Diamond offers common ground

LIHU’E – In baseball, a high fastball looks the same in any language.

That

and other common ground was shared Saturday by the Kaua’i Cardinals and the

Hoya Dodgers in a matchup of Pony League teams of boys 13 to 15 years

old.

The language barrier was nearly meaningless as the Dodgers, here from

Japan for a three-day visit, engaged the hometown Cardinals in a doubleheader

that meant nothing in the scorebooks, but gave both sides an understanding of

their different cultures.

The event was arranged by Larry Moises, director

of Hawaii’s Pony League organization, and his counterparts in Japan. The goal

was “a friendship exchange,” said Ken Schiba, who works for the Japan Travel

Bureau and doubled as an interpreter during the games.

Coach Jay Gativan

obliged by reuniting his Cardinals, who earlier had finished their season with

a second-place finish in the local Pony League.

“We’re out here to have

some fun,” he said as the two teams rested in their respective dugouts after

the first game, won by the Dodgers 8-4. The visitors won the second contest

13-6.

Hoya, described by coach Yoshiaki Matsumuto as middle-of-the-pack in

its 27-team Tokyo metro league, nevertheless qualified for Japan’s national

tournament. The Dodgers lost in the early rounds.

They impressed the

Cardinals.

“They hit the ball, and they’re very disciplined hitters. They

don’t swing at high pitches,” Gativan noted. “And they’re solid on

defense.”

Kaua’i infielder Kyle Neuberger verified the defensive ability of

Hoya shortstop Ryo Shimizu, who made a diving stop to get Neuberger out in the

first game.

“I was robbed. It was a good play, though,” Neuberger said with

a smile.

He agreed with Gativan’s assessment of the Japanese discipline at

the plate, which showed in the first inning of the second game. After their

first two batters grounded out, the Dodgers strung four consecutive hits which

helped produce a 5-0 lead.

Some of the visitors knew a few words of

English, including hello and thank you. But generally, they just went out and

played the same way as their American hosts.

“They play hard but not dirty.

They showed good sportsmanship,” Gativan said of the Dodgers.

Neuberger

added that the Japanese play “a little different style,” but “I don’t know if

they’re better than teams here.”

With less than 20 spectators watching, the

teams played mostly for themselves.

Mission accomplished.

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