Airman Omari Bernard, 18th Wing Public Affairs | .
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published: October 26, 2016

NAHA, Japan -- Japan and the United States have been allies for many years throughout the history of the U.S.-Japan alliance, and the relationship continues to grow through friendship, and common interests such as baseball.

The Allstars (U.S. Consulate and military members stationed on Okinawa) took on members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force in a friendly game of baseball, Oct. 15, 2016.

“The military and the consulate have put together a team and we are playing against the JASDF,” said Joel Ehrendreich, U.S. Consul general, Naha. “Everywhere I’ve been, all of my posts around the world, I’ve played baseball and made friends who I would not have made through my normal work.”

Lt. Gen. Junichi Araki, Southwest Air Composite Air Division commander enjoyed playing the Allstars.

“Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan,” said Araki. “We started the tradition of the U.S.-Okinawan baseball games in 1903 and it’s a good chance to relive a historical event.”

Ehrendreich said in 1903 a visiting U.S. Navy vessel played against an Okinawan team. Afterwards, other visiting military vessels would play a game of baseball when visiting the island and one of those teams was named the Allstars.

He also hopes to continue strengthening friendships and partnerships through playing baseball on Okinawa.

Araki, who has played the sport since childhood, said that baseball is supported by the Okinawan people and it’s good to bring back the games to show good relationships between the U.S. and Japan.

The consul general felt that the game went extremely well, especially for the other team.

“We were down in the last inning and we scored seven runs,” Ehrendreich said. “Unfortunately, we were down by a lot more than seven. More importantly today’s success was about building friendships and I think we can call that a win.”

The first game ended with the JASDF taking home the win 14-7 over the Allstars, however no one left empty handed. After the first game the Allstars and JASDF players exchanged gifts and switched up players on the teams before playing another game, and left the field with fond memories and affirmed partnerships.

“Japan loves baseball as much as the U.S. does,” said Ehrendreich. “So I know a lot of us haven’t played in 20, 30 or more years, but you get out here on the baseball field again and you feel young. Even if you don’t speak a common language, you have something in common and everyone can come out here and enjoy themselves.”