Japanese coaches mentor Zim baseball team

Descent Dube

THE Zimbabwe national baseball team got a timely boost ahead of a major continental competition when two foreign coaches jetted into the country for a week-long training session at Hamilton High School in Bulawayo. 

The country will compete at the All Africa Games in South Africa in April.

Naohiko Tsutsumi, one of the Japanese coaches, said it’s their hope that the national baseball team will not only do well in South Africa but also qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Baseball Olympic Games in Japan.

“I first came to Zimbabwe in 1997 to promote and develop baseball in primary schools but left in 2007 due to economic challenges. The president of the Zimbabwean Baseball Association (ZBA), Morris Banda, recently came to Japan and asked for assistance and our target is to ensure Zimbabwe qualifies for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” said Tsutsumi.

He said as part of a programme to develop and promote baseball in Zimbabwe, three players went to Japan to learn more about the game.

“To ensure Zimbabwe does well on the international arena, we thought it is a good idea to give a couple of players an opportunity to go to Japan, play there and learn more about the game at the same time. Now they are back here and they will impart what they learnt in Japan and assist their national team in future competitions,” said Tsutsumi.

Zimbabwe will have to top a group that consists of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia to proceed to the next stage and inch closer to Tokyo in 2020. Washington Nyika, the national team coach, said his side is not getting enough support from the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Ministry but the passion among players has been a driving force in ensuring that the team becomes great ambassadors of the country. He said through Japan Overseas Co-operation Volunteers (JOCV) the team has been getting corporate assistance from companies in that country.

“Sometimes we get assistance in terms of accommodation, kits and food but all these players will be representing Zimbabwe without remuneration, which means they sometimes have to dig into their pockets to go to training. Thus we’re appealing to the relevant ministry to assist the team,” said Nyika.

Micro elements

λ In 1992, the 1st African Baseball and Softball Association (Absa) Congress and Africa Cup Baseball Championship was organised in Harare, with only four countries competing.

λ In 1995, the 3rd Africa Cup Baseball Championship and Absa Congress was also held in Harare, Zimbabwe.

λ The first time Baseball featured in the All-Africa Games was in 1999 in the 7th All-Africa Games in South Africa and for the second and last time, in 2003, in the 8th All-Africa Games in Nigeria.

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