Subscribe

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Baseball teams from Kadena and Kubasaki high schools will play each other for the first time this spring, Department of Defense Education Activity officials said Monday.

On Thursday, Dr. Gayle Vaughn-Wiles, DODEA-Okinawa district superintendent, approved a “partnership program,” in which the schools, players’ parents, Marine Corps Community Services at Camp Foster and Kadena’s 18th Services Squadron will work to put high school teams on the diamond.

Athletic directors Vicki Leivermann-Shulson of Kadena and Fred Bales of Kubasaki said they were notified of the approval Monday.

“It’s happening,” said Bales. “The exact form it will take, I can’t say at the moment.”

It is likely the schools will field varsity and junior varsity teams and play each other, as well as the island’s Japanese high schools. Meetings are scheduled later this week to determine final details, Bales and Shulson said.

Currently, Kubasaki has 69 students signed up to play, while Kadena boasts 63, said Maj. Gen. John F. Goodman, commanding officer of Camp Foster’s 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and a driving force behind the idea of a high school baseball league on Okinawa.

“Student-athletes want to participate, play for their school, want to be involved in their school community activities,” said Goodman, whose son, Mike, is a freshman expected to pitch and play first base for Kubasaki.

“They want to feel like they’ve contributed back to their school. This is a way for them to do that. It has a distinct relationship between the student and his community.”

Over the years, the schools have fielded club teams and occasionally youth services squads. Last year, 18th Services sponsored a combined youth activities team for senior-aged players, with students from Kubasaki and Kadena filling the roster.

But Goodman, upon arriving on Okinawa last August, felt student-athletes at both schools needed more, and launched a four-month effort to institute the prep program, he said.

Last fall, Goodman met with Shulson and Bales to gauge interest and desire, and weigh logistical concerns at each school. He then presented proposals to Vaughn-Wiles, who gave final approval, Goodman said, to his written plan last Thursday.

Goodman’s efforts stem from his previous tour to Okinawa, a one-year assignment in 1985-86, when he was a major and his son, John, attended Kubasaki as a freshman. But minus a high school program, the younger Goodman went back to the United States and eventually received a baseball scholarship to George Mason.

“If we had been here for two or three years, he never would have had an opportunity to develop his skills ... and possibly change his dreams,” Goodman said.

“I though it would be fair that if there was enough student and parent interest, and if we could support the school and make it a win-win situation, it was the right thing to do.”

Goodman credited MCCS and 18th Services for providing fields, field maintenance, equipment and umpire-contracting help, among other things, “the stuff that a parent group just can’t do.”

“They’ve been the real heroes,” Goodman said, referring to MCCS and 18th Services.

Bales indicated the league would begin taking shape in the next 10 days, including decisions on a schedule and playoff structure.

He was unsure whether Okinawa would join DODDS-Korea, which is running a test program this spring, in sending a team to the Kanto Plain Invitational, scheduled for May 16-17 at Camp Zama, Japan — an event quickly gaining a reputation as the unoffical Far East tournament.

“If the parents want to do it, yes, but that’s unclear for now,” Bales said. “We’re just trying to get this off the ground.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up