Eight professional baseball teams visit Okinawa for training camps

Eight professional baseball teams visit Okinawa for training camps

When the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters pitcher Shohei Otani arrived at Naha Airport on January 31 he was surrounded by many people including members of the media and baseball fans. (Photograph taken by Tetsuzo Toguchi.)

February 1, 2012 Ryukyu Shimpo

A total of 12 professional baseball teams commenced training camps on February 1. Eight of them have come to Okinawa to hold camps in various parts of the prefecture. On January 31, three teams, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles arrived in Okinawa in quick succession.

When the players and people involved with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters arrived at Naha Airport, more than 200 people, including tourists, baseball fans, and members of the media crowded into the arrival lobby to see Shohei Otani. The young star graduated from Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate prefecture and joined the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters as their first draft pick. The team attracted a great deal of attention, with the crowd whistling as the team members, including manager Hideki Kuriyama came out. Fans gave the team a good welcome, calling out “Mensore” (welcome) to them.

Seventy two year-old Naha resident Minoru Kikuchi, who belongs to the Chura Menkoi Kai, the Iwate Association of Okinawa, welcomed Otani with a handmade banner saying, “Welcome, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters pitcher Otani.” Kikuchi said, “Otani is a rising star from Iwate. I want him to do his best within the team and to lift the spirits of and give hope to people in quake-stricken areas by playing baseball. The members of our association will go to Kunigami and cheer for Otani.”

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