Hiroshima City Municipal Stadium on March 23, Osaka Dome on March 24 and the Seibu Dome in Tokyo on March 25. Starting tomorrow, the University of Chicago baseball team will come to Japan to play Waseda University in celebration of Waseda’s 125th Anniversary.
In 1910, the University of Chicago made a trip to Japan and traveled around the country where they gave regular beatings to the teams in a nation where baseball was only just kicking off. Fast-forward nearly a century, and the University of Chicago is a team that struggles to get 150 people to it’s Division III games, whereas the prestigious Waseda University is the number 1 ranked university in a country that baseball-mania rivals that of the US.
Waseda University are eager to include the University of Chicago in their celebrations. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the UofC faced many difficulties coming to Japan, and Waseda was always their in support.
U. of C. coach Brian Baldea was initially hesitant to come on the tour…
– they faced problems with the tour interfering with U. of C. final exams. Waseda pushed back the dates.
– there was the specter of financial difficulties… Waseda pledged $50,000 towards the tour.
– Baldea was concerned about the fact that the University of Chicago isn’t what it once was in baseball. Waseda University reassured them that it was understood.
In what should be a phenomenal tour, the games hope to attract massive crowds – despite the beginning of Nippon Professional Baseball, and the MLB opener in Tokyo between the Boston Red Sox & the Oakland Athletics.
The tables have definitely turned though. Back in 1910, U. of C. was a baseball powerhouse, and Waseda was the fledgling. Now, Waseda boasts an almost professional program, lead by the ‘Hankachi Oji’ (Handkerchief Prince) Yuki Saito – a pitcher who is not at all put off by the big occasion.
Saito lead his Waseda Jitsugyo High School to a title at the prestigious Koshien Summer Tournament.
Saito surprised many by opting to go to Waseda University instead of going professional – where most considered he would have been one of the top lottery picks.
Saito finished the fall season with a 15-strikeout, 4-hit shutout of Keio University in the Tokyo Big Six University League title game.
The 15 Ks were a record in the long rivalry between Keio and Waseda.
He had a 0.78 ERA for the fall season and four wins, leading in both categories.
The games promise to be an event of epic proportions, and hopefully will lead to a renewed rivalry between the two schools.