Despite DODDS oversight, no Far East baseball tourney expected soon
Stars and Stripes March 16, 2006
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Now that all baseball leagues in Japan and South Korea fall under the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific, can a season-ending Far East tournament be far behind?
Don’t hold your breath, say a handful of coaches and a key DODDS official. The sport does reign as America’s national pastime, and Far East tournaments are held in several other sports, but issues — money key among them — remain as roadblocks.
“Right now, it’s not financially feasible,” said Don Hobbs, chairman of DODDS-Pacific’s Far East Activities Council.
Adding a baseball tournament might seem a logical progression for the sport, but DODDS officials say they’re facing dollar cutbacks so sizeable that they’re doing all they can just to maintain existing FEAC activities.
Hobbs, interviewed by phone, said an analysis would be needed to estimate the cost of adding a baseball tournament. Even then, several issues likely would have to be considered, including whether it would be limited to the top teams in each district.
“We haven’t even gotten to that point yet,” he said, adding that baseball first would have to surface on a FEAC meeting agenda; the next isn’t until October. “Nobody brought it up at the last one,” last week at Yokota, he said. “I’m sure that it will come up in future meetings, but it won’t happen this year or next.”
Coaches and players agree a tournament would be a plus.
“It might attract more kids, knowing that there would be a Far East tournament” at the end of the season, said coach David Thomascall of Robert D. Edgren, Japan.
Yokota senior Mark Dixon agreed, saying, “I think more players would come out.”
Edgren, enrollment 270, is one of only three Class A schools playing baseball in the spring. Matthew C. Perry and E.J. King of Japan, with enrollments of around 125, play in the fall to avoid interfering with spring soccer season.
Thomascall said a Far East tournament might be an incentive to return to spring baseball for King and Perry, which “have a harder time … fielding teams.”
It seems to have worked that way on Okinawa. In 2005, when the program there still was operated collectively by Air Force and Marine Corps Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Kubasaki fielded just 24 players. This year, 50 showed up for tryouts, said Kubasaki coach Randy Toor.
The only postseason tournament among the three DODDS-sponsored leagues in northeast Asia is the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools invitational in May, being hosted by Zama American. But it starts on a Friday, and DODDS teams in Okinawa and South Korea can’t travel for non-DODDS events if it means missing classroom time.
A DODDS-sponsored Far East tournament would alleviate that concern and give teams a bigger prize than a league title.
“When the season is done, it’s done,” he said. “They’d like the opportunity to … see what the other teams are like in Japan and Korea.”
But even just a top-teams tournament would mean flying teams to different areas to play just a game or two.
“That’s an awful lot of money to spend on so few games,” Yokota coach Brian Kitts said.
Still, hope springs eternal among those who’d like a Far East baseball tournament to become a reality.
“They have Far East tournaments in other sports,” said Dixon, who took part in November’s Class AA football playoffs and helped Yokota to its Class AA basketball title in February. “Why not baseball?”
Kitts said, “The kids would love it and that’s important. But right now, it’s just not realistic.”