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Published: August 22nd 2007
this is, in fact, the only photo I have of Yagi!!
I am not sure if I have yet to truly dive into Yagi Torazo’s story yet. But his is worth a full entry, so here it is.
Yagi is in his early 30’s. He is not very tall (I would estimate about 5 foot 2 inches). He is from Tokyo, Japan. He is soft-spoken, very friendly. He plays 2b, Shortstop, and Catcher for the Kaunas team.
Yagi first heard about our team when he was in Cuba on a 4-month research assignment playing baseball and traveling Cuba researching for his book that will be about baseball in different cultures around the world. He had spent the previous three seasons living in Italy, playing first for a team in the Italian 1st Division, then 2nd Division, and finally the 3rd division this past summer. And it was in fact his girlfriend who suggested looking into baseball in Lithuania. She has for a long time had a love affair with Lithuania (I am still unclear why given she still has never been to the country). After some research, Yagi chose Kaunas as his next place to live and play baseball. He was pleasantly surprised to find that there was/is a team
A New batting Cage
This is a practice last week in which all we did was hit. The batting cage was finally repaired (the poles had been pulled up/stolen twice already this season). The cage itself is four pvc pipes and a huge net, all of which is put up and taken down before and after practice. It takes about five minutes to assemble this full-size batting cage.
Yagi lives in an apartment byhimself in the Telecom section of Kaunas. He spends his days taking photos and writing about Kaunas culture, women and men in Kaunas, and about baseball. He has a contract to write a book about baseball. The book will cover baseball in Italy, Cuba, Lithuania, and Japan. He also keeps a blog—mostly about baseball—that receives a few thousand hits per day-- and writes for a major newspaper in Tokyo. He also writes a weekly column for Playboy Magazine Japan about women from different cultures.
Recently a Japanese television company visited Kaunas for one week to do a short story for TV about Yagi and the team in Kaunas.
Yesterday Yagi came with me to Mercurijaus, the summer camp where I teach baseball, to take photos and interview me about my experiences. We traveled by microbus there; it was Yagi’s first experience on the microbus. I have become very accustomed to traveling on the microbus, in fact I now really like it. It is my favorite way to get around the city. Sometimes it reminds me of the inter-city buses in Cameroon (Central Africa), they way each one has their own character and interior decoration. The only thing the Kaunas microbuses lack is the unique exterior paint jobs/slogans that are sported on the outside of many of the Cameroon buses.
On our ride to camp we discussed our first impressions of baseball when we came to Lithuania, specifically about the high skill level of some of the Kaunas players. I think we both expected the players to be less skilled, to have less knowledge of the game, to be less committed and passionate about the game than they are. In fact we both agreed that with the Kaunas team we have found exactly the opposite; a group of guys who, despite having families and jobs and other full-time commitments, spend five days per week playing and practicing baseball, have quite a bit of experience with the game, and are extremely dedicated and passionate. Sure, in any given practice I can find dozens of areas in which I could critique people’s technique, the way a practice is organized, the way we go about doing certain things. But the truth is the same could be said about most teams and organizations in the US all the way up to division III baseball (and probably even at higher levels—D-III is simply as far as I experienced).
From Yagi’s 3 years of experience in Italy playing baseball, he says that the Kaunas team would definitely compete in the top division in Italy. And from my experience playing in France, I would say that the Kaunas team would also compete in the first division in France.
Do you like Kaunas? I asked Yagi. He said yes, that he likes it very much. What do you like about it?? It is quiet, he says. To him this is both the best and the worst part of Kaunas—that it is quiet. In fact I would say this is not completely true—though I can see how it would feel very quiet to someone who does not speak the language and does not have many ‘local’ friends. Kaunas does feel quiet sometimes—quiet.
Yagi expressed that he plans to return to Kaunas next Summer.
One final word:
Another interesting thing about baseball in Lithuania is the duration of the season. Most teams and Baseball Associations in Europe end their season sometime in August, while in Lithuania the season does not end until October 7th. The Lithuanian season starts about one month later than in most countries, yet still this means that the Lithuanian season lasts one full month longer than most.
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