Waseda University Baseball Team: Renewing Ties with the University of Chicago after 72 Years
Athletes shake hands and congratulate each other's fine play after the game (Seibu Dome).
The first inter-league games in 72 years between the Waseda University baseball team and the University of Chicago baseball team were held from March 23rd to the 25th at stadiums in Hiroshima, Osaka, and Saitama. While the series ended in a 3 game sweep by Waseda University, the renewing of bonds that had been severed by the misfortunate history of war created happiness in each school that transcended the importance of winning or losing.
In 1910, the Waseda University baseball team extended an invitation to the University of Chicago baseball team in order to study the baseball of America, the country which was the origin of baseball. Since that time, visits were made alternately to the two countries every 5 years, and inter-league games were held a total of 10 times until 1936. However, this exchange was severed by the escalation of war between Japan and America. As with 72 years ago, the games held this year were initiated by an invitation from Waseda University, which desired to hold an revival inter-league games once again at the opportunity of the 125th anniversary university. According to Brian Baldea, the coach of the University of Chicago, "It was an honor to be able to play baseball in Japan. The memory of this experience will last a lifetime, and will enable the establishment of friendly relations between the two schools."
Athletes of the University of Chicago wear the team hats of Waseda University and pose for a memorial photograph in Okuma Garden.
The roots of Waseda University's school color, maroon, are said to have originated from the color of the University of Chicago's uniforms. Athletes from both schools displayed great intensity in the games, and uniforms trimmed in similar colors were caked in mud as a result of impassioned play. At Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, a phenomenal 4 hit performance was delivered by team captain Hiroki Uemoto (2nd base), who was born in the Hiroshima area. Uemoto spoke with joy when saying "I'm happy that I could show a good performance to my family in a game filled with such tradition". Also, athletes from both schools offered flowers at the Memorial Cenotap", a monument for those who died in the atomic bombing, in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Pitcher Yuki Saito newly conveyed his wish for peace by saying "Many people who passed away were the same age as us athletes. I feel happy to be able to play baseball in a peaceful era."
After the 3 days of inter-league games, both teams participated in memorial photography at the Okuma Garden of Waseda University and presented each other with team hats before reluctant saying goodbye.
Touring and Inter-League Games in Taiwan
On both March 15th and 16th, the baseball team played in the city of Taipei against the baseball teams of Chinese Culture University and Taipei Physical Education College. The games were held to commemorate the opening of the Waseda University Taipei International Exchange Center (Taipei Office) in Taiwan in summer of 2008 and to deepen cultural exchange with Taiwan. Katsuhiko Shirai, President of Waseda University, performed the first pitch ceremony and Waseda University posted victories in both of the games. Also, the athletes held a baseball clinic for children at a local elementary school. Athletes enjoyed exchange with local children through a mini-game and other activities. The first tour of Taiwan by the baseball team was held in 1927. This year's tour was the twelfth.