#GWG50: Taking a Look Back on Sayaka Tsushima’s 1998 Little League Baseball® World Series Interview

Little League continues its Girls with Game® 50 Celebration in 2024, honoring the females who have changed the game forever while inspiring the next generation of Little Leaguers®. This includes recognizing the 22 Girls with Game who have competed in the Little League Baseball® World Series (LLBWS) in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, since 1984, when Victoria Roche became the first woman to step onto Lamade Stadium.

As Little League continues its year-long celebration, we take a look back on an interview that Sayaka Tsushima participated in during the 1998 LLBWS. As a member of the Far East Region team, Ms. Tsushima became the sixth female to compete on the biggest stage in youth sports. Ms. Tsushima played center field and ended the tournament with four hits, three runs, and an RBI. The Kashima Little League team from Ibaraki, Japan, came in second place overall, ending the series with a 3-2 record.

At the time of the interview, Ms. Tsushima did not speak English, but planned to begin studying it in her first year of middle school when she returned to Japan. She also made note during the interview that her favorite athlete was Toshihisa Nishi, second basemen for the Tokyo Giants of the Japanese Major Leagues.

Read more from Ms. Tsushima’s August 23, 1998 interview, below: 

Journey to Baseball:

“I have been playing baseball for two and a half years. It is unusual for girls to play Little League in Japan. Most girls play softball, soccer and golf… I played softball for one year before joining this Little League team. I play soccer also. Mainly, I was a pitcher on softball teams, sometimes playing third base. I did not have any problems trying to adjust from softball to baseball, because I used to play catch with my father and teammates. I am undecided if I will continue to play baseball. I play baseball on Saturday and Sunday in Little League, and at school.”

Family Support:

“Both of my parents agreed, and they are backing me completely. They have no objections. I dream about being a Major League Baseball player, but there are a lot of limitations because of being a female.”

Media Attention as the First Girl on the Far East Region Team in the LLBWS:

“I am very happy to interviewed in a mass media interview… I am very happy to be the first Japanese girl to play Little League (at this level). In the history of the All-Japan tournament, they never had a girl player. There are a very limited number of teams in playoffs. There are only 16 teams in the All-Japan tournament… When people found out there was going to be a girl [at the tournament], there was a big promotion.”

Are You Worried About Getting Hurt Playing with Bigger Players?

I have no fear.

Competing on All-Male Baseball Teams:

“I think that when I get into the first year of high school, things will change. I still have two more years (in middle school) where I can keep the same level of play as the boys.”

Advice for Girls Who Want to Play Baseball:

“It’s very tough for girls to play baseball with boys. If other girls want to try to play baseball with boys, they will have to fight to overcome this.”

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NOTE: The #GWG50 celebration is proudly supported by DICK’S Sporting Goods, a long-time Little League partner that is committed to creating opportunities for girls and women in sports and will be activating around key events and milestones this year. To learn more about the entire #GWG50 Celebration, including the 50th Anniversary of the Little League Softball World Series, visit LittleLeague.org/GWG50.