Japan’s Yomiuri Giants set up baseball academy in the Philippines

ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 17, 2020 04:31 PM
Yomiuri Giants set up baseball academy in the Philippines
Marikina Sports Commissioner Marty Ilagan, the coaches and scholars of the Samurai Baseball Academy pose with Coach Kimura, Coach Kita and Coach Shogo.

Motivated by the revival of baseball in the country—thanks to the gold medal of the Philippine Men’s Baseball Team at the 2019 30th Southeast Asian Games and the 10th straight gold of the Blu Girls Softball Team also in the 30th SEA Games and their no. 11 world ranking— stakeholders in the sport are batting for better training for young baseball athletes.

It is this strong faith in the skill and potential of Pinoy ballplayers that prompted the Philippine Samurai Baseball Foundation and Japan’s oldest and most popular baseball club, the Yomiuri Giants, to form the Samurai Baseball Academy.  

“We’ve been looking for a good program for our Filipino kids and we found a match in the Japanese way,” explains Raymond Tolentino, one of the officers of the Philippine Samurai Sports Foundation and a father whose son plays baseball. “The Japanese model is very apt for us because the Japanese physique is not so different from the Filipino physique.” Athletes are not the only beneficiaries since coaches’ training is also part of the said program.

The main advisor is Shogo Shibata, former Yomiuri Giants pitcher who played for the professional team from 2012 to 2014.

In 2015, Shibata became a coach for the Yomiuri Giants Academy. In 2016, he came to the Philippines to study English; on weekends, he coached baseball to Pinoy kids — an endeavor that he has been doing on and off for the last four years. Months ago, Shibata talked with his baseball club to help set-up a Yomiuri Giants’-type of academy in the Philippines.  And, at the start of 2020, Satoshi Morita, Yomiuri Giants auditing supervisor and project coordinator to the Philippines, visited Manila to formalize the agreement with the Philippine Samurai Sports Foundation.

The Samurai Baseball Academy now has two training centers, one in Manila Polo Club and another at Marikina Sports Center; the latter is in partnership with the local government of Marikina City under Mayor Marcy Teodoro and the new Marikina Sports Commission headed by Marty Ilagan.  At present, the Samurai Baseball Academy has around 65 participants — boys and girls from the age of six to 12 years old coming from private and public schools.

Marikina Sports Commissioner Marty Ilagan says, “One of the major reasons why the Yomiuri Giants decided to be involved in the Samurai Baseball Academy in because they want to give opportunities to underprivileged ballplayers to improve and play at a higher level. Marikina is the first LGU to support the Samurai Baseball Academy in the Philippines. The Marikina grassroots baseball-softball program has been in place for some time now. We are looking forward to strengthening our program through the new knowledge to be shared by our Japanese mentors.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Morita reveals that the Philippines holds a special place in Japanese baseball history because of a connection that dates to 1934, the year when the Yomiuri Giants was established. He says, “The Philippines was under the Americans back then so baseball was a popular sport in your country. The Giants team came to the Philippines to have a friendly game against a Filipino baseball team to compare how they fared in the sport. Filipino baseball teams were that good at that time — because of the American influence.”

Over the years, baseball in Japan has become more than a sport but a discipline; players are taught values not just skills. Mr. Morita elaborates, “Japanese style of baseball is composed of three pillars — one, respect to others; two, teamwork; and three, technique.”

Aside from putting up more training centers, the Philippine Samurai Sports Foundation and the Yomiuri Giants plan to expand the program to older age groups. “From U-10 up to university athletes,” says Mr. Morita.

To monitor the players’ development closely, Mr. Shibata will be staying for at least a year in Manila, instead of going back-and-forth from the Philippines to his home country. “One of our ultimate wishes,” Mr. Shibata says in Japanese, “is to bring a Filipino baseball player to play in Japan’s professional league.”

For more information about the Samurai Baseball Academy, visit https://www.facebook.com/philippinesamurais/


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