National High School Baseball Championship 2012
Ishinomaki Technical Highschool (Ishiko) appeared in “the 84th National High School Baseball Championship”, a spring championship at Koshien where heated competition is still taking place. On March 22, Ishiko competed against Kamimura Gakuen – champions of the Kyushu region. Many supporters from Ishinomaki gathered at the first-base section. About 20 from the Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Center, including past Ishinomaki volunteers and those who joined on site in the Kansai area, cheered on Ishiko.
This was the first time for Ishiko to appear in the National Baseball Championship. Although both their school buildings and facilities were heavily affected by the disaster, leading to poor conditions for training, they managed to win second place in the prefectural championship. Not only playing baseball, the team also was helping the rehabilitation and reconstruction of their community including mud clearance. In late January, a great surprise was delivered to them – an invitation to the national championship in a special “21st-century selection” slot.
Responding to this, the “Organizing Committee to Send Ishinomaki Technical High School to Koshien,” consisting mainly of alumni, was formed to raise funds to send the team. All the students and faculty members – totaling about 500 people – started preparing a cheer squad. However lack of funding was a big obstacle since they already had to spend a lot on repairing the school.
Peace Boat volunteers worked together to raise 224,710 yen (as of 25 March, approx. US$2715) and donated this to the Ishinomaki Technical High School’s committee as sponsorship.
As such fundraising efforts were underway, there were some who did not agree with spending such amounts of money on funding the team or their supporters. Furthermore, while the team received a lot of media attention, much of the press was more concerned about their experiences of the disaster rather than the baseball championship. The school officials seemed exhausted from having to deal with such responses when they were already busy preparing for their very first competition in the championship.
“You can do it without losing to such words!” In order to express our sense of support, Peace Boat have organized a “Facebook campaign of 10,000 supporters for Ishinomaki Technical High School in the 2012 Championship.”
Various organizations that have an affinity with Miyagi and Ishinomaki responded to our call, and people around the globe sent us messages of support including former Olympic marathon runner Seko Toshihiko; Robert John “Bobby V” Valentine, former manager of Chiba Lotte Marines and current manager of MLB Boston Red Sox, and the Ambassadors of Panama and Cuba to Japan, both of whom have visited and supported Ishinomaki (visit the Facebook page for more details).
Many residents of Ishinomaki and alumni of the Ishinomaki Technical High School posted messages on the page. Witnessing the enduring efforts of the Ishiko baseball team under the slogan, “Ishinomaki will never give up! We will be the driving force!” has further cultivated the long-lasting relationship with Ishinomaki, and determination for the recovery of the area.
Two banners were set up at the first-base cheering section: meaning “determined to pursue the ball”, and “Ishinomaki will never give up! We will be the driving force!”
Unfortunately, the Ishiko team lost the game 5-9. However, the team rose to the occasion coming from 4 runs behind and reversed the score at one point. We thank everyone who supported, from those who found out about the campaign and rushed to the game, to those who clicked “like” on the campaign Facebook page to show support, and people who watched the game on television in Ishinomaki, or at work or homes throughout Japan to support the team. We also would like to cite the pledge for fair play made by Abe Shoto, Ishiko Captain, lest we forget this sense of solidarity.
A year has passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and Japan is in the middle of recovery.
Among those who are affected by the disaster, there still are many people in despair, finding it difficult to let go of their losses and the day, suffering and finding it impossible to pull themselves together.
It is hard and painful for anyone to accept grief without an answer. But I also believe that great happiness awaits us, if we could all come together as one and overcame the hardship.
That’s why I would like to send people all over Japan inspiration, courage, and smiles. Let us show you the true strength of Japan, oneness.
What high school baseball players can do is to do our best and never give up. We are grateful for being able to play baseball now, and swear to play fair in the whole body and soul.
The team would have started training for the next championship by now. We don’t know if we see them again in the competition this summer or have to wait a little longer, but we will give our best so that we can cheer the Ishiko baseball team that grew even stronger overcoming the disaster.
We appreciate your continuing support!