Negishi youths get pro treatment during visit to Yokohama Stadium
YOKOHAMA, Japan — The Yokohama Stadium lights glared, and its green glass shone as Alphanso Chapman caught a grounder and threw it back to home plate. “Good throw,” a voice over the stadium speaker boomed as his play was broadcast on the stadium’s big screen.
Business as usual at the stadium where Japanese professional teams play — except that Alphanso is 10.
He and 10 teammates from the Negishi Athletics, a youth baseball team from the Negishi Housing Area near Yokosuka Naval Base, visited the stadium Wednesday to take part in an event sponsored by the Yokohama BayStars and to meet the club’s American players. “I thought, ‘I’ll be famous,’” Alphanso said — although at first, “I was afraid to miss.”
A BayStars assistant coach hit infield practice to Negishi and other local youth players before Yokohama’s game Wednesday evening. It was a part of the team’s efforts to show the children the best part about baseball and give them a feel for the diamond by fielding grounders from the pros.
Sean Quinn, 10, said that after getting out on the field he “was a little nervous” he’d make a mistake in front of the audience.
The Negishi Athletics visit was arranged after Robert Santana, the Negishi youth sports director, learned of it from a newsletter. The children also received free tickets to the game.
“This is kind of an end-of-the-season party. It’s a gift for them,” Santana said.
Meeting the pros also was a treat for the young players.
“Players took an active part in meeting the kids and supporting the military,” Santana said.
Josh Song, 10, said the highlight of his day was meeting Tyrone Woods, the BayStars first baseman and last year’s Central League home run champion. “He was nice and it was exciting,” Song said.
The children also met Yokohama pitcher Pete Walker. The players autographed children’s hats and balls and took their questions.
“It’s great. I enjoy meeting the kids,” said Walker, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays for two seasons before signing with the BayStars.
“They’ll remember forever,” said the Negishi coach, Petty Officer 2nd Class Dusty Barnes. “For the kids, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the big-league players.”