Sports

Planning begins for return baseball trip to Japan

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Things are in the planning stages, but it looks like a high school all- star baseball team made up of kids from the four Federal Way schools could be headed back to Japan.

According to Mayor Dean McColgan, talks have been initiated to send a team to Federal Way's sister city in Japan, Hachinohe, next summer. But the groundwork for the exchange was laid last month when a delegation, led by McColgan and Federal Way City Councilman Mike Park, visited Hachinohe, as well as South Korea, to foster cultural, educational and business exchange opportunities on a person-to-person basis.

During the trip, the mayor of Hachinohe gave the go-ahead for the baseball exchange, which was the first step in making the event a reality.

“There is still a lot of planning that needs to happen,” McColgan said. “Hopefully in the next two to three weeks we can have a plan in place.”

The cultural/baseball exchange would be similar to the 10-day trip Federal Way high schoolers took in 2002. The all-city team included 13 players from Federal Way, Jefferson and Decatur high schools.

The players stayed with host families in Hachinohe and played three games during their trip, including two against an all-star team from Hachinohe high schools and one against Kosei Gakuin — Japan’s two-time national high school champions.

The players and coaches visited centuries-old temples, took in high school classes and were pretty much treated like celebrities.

“It is just a great program,” McColgan said. “Their experience was such a good one and the kids still talk about it. We decided if we could do it again, we would. It gives the kids a fun opportunity to live in another culture for a week.”

But there are several obstacles that still have to be negotiated before a baseball team boards a plane for the Far East. None being larger than generating the money needed to fly players, coaches and chaperones to Japan.

In 2002, the Federal Way Sister City Association, the players and the city raised money and arranged housing and transportation for the team. The pricetag that went along with that trip equaled out to approximately $30,000. An anonymous donor eased the burden by coming up with $12,500. McColgan said this time around, airfare alone to Japan might cost as much as $2,000 a person.

“To send over a group of kids and coaches is going to be quite a bit of money,” he said. “But we learned a lot in ‘02 about what we can do better.”

Another road block could be the possible late graduation date for the Federal Way high schools. The last day of school won’t be until June 24, according to the district’s calendar, and the trip is being planned for the last week in June.

“We have to go before the Fourth of July, because in Japan they have a big all-high school tournament and they want to give their kids some practice games,” McColgan said. “We just have to work through the dates.”

Officials will also have to select players and coaches for the team as soon as possible to allow for fund-raising possibilities. All four Federal Way high schools should be represented.

The 13-member 2002 team was co-coached by Eric Fiedler, the Federal Way High School baseball coach, and Jeff Housman, the current Todd Beamer football coach and former Decatur baseball coach. They were joined by former Seattle Mariners pitching coach Wes Stock and Federal Way assistant Danny Graham.

The cities of Federal Way and Hachinohe entered into a sister city relationship in 1993. In 2001, Park, then mayor, and the Hachinohe mayor conceived of the youth baseball tournament as an emphasis on cultural exchanges and to commemorate the 10-year sister city relationship.

“We are still in the early stages of this thing,” McColgan said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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