Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Isobe Max 7 - Mets 2
The Isobe Max, my neice's little league team, advanced in the Toyohashi Winter Tournament back on January 8th. The game took place on one of the City's full-sized fields along with two other games going on at the same time in other corners of the field. The games don't usually conflict with each other, but one of the Max players did hit a rocket down the third base line that went all the way down to the left field wall, about 100m away, straight through one of the other games.
I'm not sure exactly how representative Max is of other little league teams in Japan, but I think that other teams at least in their area do things the same way. Isobe is a neighborhood in Toyohashi and the name of the elementary school there. The Isobe Max baseball club is open to everyone at the school and everyone practices together, but the kids are divided into grade levels for the games. The lucky little guys and gals get to play year-round and winter there is very dry providing perfect playing conditions. The practices are a lot more structured than in the U.S. (at least mine as a kid). They usually let me participate a bit with warm-ups and taking infield and it's a lot of fun, the littler kids don't seem to understand why I don't know what they are saying to me. Most of the fields in the area are completely dirt without any grass in the outfield and the players rake the field after practice. They also use rubber balls with seams instead of baseballs until Junior High, they tend to take higher, softer hops on ground balls and throws.
I didn't notice very many differences in the rules of the games, except that players were allowed to lead off and steal at any time. In the U.S. players have to stay on the base until the ball crosses the plate. My brother-in-law also mentioned that the pitcher has to stay set for three seconds before throwing a pitch, I don't remember having that rule when I played.