US military, Okinawa children bond in America’s pastime

by Lance Cpl. Brittany A. James, III MEF/MCIPAC Consolidated Public Affairs Office
U.S. Marine Corps

CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- The children’s voices roar as the ping of a metal bat echoes the through the air and the batter takes off to reach the first base, while his teammate disappears into a cloud of dust as he slides into home plate.

Baseball teams with Marine Corps Community Services participate in a friendly game against local teams from Ginowan City, Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 27 on the Camp Foster baseball fields.

Four MCCS teams and four Ginowan City teams with players’ ages ranging from 9 - 12 years old participated in the ball games.

“It’s a friendly game,” said Cpl. Nicholas McGuire, coach of the MCCS Cyclones, and ordnance man with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “We can give the kids an opportunity to interact with (Okinawa community members), experience their interpretation of how to play baseball, and they can see how we play.”

Building cohesion between the military and Okinawa community is important, according to Mcguire, a Fort Worth, Texas, native. Bringing them on base helps them bond and build trust by letting them see what life is like inside the base gates.

“There are people who do not like the military presence on Okinawa,” said Mcguire. “Arranging fun events, shows that we do care to get to know the people of Okinawa, help them and share what we have with them.”

The ball game was not a competition, according to Mcguire. The kids knew that the purpose of the game was to interact, and have a fun time with the local children.

“This is not a regular baseball game,” said Toshiya Matsukado, coach of the Ojana Bay Stars. “I see the kids smiling, laughing, and relaxing. They know that this game is all for fun, and they have fun playing baseball with American children.”

Despite the different body sizes within the same age group, everyone played safely, according to Matsukado, a Ginowan city, Okinawa, Japan, native.

“It is special for the (Okinawan children) to come on base to play baseball,” said Matsukado. “The children play on dirt fields, and this is like playing in a stadium to them.”

Although the language barrier was present, the children bonded over the universal language of baseball. They interacted using hand gestures, smiles and cheering.

The most difficult aspect of playing baseball with the Okinawa children was the verbal communication, according to Mason Collier, a MCCS Cyclones player. The way we communicated with them was by clapping or cheering when they threw a good pitch or hit the ball well, said Collier.

It is important to make time for fun and unique experiences while on Okinawa, according to Mcguire. The unity of the local and military community sharing experiences together boosts camaraderie.

“We are only living on the island for a little while,” said Mcguire. “The impact that we leave with the country will last a lot longer than our stay here, and it will benefit those who come here after us.”

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