THE WORLD CHILDREN'S BASEBALL FAIR REVS UP! (memories of
the Morioka event)
On August 5th & 6th (1996), 215 children from 26 countries
arrived in Japan for the 7th Annual World Children's Baseball
Fair Summer Week Event. Morioka City in Iwate Prefecture played
host to the WCBF. After their arrival in Tokyo, the children
and their chaperones had the exciting experience of taking the
bullet train north to Morioka.
After they reached Morioka, the children went to the Iwate
Prefectural athletic park to their beautiful new dormitory, the
Iwatesan Youth House. Registration, orientation and room assignments
followed. The children received WCBF t-shirts, baseball uniforms
including shoes, caps and batting helmets, and also a bat, ball,
baseball glove and a large duffel bag to carry all the items.
All of those gifts were donated by WCBF sponsors and the International
On the first day of the Summer Week, the children dressed
in their WCBF uniforms for the opening ceremony. With bands playing
and flags waving, the children and chaperones were welcomed to
the 1996 WCBF Summer Week Event. Later, baseball hall of fame
members, Harmon Killebrew of the U.S. and Motoshi Fujita of Japan
posed for souvenir photos with each group.
Pictured left: Duke Snider and one of the 215 children.
That afternoon the children participated in the first baseball
clinic and the start of a wonderful relationship between the
IBA coaches and the children began. The clinics were held in
the morning for the remainder of the week. Even in the north
of Japan, the summer is hot and humid, so mornings were best
for the three-hour clinics and plenty of water breaks were provided.
Hall of fame slugger, Hank Aaron (a WCBF founder along with
Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh) and Harmon Killebrew (WCBF
spokesperson and a member of the WCBF U.S. Board of Directors)
were at the clinics to meet the children and give them assistance.
Each afternoon and evening the children went on recreational
trips and attended parties.
The Welcome Party was first on the list, and each country's
group took a turn on stage to introduce themselves. Local folk
dancers and musicians provided entertainment. At the last party,
the Goodwill (Farewell) Party, no introductions were necessary.
After a week of playing baseball and getting to know one another,
everyone was very well acquainted and the party was lively and
During the 1996 Fair the children enjoyed a trip to the huge
Kanji Water World Park. They spent an afternoon at an exchange
party with local elementary school children. They visited the
Kiowa Farm, where they enjoyed a petting zoo, horseback rides,
and many other activities. On their next-to-last day in Morioka,
they watched the WCBF All-Star Legends Game in which former U.S.
major league players went up against former Japanese major leaguers.
That game is one of the highlights of the week for the kids
and adults. For the first four innings it was close, with George
Foster making two incredible catches in the outfield, and Julio
Cruz making his second annual dive-into-the-dirt steal. But in
the fifth inning the Japanese team broke loose and pulled ahead
to win 7-2.
ESPN aired the game in North America, Latin America and Asia.
The ESPN coverage is important for the WCBF not only because
it provides the widespread publicity we need, but also because
of the good reviews the program receives. It offers the WCBF
a great fund-raising opportunity and the chance to publicize
our worthwhile cause.
Then on August 13, all too soon, it was time to say good-bye.
Every year this is the hardest part for all the participants.
The depths of affections and friendships formed in one short
week is strongly visible on this day. Almost everyone cries...
at least a little bit. But bonds have been forged and pen-pal
relationships start. Everyone leaves with memories of a wonderful
week of the sport and the spirit of baseball.