It Didn’t Japan Out

Author: By Zach Swartz - Special Correspondent

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Wednesday, August 26, 2009, 4:00pm ET

Chiba City Little League of Japan may have been knocked out of the Little League World Series before the International Championship game for the first time since 1997, but that’s OK.

The team has been here before.

Chiba City’s appearance in the 63rd Little League World Series was its second since 2005. The Little League, located about an hour and a half east of Tokyo, is one of four teams from the same city in Japan to reach the Little League World Series more than once. This year marks Japan’s 20th appearance in the tournament since their first in 1962.

Chiba City, however, is the only of those four teams—the others are Wakayama Little League (1966 and 1968) Musashi Fuchu Little League (2000 and 2003) and Kitasuna Little League (2001 and 2007)—that did not win the Little League World Series in one of their showings.

Still, says manager Hirofumi Oda, who was also the manager of the 2005 Japan Region Champions, being here let him know what he was aiming for.

“The player is different, but the goal is the same as before,” Oda said through interpreter Kotaro Omori. “But this time we just couldn’t make the goal.”

When Oda compared the two teams—in 2005, his squad lost to the Caribbean Region Champs from Curacao in the International Championship game—he did admit that indeed, they were two different teams.

“This time, the players got nervous kind of easy,” he said. “The last time they have guts and were tougher mentally. This time, the kids were more calm. They’re good kids, but four years ago they were just more aggressive, in a fun way. This time, we’re more calm kids.”

Japan has historically been one of the most dominant teams in the Little League World Series. Its six World Series Championships are the third most of any region, and only two other countries, Canada and Chinese Taipei, has more appearances than Japan’s 20.

In 2001, when the tournament’s field was expanded from eight to 16 teams, the Asia Regional Tournament was a Japanese national championship. In 2007, the region’s name was changed to reflect that, and today it is still called the Japan Region.