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 WCBF 2007 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 Puerto Rico!

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 Ceremony.

 

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 it:
"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, also attended:
"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 in WCBF!
 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 more information.

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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