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Top>Hakumon CHUO [125th Anniversary Issue]>Pre-tournament camp (July 23-28) at Chuo University for the Cuban team participating in the 5th World University Baseball Championship. Interacting with students and the community and deepening relations

Hakumon CHUOIndex


Pre-tournament camp (July 23-28) at Chuo University for the Cuban team participating in the 5th World University Baseball Championship. Interacting with students and the community and deepening relations

The Cuban team for the 5th World University Baseball Championship (July 30 - August 7, Jingu Stadium) held a pre-tournament camp at Chuo University's Tama campus for six days from July 23-28. The university hosted the team in order to promote good relations, and during the camp the Cuban team, starting with practice matches against our baseball team, deepened relations through friendly exchanges with students and the community.
(Student reporter news team)

It was the first time in five years for a Cuban baseball team to come to Japan, and along with team leader Ihinis Velez Calion and manager Eduardo Martin Saura, this Cuban squad had a total of 28 staff members and players. Featuring six members from last year's World Baseball Classic, it was a powerhouse team.

Manager's aim is “to win”

[July 23] ◆Press conference

The press conference upon their arrival in Japan took place in Building No.1 on the Tama Campus. Showing no signs of wear after a long journey, the players were full of energy at the conference venue. Team leader Calion spoke first, saying, “We would like to show our gratitude to Chuo University's kindness in accepting us.” Manager Saura also expressed his thanks by adding, “We can complete our preparations (for the tournament) at an extremely important time. The Japanese are like family to us.”

Cuban team at the press conference

A question and answer session followed with questions being asked by reporters from newspapers and wire services. With regard to the makeup of the Cuban team, Saura explained, “It is a well balanced team with a good offense. It also has a great deal of power and speed. They can make dynamic plays at any point in a game,” and then added his championship aspirations, “Our aim is to win the tournament.”

When asked about his impressions of Japanese baseball, Saura continued with a high evaluation, “At the top level it is on a par with the major leagues. There are many enthusiastic players who play with a focus on baseball.” Regarding Japanese pitchers, he said, “I have no information yet,” but added with confidence, “Cuba has a good team and I'm not worried about any pitchers.”

It was a scorching day in Tokyo on the day of the conference and when asked about the temperature difference between Tokyo and Havana, a player replied, “Today is hotter than in Cuba,” indicating a bit of a struggle with the Tokyo heat.

Then a reporter for this magazine raised a hand and asked this provocative question: “Mr. Sawamura of Chuo University, a pitcher with a university baseball record fast pitch of 157kmph, has been selected for the Japanese team. Can you hit him?” Key batters on the Cuban team responded with strong confidence, “We have pitchers like that back home. It's no problem,” said Alfredo Despaigne Rodriguez. And Yoennis Cespedes Milanes said, “I've faced that before. I'm confident. I want everyone to watch the game and then pass judgment.”

At the end of the press conference, Chuo University baseball club president Tadahiko Fukuhara (head of Chuo Law School) gave a few words of encouragement to the Cuban team, “I would like to welcome you all from Cuba,” he said. “We are honored to host you prior to the official tournament. You will be meeting children and playing friendly games against other teams, and through these exchanges I hope you will display your world championship strength. Please prepare well and demonstrate that strength.”

Cuban players with a different physique and power

[July 25] ◆Warm-up game against Chuo University

On a clear day at Chuo University's field, the Cuban team took on the Chuo baseball team in a warm-up game. Despite the searing heat, the stands were crammed before the game with primary school students from local boys' baseball teams in Hachioji City and boisterous Chuo fans.

The game began after the Chairman of the Board of Regents, Shuji Hisano, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. There were no places to get shelter from the sun in the stands, and spectators were innovative in shielding themselves from the heat while watching the game. Many people could be seen taking refuge under trees, and it was there that student reporters asked some of those who came to see the game their impressions of the Cuban team, among other things.

Eating shaved iced during the game to prevent heatstroke

Bringing shaved ice to the game to prevent heatstroke was Koji Koshino, who had brought along 16 fifth and sixth graders from the boys' baseball team called the Mejiro-dai Hawks. Koshino, who graduated from the Faculty of Law in 1995, said, “The Chuo University players are a lot quieter than the players were when I was a student. I think they appear a lot trimmer than back then, too. The Cuban players all seem to be one size larger.”

