USA vs. Japanese Collegiate All-Stars
With the College World Series in Omaha wrapping-up, another annual series - truly a world series - begins on U.S. soil on the Fourth of July.
The USA vs. