The Hawaii Island Movers kicks off its 27th annual summer baseball season, highlighted by the 25th consecutive year that the team is making a goodwill baseball trip to Japan for Hawaii college ballplayers to experience the culture and keep their skills sharp.
Donald Takaki, the program’s founder and chairman of HawkTree International, Inc., said it’s especially vital for this year’s team to show its support to Japan and for the Movers’ players to embrace their role as goodwill ambassadors, as Japan continues its recovery from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Takaki said, “This will be the Movers’ 25th year of playing baseball in Japan, and this year will be the most important considering all that Japan and its people have gone through. Japan needs all of us to do our part to help their families and communities get their lives back to a sense of normalcy. We are going there to compete on the baseball field, to share our aloha with their people, and to let them know they can count on our support going forward.”
As part of the Movers’ goodwill efforts, five of the team’s players are from Japan, including three players from universities in Sendai, which suffered extensive earthquake and tsunami damage. The five Japanese players will join the Movers’ roster for the road trip throughout Japan, while an all-star team from the Sendai Universities League will compete in the season-ending baseball tournament in Hawaii.
The Movers’ 30-game schedule continues through Aug. 7, including a 25-day, 17-game road trip in Japan, June 28 to July 23, to play teams in Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kansai, Osaka, and Sapporo. Takaki noted that the Movers’ relationships with many of the Japan teams and their support organizations go back more than 20 years. The season concludes with the 2011 Hawaii International Baseball Championship Tournament, Aug. 4-7.
Joining the Movers are three Japan teams, Sendai Universities League, Kyushu Big Six Universities League, and Nippon Sports Science University. Ninety percent of the players’ program expenses, including travel costs for the traveling squad, are being provided by Pacific Region Baseball, Inc. and other sponsors.
Richard Olsen, the team’s general manager and head coach, along with assistant coaches Galen Kitamura, Blane Muraoka, Randy Yamashiro, Mario Monico, and Ryan Monico, volunteer their time in support of the program and its mission.
“We’re very grateful to our sponsors and supporters for making this unique summer baseball experience possible for these young college men as they learn about life and develop into adults,” Takaki said.
All home games are played at Les Murakami Stadium on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Admission is free.