Ishinomaki – Baseball Clinic (Slideshow)

For the A’s and the Mariners, the opportunity to be a part of the Japan Opening Series 2012 is a special honor. And while the focus of both teams is on Opening Night tomorrow, for Eric Wedge (and his wife, Kate), Hisashi Iwakuma, Hector Noesi and Alex Liddi today’s “off day” provided an opportunity to focus on what is really important.

The four, joined by A’s special assistant Phil Garner and three Oakland players, travelled to Ishinomaki to conduct a goodwill youth clinic, serve Tonjiro (a traditional Japanese pork stew) to youth players and visitors from a temporary housing center on site, and to present a check for $500,000 (which will be matched by corporate donations to total a 1-million dollar donation) on behalf of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

A group of nearly 60 people (including the players, team staff, MLB staff and US media) left the hotel at 7:45 AM to make the long trip. A one-and-a-half hour bullet train ride delivered the group to Sendai Station, and a 90-minute bus ride brought everyone to Ishinomaki close to noon.

“First and foremost it was terrific to get to see the 100 kids enjoy themselves and, hopefully, learn a little at the clinic”, Wedge said. “For everything they have gone through over the last year, knowing we could bring a little joy to them and their families is really important.

“Equally important is both the donation to rebuild the baseball field that was destroyed in the aftermath of the Tsunami. The field serves as a cultural center for the town, kids and adults alike. And finally, I hope that our being there helped refocus some attention on all the work that still needs to be done as the people of Japan work to overcame the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami of 3-11-11.”

Wedge and the players were able to tour the city and see first hand the devastation caused by the tragic events of last year. They were also able to meet with the Mayor of Ishinomaki who explained the loss of life and property that the city still struggles to recover from.

As an example, nearly 20 schools were destroyed by the flood, and in one area near the coast, 70-percent of the housing was wiped out. Thousands still live in temporary shelters in town.

But, at least for a day, instead of focusing on what was lost, the children (and their parents) were able to focus on what was to come.

A new field. Skills taught to them by Major League Players and coaches, including a local hero, Hisashi Iwakuma, in a clinic sponsored by The Boeing Company. And the hope of a brighter future. 

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