Zama sends off coach with a championship
By JAMES KIMBER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 24, 2014
CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Tom Allensworth has taught and coached at Zama for two decades. That tenure ends next month when he retires to his home state of Illinois.
He’ll take something special home with him: the Far East High School Division II Baseball Tournament title - his first Far East championship in any sport. His Trojans made that happen when they shut out Matthew C. Perry 3-0 in Saturday’s final at Zama’s Rambler Field.
“What an honor,” assistant coach Steven Venzlauskas said. “Giving him the title he was seeking for so long doesn’t even repay him for what he’s meant to us. We really appreciate everything he’s done for us.”
Allensworth was not at the championship on Saturday, as he was packing out for his trip home. Keeping with tradition, though, he did take the players to breakfast one last time “because that was kind of his thing,” Venzlauskas said.
“He always had the boys’ interest first. He truly cared about them and would do anything to help any one of them.”
It was a veteran team, six of whom were seniors, that captured the school’s first Far East baseball title. The seniors were what Venzlauskas called “the heart and soul of this team.”
“They always picked up each other and backed each other up and they always did everything as a family,” he said.
Saturday’s triumph may go to great lengths to salve the disappointment of a near-miss that Allensworth’s boys basketball team endured in 2006-07. That team won its first 34 games, winning DODDS Japan and Kanto titles, before losing in the Far East D-I semifinals.
“I’m glad we could finally do it for him,” first baseman and captain Saad Almomory said. “I’m proud of our guys for sticking together and fighting for the same goal of winning a championship. It means a lot to coach and to us (seniors).”
Saturday’s victory was also one of redemption for Zama sophomore Keiyl Sasano, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
He was ejected during Zama’s 6-3 semifinal win over Osan in last year’s Far East and had to sit out the championship game, won by Robert D. Edgren in comeback fashion 4-3.
The win also concluded Zama’s successful run of titles during Far East spring sports tournament week. The Trojans swept the overall, boys and girls team titles in Division II track and field and came in second in both boys and girls Far East D-II soccer tournaments.
“We’ve been training for so long and practicing every day (and) for it to come to championship is totally worth it,” Almomory said. “We’ve been together for a long time and this is amazing.”
The Samurai finished last in the tournament in 2013 and came within just one win of completing a worst-to-first journey. But coach Frank Macias said his team benefitted greatly from reaching the title game and it bodes well for the team’s future.
“We’re a young team and had a rough season, but our goal all along was to make the championship and we did that. Now, we need to take what we learned from Zama on how to be a championship team so we can do that next year,” Macias said, pointing to Zama celebrating on the field.