East meets West in Pasadena

March 28, 2008 7:53:35 AM PDT
Pasadena residents might have been taken back by the Japanese flag flying over Spiller Field Thursday night.That's because the Pasadena Pan American Little League had a special opponent from very far away. Team Hadano came all the way from Japan to play the team of 12-year-olds made up of several Pasadena-area teams.

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"I was born here in Pasadena, raised in the area and I never thought I would see a Japanese flag flying over Spiller Field," said Pasadena Pan American Little League Assistant Manager Brian Corbell with a laugh. "The boys from Japan are very disciplined, a very good team."

Pan American second baseman, Tim Hance, had already heard about the team before they arrived.

"I heard they practiced two to three hours before they came here," he said.

This historic game was almost a year in the making, but the relationship between Pasadena and Hadano has been around much longer.

"The two cities...have been meeting for some 40 years," said city of Pasadena Director of Parks and Recreation, Michael Isermann. "They would send delegates to Pasadena and we would send delegates to Japan and learn about each others' cultures."

Team Hadano has been in the Houston area for a few days, already visiting Minute Maid Park and even playing a team on Wednesday night. Hadano won that game.

"America is home of baseball and this is a dream for the boys to play baseball in America," said Noriko Ino who serves as the Hadano team translator.

The special occasion called for lots of preparation from the Pan American players and their parents.

"There were special uniforms that were ordered, additional practices on top of what they practice for their regular season," said team mother Jamie Miller-Cook.

While the players might have had cases of the nerves leading up to the international game, parents say the lessons learned made it all worth it, especially for the families who have never been outside the Texas border.

"[The Japanese] way of life is totally different," said team dad Randy Gray. "They are real polite. Their kids?are real straightforward. Our kids are kind of laid back in Texas."

"When [my son] found out he got picked for the team, he automatically started getting on the Internet, looking up Hadano, wanting to know what the place looks like, what the people eat, what they wear, how they dress," said team mother Veronica Rodriguez.

Team Hadano ended up beating Pan American 13 to 0 Thursday night. That didn't dampen the enthusiasm from Pasadena residents who hope a local team can take a trip over the Pacific Ocean for a game next year.

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