Yamaguchi Track Association hosts US-Japan friendship softball tournament

by Lance Cpl. Seth Rosenberg
MCAS Iwakuni

Iwakuni City, Japan (May 21, 2018) — The shadow of Kizuna stadium falls over two softball fields at the Atago Hills sports complex. The sun shines in a cloudless sky, radiating down on a group of athletes of all ages and skill levels ready to play softball.

The athletes, service members from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and members of the Yamaguchi Track Association, gathered to play a softball tournament in Iwakuni City, Japan, May 20, 2018.

Each game started with a round of “rock, paper, scissors” to decide which team took the field first. The teams shook hands, then played ball. They played three games per team, each lasting five innings.

“There’s not many rules but the most important rule is to have fun and enjoy the game,” said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jesus Benavidez, a distribution management specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.

At lunchtime the players, covered in sweat and dirt from the field, sat down for grilled burgers and hotdogs. A cooler full of ice cold water quickly emptied as the players talked about the tournament.

The softball games started as a competition within the Yamaguchi Track Association, but they reached out to MCAS Iwakuni to join them in a tournament of friendship. The air station responded by forming “Team USA” and has been to five tournaments in the past year. The tournaments are played next to the Kizuna stadium, a symbol of the bond between the U.S. and Japan.

Shizuo Kawasaki, a member of the Yamaguchi Track Association, says this is a great opportunity to interact and build relationships with people from the air station, and to enjoy the games played.

MCAS Iwakuni has only put forth one team so far, but the team hopes to expand the air station’s presence in future tournaments.

“It’s really good to get out and build camaraderie with the Japanese,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Scott, a logistics specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. “It does a lot for the community and it’s a fun time.”

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