Owen’s team wins again!

Owen’s middle school baseball season is coming to an end with the Western Japan Athletic Association (WJAA) next week. In their last game of the regular season yesterday, they defeated Canadian Academy of Kobe, 13-0. They finished the regular season undefeated for the second straight year. Hopefully they will finish undefeated but one never knows with baseball. They do have the best team in the league, being solid in every position, unlike the other WJAA teams.

Owen was the starting pitcher yesterday and pitched 6 innings with 9 strikeouts and allowing no hits. The competition is not very good, but he did pitch well, cutting down his walks, varying up the speed of his pitches and allowing the fielders to make plays. Everyone in Japan has decent baseball skills, especially the seventh graders of our sister school, Senri I.S. The student-athletes are totally into baseball, from being “locked-in” on the bench giving vocal support, to knowing where to throw the force out, to popping the hips and turning on balls while hitting and scoring runs. Youth baseball in Japan is played with rubber-covered balls for safety and combined with the artificial turf surface, balls bounce quite a bit. A “chopper” grounder sometimes turns into a base hit.

The opposing pitcher was having control problems. As you can see in the video above, Owen didn’t want to walk and so swung at a ball over his head. Fortunately it was a line drive up the middle that drove in two runs.

His friend Euan pitched the seventh and allowed 1 hit, missing the combined no-hitter. It was a ball hit off the end of the bat that rolled back to the pitcher and I think the umpire was being kind to the opposition, who were getting badly beat. Anyway, the team played extremely well and most importantly, enjoyed a morning of baseball. I will certainly miss the middle baseball games next year. You can go to our family YouTube channel (link) to see more highlights from the game.

Owen Stars in Victory

Owen’s school team, the Senri & Osaka International Schools Sabers defeated the Canadian Academy Falcons 10-3 yesterday. In the video above, Owen hits a ground rule double over the head of the left fielder. He played first base and pitched the final three innings in relief. An interesting side note, the Canadian Academy pitcher is the son of former MLB player, So Taguchi, who is also a graduate of Kwansei Gakuin University. Besides winning a World Series with the Saint Louis Cardinals, he was a teammate of Ichiro Suzuki on the Orix Buffaloes and he is a from Nishinomiya.

In the Western Japan Athletic Association, the balls have a rubber cover for safety, but combined with the artificial turf, one sees many high bounces. Owen’s team is still undefeated heading into the last two weeks of the season. There is a really good group of grade 7 players on the Sabers MS team this year. The Japanese players are so fundamentally sound. It is like Serbian basketball, it seems like everyone naturally knows how to play the game because baseball is so popular in Japan. They really made some good plays in the field and it separates us from the other teams in the WJAA.

29635932242_4e9e5c162e_z
Owen plays first base and pitcher

 

Ocean in Pregame Ceremony

I found some time this morning to put together a quick video of Ocean’s experience at the baseball game last weekend. The Osaka Tourism Board was promoting international tourism before the Orix Buffaloes and Soft Bank Hawks NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) league game last Friday. The kids were so excited and Ocean represented the USA and greeted third baseman Koji Oshiro. The last place Buffaloes won the game 4-3 over the first place Hawks.

I also was asked to be the kampai taicho (captain of the toast) between the third and fourth inning. It was a fantastic evening and I would like to thank the tourism board and the Orix Buffaloes for the first class treatment they gave our delegation! Orix gambare!

30 Seconds on the Big Screen

Asahi beer asked me to be the kampai taicho (toastmaster) for the traditional third inning toast at Friday’s Orix Buffaloes game against the Soft Bank Hawks at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka. It is a tradition/marketing ploy to get people at the stadium to buy more beer. My daughter Ocean was part of a delegation from the school taking part in a pre-game ceremony. The Osaka Tourism Board was promoting international tourism. There is a push in Japan to be more open to other cultures, especially with the Olympics coming in 2020. They wanted a foreigner to do the toast for this game. Usually it is a fan chosen at random. I got a free beer from Asahi and got to wear the taicho sash! It was funny to be asked to drink beer in front of the students I was chaperoning, but in Japan, drinking publicly is acceptable.

 

 

Best Seafood in the World

fish market

You are not going to find fresher and better tasting fish and other sea creatures in the world than in Japan. On our way home from the beach last month, we stopped at a fish market and hand selected our piece of tuna. The vendors had a live demonstration of cutting the fish for people to purchase. The market is located near Shirahama Beach on the Kii peninsula, so the catch is fresh. This is also the place of the infamous dolphin harvest featured in the documentary The Cove. I hope it was sustainably harvested.

29435786325_434c24bb32_z

The day at the beach reminded me of the Mediterranean, with warm water, green hills and lots of people. It was our first beachtime all summer, so it was quite exhilarating. Now that the swim “season” in Japan is over, the beaches will be less crowded and we hope to go a couple of times in September before it gets too cold. Shirahama means “white beach” or “white bay” and it was a very popular tourist beach in the 1970s. Due to erosion, they had to import white sand from Perth, Australia, but I think they have it under control now. It has lost its popularity due to other options being available for beach holidays, but it is still a pleasant place to go. It is about a 2-hour drive from our home.

28811772514_acbf05c1f7_z

Owen stars in Sabers win

28813717353_22e1121f8a_z
Owen with some of his teammates

The Senri & Osaka International School’s middle school baseball team defeated Sons of Light IS 3-0 yesterday afternoon in their second game of the day. Earlier they defeated Kansai University International Academy 14-4. They are now 3-0 this season and on top of the Western Japan Athletic Association. Euan L. went the distance, pitching a shutout and Owen had a clutch 2-RBI double in the fourth to break open the pitcher’s duel. Owen played first base in the second game, and pitched for 3 innings in the first game.

The Sons of Light threatened to score twice in the game. In the fifth inning, the first two batters got on base, but then Euan struck out the next two batters and a groundout ended the inning. In the last inning, a runner was put out at third after a perfect throw by right fielder Rintaro.

 

last out

After a game there are distinctive Japanese practices of showing respect towards others. The video shows the final out and the post-game team bows towards the opponents, coaches and umpires. It is a nice tradition and manner of ending games, reinforcing sportsmanship. American sports should integrate something similar.

28813717663_ed5e957f4f_z
Owen on third base

First Day of School

28688117303_a4ed760394_z

We managed to get a photo despite it raining most of the day today. The Kralovec family took our annual first day of school photo. Nadia and I are so lucky to work at the same place as our children, one of the perks of international school life. Ocean was the most excited for day one and was the first awake of the kids. I made pancakes for Owen and Oliver and Ocean had her favorite –  cold watermelon. Oliver is in fifth grade this year and looked forward to seeing all his friends again. Owen the grade 8 teenager was also ready to go this morning, and I saw him preparing his daily planner the night before. We made a trip to Daiso (the 100Yen shop) yesterday in the afternoon to finish school supply shopping.

As the years go by, the kids are catching up to us in height! This is the last year we will not have a high schooler in the house for awhile, as next year, Owen starts high school and then the other two will go quickly in succession. I will continue to try to live everyday to my fullest and enjoy my time with my family.