Teammates Yuta Fujimori and Kazuma Matsumoto (from Tanada Primary School) expressed their surprise, saying. “The Cuban players are a different size. They have power.” Sixth graders Takeshi Kanno, Atsuo Kajiwara, Jun Ohashi, and Keigo Hayashida of the Hachioji Astro Jaguars also stated in unison, “The Cubans have great bodies. They are really powerful.”

Ayumu Abe (6th grade) of the Koyu Victory commented, while observing the Cubans' power, “They are strong, big and sound. I was surprised at their speed.” Third graders Koki Amai and Koki Suzuki of Friends Junior showed their excitement by saying, “The Cuban players are so cool. They swing the bat well.”

Chuo University students were also in the crowd and Hirokazu Tanaka and Hosei Kitagawa, both from the Faculty of Law, noted, “The Cubans seem to be at a higher level.”

Self-proclaimed “keen Chuo baseball fans,” mother and daughter Yumiko and Yuka Hiratsuka from Nakano Ward in Tokyo gave a straightforward opinion. “The Cuban team has a lot in reserve. They're strong.” The Hiratsuka's, who supported Chuo at Jingu Stadium for the spring and autumn Tohto University Baseball League tournaments with their family of seven, showed their support by cheering, Just get one run back.”

The final result was an overwhelming 12-3 victory for the Cubans.

After the match, Chuo manager Yoshimasa Takahashi gave his impressions of the Cuban team. “There is quite a difference in speed and power. More than I expected. We were beaten for power before we could compare skill. The Cuban team can adjust to the situation while keeping to the basics and have a solid sense of purpose.”

Jumping to give a high five

◆Interaction with boys' baseball teams

Smiling young baseball players receiving high-fives from the Cuban players

After the game, players from both sides interacted in the outfield with children from boys' baseball teams who came to watch the game. Both sets of players lined up in single file to greet the children who entered the field beaming and gave high fives to the players one after another.

With the huge Cuban players right in front of them, the children jumped high to give them high fives. The players responded with smiles.

“The Cuban players had big hands, and were solid and kind,” said Sho Hoshimachi (5th grade) of the Machida City Koyama Fighters when asked his thoughts. Finally, they players took a commemorative photo with the children, leaving them with wonderful memories of their summer holidays.

Breaking into smiles for a greeting in Spanish

[July 26] ◆Visiting the mayor of Hachioji City

Mayor Kurosu was presented with a cap and ball

In the afternoon, the Cuban representatives went to Hachioji City Hall to visit Mayor Ryuichi Kurosu.

While the squad was waiting, Mayor Kurosu entered the room smiling and greeted the team. “Cuba is a baseball nation with many strong players,” he said. “Japan beat Cuba in last year's WBC with teamwork, but the Cuban team had a higher level of individual skill. I hope you have a good game with Japan at the World University Baseball Championship.” He then presented the Cuban team 10 dozen balls as a commemorative gift from Hachioji.

In return, the Cuban team presented Hachioji City with tickets to the tournament. Team leader Calion followed this with a statement. “Thanks to all of your cooperation,” he said, “we have been able to prepare well enough to win the tournament. We will take fond memories of Hachioji back to Cuba with us, and hope to continue this association in the future.” He then gave Mayor Kurosu a baseball cap and signed ball.

Finally, Deputy Mayor Masami Tanaka gave a prepared speech in Spanish. Professing his love of baseball in improvised Spanish, his speech, which was full of humor, brought smiles to the faces of the Cubans. A commemorative photo was taken in a friendly atmosphere and the visit ended.

Joining in the Japanese drum performance

◆Welcoming reception

That evening a welcoming reception was held for the Cuban team in the No. 1 Building on the Tama Campus. This was the fourth day of the pre-tournament camp. The Cubans seemed comfortable in the surroundings and relaxed throughout the night. While enjoying dinner, friendships and exchanges were deepened.

Chairman of the Board of Regents Shuji Hisano opened the welcoming ceremony by saying, “This week, we have been able to hold an exchange with Cuba through sports. I very much wish for Cuba to win the World University Baseball Championship.” Then, he presented them with a commemorative gift.

In the Cuban response, Captain Yorbis Borroto Jauregui gave some words of thanks. “We are truly grateful for your wonderful hospitality,” he said.

After Professor Emeritus Mitsuhiko Tsuruta gave a toast, it was time for chatting. In addition to Chuo University staff, hardball baseball team coach Yoshimasa and players, as well as some players from the semi-hardball baseball team were in attendance, and friendships with the Cuban players were strengthened. Teachers and students fluent in Spanish volunteered as interpreters, expanding the circle of friendly relations.

