A special guest will be on hand March 18 for opening day of the Okinawa Activities Council’s first high school baseball and girls softball seasons: Ron Swoboda, the right fielder of New York’s “Miracle Mets” of 1969.
Swoboda’s visit to Kadena’s and Kubasaki’s season-opening games, at 9 a.m. March 18 at Chibana Recreational Area near Kadena Air Base, is part of his scheduled week-long swing through the island. He’s to visit bases, USO centers and Department of Defense Dependents Schools to give handshakes, autographs and clinic sessions.
“We’re happy to have him here,” said Charles Steitz, DODDS-Pacific’s regional office spokesman who helped arrange Swoboda’s tour — his first Okinawa visit since just after the Mets completed their improbable 1969 World Series run.
Swoboda arrives on Okinawa March 14. Following a March 16 radio interview, he’ll tour United Service Organizations sites at camps Schwab and Hansen, Futenma Marine Corps Air Station and Kadena Air Base.
On St. Patrick’s Day, Swoboda is to visit DODDS-Okinawa’s district office and the Kadena Air Base operations group.
His visit’s centerpiece comes March 18 for the OAC season openers. DODDS-Okinawa is taking over baseball and softball programs this season after three years of the programs operating as a collective community effort among Marine Corps Community Services, Kadena’s 18th Services, the schools and the communities.
Later that day, Swoboda also will preside over a softball tournament with American and Japanese teams at Kadena’s FourDiamonds complex. He then is to visit DODDS and Japanese schools and more USO outlets March 19-21 before leaving the island March 22.
Swoboda, 61, played for six seasons starting in 1965 for the Mets. The team debuted in the National League in 1962 and finished in last place in all but two seasons — until 1969.
That year, the “Miracle Mets” went 100-62, swept Atlanta in the NL playoffs and shocked the favored Baltimore Orioles four games to one in the World Series.
Swoboda batted .242 with 73 homers and 344 RBIs in a career that spanned parts of nine seasons, ending with the New York Yankees in 1973.