The kudos today go to the Metro Sports Report on its promotion Tuesday night of the Japan-Metro All-Star Classic, a nine-inning game on a beautiful evening.
Kennedy's diamond was in excellent shape and an international exchange of baseball took place between the Metro area stars and the touring Japanese club.
I stopped by to take in a few innings and found an interested crowd on hand. This Japan/Metro exchange now has been continued and an Iowa team will visit Japan next year and play exhibition games in that country.
The Metro stars hit home runs, played big ball and scored 10 times. The high school guys from Japan played small ball and big ball and scored six times, with a couple of home runs.
In watching the Japanese team play, I certainly got the idea that Ichiro Suzuki has had an effect on how you play the game of baseball on the Japanese youth. There were a lot of Ichiro lookalikes on the field Tuesday night.
But more than the baseball game, the city welcomed its visitors with host housing and meals provided by Carlos O'Kelly's and the Genghis Grill restaurants and a visit to Bloomsbury Farm on Wednesday morning.
But back to baseball for a moment, one thing I did glean from the interpreter was that the fields in Japan, at the high school level at any rate, are more like the softball fields in the United States in that there is no grass in the infield.
I met the team manager Kiyoshi Ozawa. He had the experience a few years ago of playing in Cedar Rapids and getting hit by a line drive as the first-base coach and spent a couple of days in the hospital.
He handed me a business card and the only thing I can make out of it is Kiyoshi Ozawa. Which brings to mind the fact that the host families and the host Metro all-stars enjoyed a good ballgame, even though the language barrier is more than considerable.
So, a tip of the fedora to Jim Ecker and Mike Koolbeck and their staff for just a nice, solid, international baseball evening in Cedar Rapids.
(Bob Brooks is sports director at KMRY and has been one of the leading voices of college and prep sports in Eastern Iowa for more than 65 years. He is a 10-time winner of the Iowa Sportscaster of the Year Award, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana in 2004. His sports reports can be heard weekday afternoons at 4:30 and 5:30, and Saturdays at 6:40 for the Hawkeye football wrap-up.)
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