Student reporters then went around the hall interviewing the players.

“Chuo University is bigger and cleaner than universities in Cuba. I was really worried about the food, but it was very delicious. Japan is a country I want to visit many times,” explained Henry Urrutia Rodríguez.

With regard to Chuo baseball, Vladimir García Escalante gave his honest opinion. “It's a very good team, but I felt they lacked training.”

The welcoming reception being brought to life by Japanese drums

Akito Shimizu and Kei Takano from the semi-hardball baseball team used gestures to show the Cuban players how to hold chopsticks. When asked their impressions of the Cuban players, the two, who seemed to hit it off with the players, replied, “We are surprised by their physiques. They are kind and talking with them was enjoyable.”

When the Japanese drum circle Ko-oh started their performance, the Cuban players seemed to move their bodies with the music as they listened, raising the atmosphere of the reception a level. The players gradually picked up the rhythm of the drums and came on the stage to the cheers and applause of the audience.

When a call for an encore went up, the performance started again with some Cuban players grabbing drumsticks and joining in for an impromptu performance. Keeping to the rhythm, they showed excellent drum stick skills to gain another large round of applause from those in attendance. Frank Camilo Morejón, who played the drums and was pleased to make a good memory said, “Cuban rhythm and religion has an African influence. I'm glad I got to beat the Japanese drums.”

The welcoming reception was held in a lively atmosphere from start to finish, and there can be no doubt that ties between Chuo and the Cuban students were strengthened.

“I am truly grateful”

[July 27] ◆Commemorative banner signing

After the Cuban team held a practice game with Tokyo Gas, the players wrote messages on a welcome banner reading Bienvenido (Spanish for welcome) prepared by the university:

“I am truly grateful to Chuo University.” (Manager Saura)

“I'm glad we came to this university. I feel great.” (Batting Coach Omar Linares Izquierdo)

“I am grateful to you all.” (Pitching Coach José Elosegui Sánchez)

“Thank you, Chuo University.” (Alfredo Despaigne Rodríguez)

“I love Chuo.” (Leonys Martín Tápanes)

“We could spend a comfortable time at Chuo as if it were our own home.” (José Dariel Abreu Correa)

The messages written on the banner were full of words of thanks to our university.

“The team's condition is perfect”

[July 28] ◆Meeting with President Nagai

After the six day camp, on July 28, Cuban team representatives, the manager, coaches and a handful of players paid a visit to Chancellor and President Kazuyuki Nagai for a final greeting.

Chancellor and President Nagai said, “It has been a busy schedule, but have you been able to overcome your fatigue?” In response, Manager Saura expressed his appreciation, saying, “We are extremely pleased with the way Chuo University received us, and we have been able to perfect the team's conditioning.”

There were also words of thanks (“I felt like I was at home”) from the players.

Chancellor and President Nagai then had an encouraging message for the Cuban team. “I think Cuba is a championship contender. Do you best,” he said.

The Cuban team party then left Tama Campus by bus and headed to a hotel in Tokyo with their sights set on the World University Baseball Championship starting on July 30.

(Student reporter team: Shigeki Mochizuki, third ear student in the Faculty of Letters / Mutsumi Ogihara, second year student in the Faculty of Law / Toyofuku Mitsuaki, second year student in the Faculty of Letters / Ayaka Kaji, first year student in the Faculty of Letters / Midori Yamashita, first year student in the Faculty of Policy Studies / Saki Watanabe, first year student in the Faculty of Law)

Scenes from the Cuban team camp in preparation for the 5th World University Baseball Championship

Cuban team arriving at Tama Campus, July 23

Meeting the press

Smiling boys receiving high-fives from the players, July 25

Young players eagerly taking notes

Boys' baseball team watching a game from the stands

Cuban and Chuo teams getting together for a commemorative photo

Cuban and Chuo players high-fiving each other after the game

Chairman of the Board of Regents Hisano smiling after throwing the ceremonial first pitch at the practice game

Commemorative photo of a visit with Hachioji City Mayor Kurosu, July 26

Chuo manager Takahashi (left) and Cuban manager Saura (center) talking at the welcoming party

The welcoming reception which forged amicable friendships

Japanese drums enlivening the welcoming reception

Cuban players dance to the rhythm of the Japanese drums

Cuban players joining in the Japanese drum performance

Cuban players signing a banner, July 27