Sunday’s doubleheader between the Thunder Bay Wolves and the Japanese Canadian Baseball League all-stars is about more than just the game itself.
It’s a cultural exchange.
Make no mistake, says Warren Philp, executive director with the Thunder Bay International Baseball Association, who are bringing the two teams together at Port Arthur Stadium, this is not the Japanese national team.
It’s a gathering of really good recreational baseball players.
But it’s a chance to bring two communities together, the hope being to create a bond ahead of the 2017 U18 World Baseball Cup, slated for Thunder Bay in two year’s time.
“Some of these folks were born and raised in Japan and they’ll be bringing some of that Asian flare for playing baseball. You’ll see some style there that might be reminiscent of Daisuke Matsuzaka or Ichiro Suzuki, which will be entertaining in itself, Philp said on Wednesday at Gore Motors Honda, who stepped up to the sponsorship plate and will present the two games, which start at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
“But it’s about bringing together people from Thunder Bay and people from the Japanese-Canadian community in Toronto and planting some seeds there that hopefully will germinate into more supporters coming to cheer on Canada and Japan in 2017.”
The visiting players will get a taste of Thunder Bay during their stay, taking in Festa Italiana on Sunday evening and spending the night at Fort William Historical Park for an overnight program.
They’ll also take part in a drumming ceremony before the contests begin and feast on a pot-luck dinner on Monday hosted by the Lakehead Japanese-Canadian Association.
“It’s trying to promote baseball and the relationship between Japanese-Canadians and Thunder Bay. We know Japan has just a tremendous history of baseball and they’re probably the most enthusiastic fans in the world,” said TBIBA president Larry Hebert.
“We are really happy to use this as a jumping-off point for our 2017 event because they are just so enthusiastic and they will promote this. They’ll go back to Toronto and talk up what a good time they had in Thunder Bay and that’s really going to help our event in 2017.”
Admission is free, though donations of non-perishable goods to the Regional Food Distribution Association will be accepted.