Teacher Akashi Kaku of the Aichi Prefectural Union Team from Japan, who traveled to Korea to compete in the tournament, shares his thoughts on the educational benefits of t-ball and its relationship to baseball.
The Aichi Prefectural Union Team finished third in the International Exchange League semifinals of the 2023 KBO Youth Tee Ball Festival Elementary Sports Club Tee Ball Competition at the KBO Baseball Center in Boeun-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea, losing to Hsin-Lung Elementary School from Taiwan.
Mr. Akashi, who led the Japanese students to the tournament, said, “Thank you for inviting us to such a big and wonderful tournament in Korea. In Japan, we also hold tee ball tournaments like this. We will go back to Japan and apply what we have learned to make a good tournament.” He expressed his feelings about the tournament.
Their opponent in the semifinals, Hsin-Lung Township of Taiwan, was the runner-up in the Taiwan National Championships. The Japanese players are younger than their Taiwanese counterparts, so there was also a difference in size.
“Yesterday, the Taiwanese team asked us to play a practice game, and we played one inning, and we didn’t score a run,” said Mr. Akashi, “so I was worried that the kids were going to be demoralized, but they were very motivated to get a point. I think this is the educational effect of tee ball.”
The Aichi Alliance team executed a spectacular 4-6-3 kill on their final defense. Mr. Akashi concluded, “The most important thing is the basics. “Everything starts with the basics, so it’s important to get the basics right from practice. Our team is made up of kids from different schools in Aichi Prefecture, and I think the reason we have such good fundamentals is because many Japanese coaches interact with kids at their level, unlike in the past.”
In Japan, it’s not uncommon for players to grow up playing tee ball and then go on to play baseball. The Aichi Prefectural Union Team is a tee ball team supported by the Nippon Professional Baseball Junichi Dragons. Grassroots baseball in Japan, starting with tee ball, is the foundation for Japan’s success in the World Baseball Classic (WBC), where they have won the most titles. In South Korea, on the other hand, tee ball is being promoted for school education, but the connection and exchange between tee ball and baseball is not yet active.
Mr. Akashi explains, “In Japan, if you look at the teams in baseball tournaments, the teams that are good at tee ball are also good at baseball. Hitting while standing on a tee is the basis of baseball hitting. In Japan, it is socially recognized that it is natural to play tee ball and then play baseball. I don’t think it’s different from Korea in that regard. In tee ball, players often move one foot while hitting. But you can’t play baseball that way. That’s why the Aichi Prefecture T-ball Federation prohibits hitting while walking. Changing the rules to better align with baseball is one way to do this. I personally think this is something that many people in Korea should think about,” he said.
KBO Commissioner Heo Koo-yeon supported the tournament, saying, “It is important for the children of Japan and Taiwan to leave with a good impression of the tournament. Good childhood memories last a lifetime. I hope this tournament will improve the image of Korea.”안전놀이터
Ms. Akashi added, “It’s not often that our children have the opportunity to meet foreign friends. I think it was a great experience for them to have a welcome party and play tee ball with them, and to see how foreign children think and what they like. From the beginning to the end, there was nothing lacking, and I’m sure the students will go home with good memories.” “There is a Mr. Hiramatsu in the Aichi Prefecture T-ball Federation, and he brought overseas exchanges to Taiwan as a child, and he has been doing various support activities since then. I think there will be someone like that among the students who came this time.”