Baseball / Japanese Baseball | Regional Voices: Chubu

Nagano and Ishikawa high school baseball coaches tout special anti-virus masks to get game going again

Chunichi Shimbun

A day after the Japan High School Baseball Federation’s May 20 announcement that it was canceling this summer’s high school baseball tournament and regional championships due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the high school baseball federation of Ishikawa Prefecture started organizing its own regional championship, saying it will hand out 2,000 quick-dry masks to players and managers participating in the event.

Under the project dubbed the “Ishikawa model,” the federation will hand out neck warmer-shaped masks made of an antimicrobial fabric used in swimsuits that can be washed and reused and are more breathable than multilayered masks.

The idea came up during exchanges between team managers of high schools in Ishikawa’s capital of Kanazawa and Komoro, Nagano Prefecture.

On May 14, Shigeo Imura, 42, a manager of a baseball team at Kanazawa Sakuragaoka High School, received a video from Shinji Takemine, 40, a manager of a team at Komoro Commercial High School. The video showed Takemine and the team’s coaches playing baseball wearing the masks.

The two coaches got to know each other during a seminar held by the Japan High School Baseball Federation on nurturing young coaches and managers.

Takemine suggested that the masks can help create an opportunity for students to play baseball again.

“I totally agreed with his idea,” said Imura.

As a member of Ishikawa’s high school baseball federation, Imura was working to create a manual with an aim to hold a prefectural championship. He proposed the idea to Wataru Sasaki, head of the federation.

The federation discussed the plan on May 15. It then secured the masks and made the announcement on May 21 that it would hand them out.

The idea of using the masks is gaining support among baseball managers in Nagano as well.

Hiroshi Otsuki, 38, a manager of a baseball team at Nagano Nishi High School in the city of Nagano who saw the video, was also one of the supporters.

“I was wondering what we could do instead of just relying on the prefectural federation,” he said. “We want to give players the opportunity to win or lose, some kind of experience.”

Takemine in Nagano has been contacting officials of a major sporting goods maker and sporting goods stores in the prefecture to secure the masks.

After being contacted by Takemine, Takahiro Nishizawa, 50, of Ueda Star, a sporting goods store in Ueda, Nagano, started gathering information on the sale of the masks. “I want to help them secure the masks if requested by the prefectural federation,” Nishizawa said.

“Adults should show players the attitude of never giving up,” Takemine said. “I hope the masks will lead Nagano to decide to hold its own championship.”

The Nagano federation is expected to make a decision on Friday.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original articles were published May 23.

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