Memories of Morioka
Summer Week Event in Puerto Rico
We're happy to report that the 18th World Children's
Baseball Fair Summer Week Event was successfully completed in
The World Children's Baseball Fair - WCBF, a non-profit organization,
was established in 1989 by World Home Run Kings Sadaharu Oh and
Hank Aaron along with Dr. Akiko Agishi. The WCBF was established
in the interest of fostering an environment of world understanding
and cultural exchange through the celebration of baseball, which
became an Olympic Medal Sport for the first time in the 1992
Barcelona Olympics. Recognizing that the sport of baseball promotes
teamwork, good health, discipline and friendship, Mr. Oh and
Mr. Aaron conceived the idea of the WCBF as a means of creating
goodwill and fellowship among the children of the world. The
WCBF inaugural event was held in Los Angeles in 1990 at UCLA
and Jackie Robinson Stadium. Today, over 4200 participants, 83
countries, from 5 continents have attended this global event!
Children and chaperones from five continents/14 countries
arrived at San Juan Airport on July 29-30, 2007. Many groups
endured lengthy and tiring journeys -- not only because of the
long distances, but also due to bad weather and flight delays.
But eventually all the children settled in happily at the Albergue
Olimpico for their 9 day stay at the WCBF 2007 Summer Week Event
in Puerto Rico!
The Opening Ceremony was held at Roberto Clemente Memorial
Park in Carolina. Hank Aaron, cofounder of the event, was in
attendance along with Choji Murata as spokesperson. Mrs. Vera
Clemente also attended and presented a flower wreath in honor
of her late husband, legendary baseball player Roberto Clemente.
| The kids had a great time at the baseball
clinics which were held at Albergue Olimpico in Salinas, Roberto
Clemente Memorial Park in Carolina, Idelfonso Sola Morales Baseball
Park in Caguas, Guaynabo Baseball Stadium in Guaynabo, and Paquito
Montanel Stadium in Ponce. All the stadiums were excellent facilities
for the clinics.
|| Everyone learned a lot -- the baseball
clinics are always the favorite thing for the kids and this year
was no exception. As always, IBAF coaches were outstanding and
this year was a nice reunion for many members of this terrific
coaching team. Head Coach Steve Sotir (USA) and Assistant Head
Coach Larry Bryant (USA) led the way. They were joined by Angel
Bonilla (USA), Ila Borders (USA), Mike Valcke (Canada), Tom Valcke
(Canada), Hitoshi Hasegawa (Japan), Minoru Shimizu (Japan), Edgar
Perez (Puerto Rico), and Rene Rivera (Puerto Rico). Under their
skilled leadership, the kids learned many new baseball skills
and made lots of new friends.
| There were lots of other fun
activities too. The boys and girls went to the water park at
Albergue, the Botanic Garden in Caguas, and the wonderful Puerto
Rico Sports Museum in Guaynabo. One of the highlights of the
week was the visit to Ponce, where they visited the Parque de
Bombas (the Firehouse), Museo de la Historia de Ponce (Museum
of the History of Ponce), Paseo Tablado La Guancha (the boardwalk
park along the marina) with the observation tower and lots of
cafes and shops where the kids had time for souvenir shopping.
There were parties with lots of music and dancing and of course,
there was plenty of time for interaction and making friends at
the dorms, too.
| The children came from 14 countries/regions:
Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Dominican
Republic, France, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, USA, and Puerto
Rico. It was a lively group and it was great fun to see the presentations
the groups put on at the Goodwill Party! There was some very
impressive dancing by the groups from Brazil, Cameroon, Japan,
Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico (some dancing was traditional, and
some was a surprise -- salsa! hip hop!). Australia, Canada, Chile,
Czech Rep, France, Mexico and the USA shared activities and amusing
skits with the group and Spain brought everyone together for
a fun and funny circle dance at the end of the party.
| Hank Aaron, cofounder of WCBF,
attended a number of the events including 2 press conferences
(held at the San Juan airport and at the National Sports Museum
in Guaynabo), the Opening Ceremony, and the Welcome Party. He
also visited the WCBF boys and girls at the baseball clinics.
He enjoyed speaking with the kids and made a special point to
encourage them to be sure to write down addresses of their new
friends from different countries and to become pen-pals with
them. This was Mr. Aaron's first visit back to Puerto Rico since
1953 when he played winter-league ball there for the Criollos
de Caguas (this was prior to his rookie season with the Milwaukee
Braves in the Major Leagues) and helped them win the Puerto Rican
league title. Mr. Aaron even had a chance to have a reunion with
some of his old Caguas teammates: Luis Olmo, Juan Pizarro, and
Roberto Vargas when he visited the Puerto Rico Sports Museum
in Guaynabo. One of the most humorous moments of the museum tour
came when 101-year-old Emilio Navarro - the first Puerto Rican
to play in the Negro Leagues and the oldest living former professional
baseball player -- gave Mr. Aaron a baseball with his (Navarro's)
autograph and despite his age, showed off his agility by bending
over and touching his toes!
Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame pitching great
Choji Murata also attended the WCBF event in Puerto Rico on behalf
of cofounder Sadaharu Oh and his spirited personality was a great
asset. Mr. Jose C. Aponte Dalmau, Mayor of Carolina; Mr. William
Miranda-Marin, Mayor of Caguas; Hector O'Neill, Mayor of Guaynabo;
and Francisco Azyas Seijjo, Mayor of Ponce all supported the
event week. MLB players from Puerto Rico (and they graciously
took the time to sign autographs for all the participants) and
Mr. Augustin Echevarria, Vice President of Inter American University
in Puerto Rico, among many others, attended the WCBF Closing
The kids were fully outfitted with baseball equipment from sponsors
Mizuno, Descente, and Nagase-Kenko. It was so impressive to see
the kids on the field in their bright new baseball uniforms,
but they looked even better when they got a little dirty from
the baseball games. Finding space in their suitcases to bring
home all the new gear and other gifts they received was a challenge!
|| Matthew Daichi Lee, age 11 from Fountain
Valley, attended this year's event and had this to say about
"I had a great time in WCBF in Puerto Rico. It was a very
exciting and fun experience for me because I made so many friends
from around the world. The baseball clinic was also very fun
and I learned the five points in pitching, sliding and fielding.
The opening ceremony was awesome since they played different
national anthem from all the different countries and Mr. Hank
Aaron and Mr. Choji Murata was there to meet us.
"I exchanged telephone numbers and e mail address with many
friends and I already received a mail from Kengo from Japan.
Australians were funny since they taught me to say "oye"
when I called them and I became good friends with Dylan. I also
helped my American teammates to speak to the Japanese players
since I can speak Japanese too. I also became good friends with
Raoul from Cameroon. The Canadians, Daryl and Thomas became my
friends too. Canadians spoke English just like us from the U.S.
And my teammates from the U.S. were all nice. I hope one day
I can see them again. "
| Jason Nemerovski, age 11 from San Francisco,
"When I was in Puerto Rico doing the WBCF I had a great
time. Everybody was really nice and I made a lot of friends from
many different countries.
We met retired baseball players from Puerto Rico including one
who was over 100 years old! He took a really long time singing
his autograph on my Baseball.
Meeting all of the kids from all around the world was awesome.
They were all very nice to me and I taught the Japanese kids
how to speak some English and they taught me some Japanese.
Some of the kids were really good at Baseball. And the kids who
didn't have much experience learned a lot and got a lot better
as the week was getting to the end.
It was fun to trade gifts and personal contact cards so we could
stay in touch after (Hank Aaron kept encouraging us to hand them
around.) I'm already contacting friends I made in Puerto Rico
but especially a kid from Australia. We trade email messages
around the world."
| Every year the only sad occasion
is when all these new friends have to say farewell. The kids,
chaperons, local hosts, assistant coaches and everyone involved
with the event form really tight bonds in this short time and
so, as always, we saw tears when it was time for the camp to
end. Including this year's event, about 4200 kids have now participated
| Next year, tentatively the19th
annual event is being planned for Nagoya & Toyota, in Aichi
Prefecture, Japan. Please check the website at www.wcbf.org for
WCBF 2007 Summer Week Event in Puerto Rico
- Hosted by: World Children's Baseball
Foundation-Japan and World Children's Baseball Fair-North America
- Co-Hosted by: Inter American University of Puerto Rico.
- Operated by: The 18th World Children's Baseball Fair, Puerto
Rico Executive Committee.
- In Association with: International BAseball Federation, Major
League Baseball, Japan Professional Baseball Association.
- Supported by: Department of Recreation and Sports of Puerto
Rico; Department of State of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico;
NHK; NHK News & Data, Sports & Satellite; The Asahi Shinbun;
The Mainichi Newspapers; The Yomiuri Shinbun; Puerto Rico Tourism
Office; Shimokochi/Reeves Design; The National Baseball Hall
of Fame & Museum, Cooperstown NY
- In Cooperation with: The Japan Motorcycle Racing Organization,
JAL, Professional Baseball in Japan, Central League Baseball,
Pacific League Baseball, Major League Baseball
- Sponsored by: Acom Co., Ltd.; Albergue Olimpico; American Airlines;
Asahi Soft Drinks Co., Ltd.; Casio Computer Co., Ltd.; Centro
de Bellas Artes Angel O. Berrios, de Caguas; Coca-Cola Puerto
Rico Bottlers; Descente Ltd.; Federation of Amateur Baseball;
Four Points by Sheraton in Caguas; Japan Royal Jelly Co., Ltd.;
Johnson & Johnson; Mizuno Corporation; Municipality of Carolina;
Municipality of Caguas; Municipality of Guaynabo; Municipality
of Ponce; Museo dol Deporte de Puerto Rico; Nagase-Kenko Corporation;
Nishikawa Sangyo Co., Ltd.; Puerto Rico Amateur Baseball Federation;
Secom Co. Ltd.; Taisho Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.; Tokyo Dome Corporation;
Toshiba Corporation; TOTO, Ltd.; Triple S.
- Publicity: NHK, Associate Press, ESPN, CNN, National Geographic
for Kids, National Hall of Fame (with HOF photographer Milo Stewart
as the official photographer of WCBF 2007), and many local TV
and news media