Ana Heard
Special to the Daily Press

Sports, especially baseball, is a universal language. It allows people from all different parts of the world and backgrounds to come together to do something they all love.
This summer, a select number of 13-14 year old boys from Santa Monica got to get a taste of just how universal sports are. They participated in a three day baseball showcase against kids from Japan. This is the 44th year of the tournament, but the first time Santa Monica hosted. The tournament brought over 40 Japanese players from 12 different Pony Baseball Leagues in Japan.
The three day event focused on getting all these young baseball players a chance to experience the life of a kid in Santa Monica while playing baseball against good talent. The games were exhibitions and they weren’t about who won. Those fortunate enough to play in the series are the real winners.
“For a lot of us, this is our chance to go out there and see kids from another part of the world,” Thomas Huerta from Santa Monica said. “This is kind of like our Little League World Series, except Pony.”
In a day and age where Major League Baseball is about home runs and power, many kids don’t get to experience the small ball type of play. Coach Lorenzo Lesky practiced with the Santa Monica players on moving runners over and stealing bases as opposed to home runs.
“Athletically the boys are fine,” Coach Lesky said. “A lot of the things we’ve been trying to show them in a very short time frame is how to play as a team but also how to play more fundamentally sound because that’s what they’ll see in the Japanese.”
Baseball in Japan is different than it is in America. Japanese players will steal bases, bunt, hit and run, and play routine baseball. In America the game is centered around home runs, doubles, and strikeouts.
No matter the different style of play, many pro Japanese baseball players have been successful playing in the MLB. Ichiro Suzuki, Hideo Nomo, and Hideki Matsui have contributed a lot to the game of baseball. Nowadays, Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, and Kenta Maeda are making a name for themselves in the MLB.
“I did have a chance to play against Taiwan when I was 19 on a U.S. team,” Coach Lesky said. “Similar to what I saw, the boys see, the [Japanese] do their job on the mound and throw strikes, and defensively they don’t make many mistakes.”
The boys from Santa Monica had the opportunity to see why baseball in Japan is such a big deal. The Japanese players came over and played very well, narrowly beating the Santa Monica team in the games they played. Many fans and players were overwhelmed on how talented and gifted these Japanese players are.
This year the Japanese got to experience baseball in Southern California. While next year the series will move to Japan and will allow players from Santa Monica to get the chance to play overseas.