This month Baseball NSW had the privilege of sending a roster of female players including one coach, to Fukuoka, Japan in order to solidify the first steps in the relationship between our countries.
Australia’s participation in this tour saw a strong focus on our female athletes, with an objective to promote the sharing of players and coaching expertise across the two organisations. Players, Claire O’Sullivan, Ticara Geldenhuis, Maddi Heath and Jordan Richardson, accompanied by coach Laura Neads, had the chance to play and train alongside premier female baseball team the Kyūshū Honey’s. The NSW crew were immersed in Japanese baseball and culture for a week. A highlight of the tour was the Sanwa Shutter Cup competition, where Baseball NSW CEO Mark Marino threw out the first pitch of the game!
As the relationship between the Fukuoka Prefectural Government, Baseball NSW and the Kyūshū Honey’s continues to evolve and grow, Coach Laura Neads believes that our Japanese friends have much to teach us, including the way they play the game and support each other as a team, and in return we have many things to teach them. “It’s great to see the start of something new for women’s baseball in NSW, and I hope it continues to evolve and develop the next group of NSW players.” Continued collaboration “would be a good challenge for us and it would force us to get better, therefore strengthening women’s baseball in NSW and Australia.”
“Japanese baseball is everything I want to be a part of, great team mates who work extremely hard while having a laugh. Baseball is the hardest sport, full of so much failure and things you can’t control,” said Claire O’Sullivan in a social media post this week. As an Australian Emerald herself, she was appreciative of the Kyūshū Honey’s, saying “thanks for making the process of getting better so fun and welcoming us into your great team!”
The bonds and friendships that these players were able to form during the tour are something they will cherish for many years to come. “We are lucky that throughout the language barrier, baseball remains the same, and we were able to bond over the fact that we play and love the same sport” mentioned Ticara Geldenhuis.
Accompanying the team was Baseball NSW CEO Mark Marino. Upon entering the Memorandum of Understanding, the partnership set a goal to surge a path forward in growing the game of baseball across both countries. The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Kyūshū Honeys are among the premier baseball teams in Japan and are committed to sharing players, coaches, and touring teams with visiting teams this coming December.
“In terms of the baseball, it is clear to see why they are considered to be the best in the world. The way they train, the amount they train, the support from coaches and players” expressed Ticara. “Their coach, Mr. Miyaji just topped the whole experience for me. He persisted through the language barrier and took his time demonstrating and explaining drills, allowing us to film everything so that we could take it back home”
Baseball NSW will now prepare for the Japanese tour to Sydney, where they will join us at our facilities, and players from the Orio Aishin High School will train and play with our NSW representatives. Maddi Heath believes that to be involved with “a country where baseball really is the centre of their lives” offers so much value. “I learnt valuable lessons for my baseball but also the importance of just being a part of a team. This was incredible & I really hope I have the chance to be a part of this in the future, this partnership has the potential to be something amazing.
View all the images from the tour in the gallery below!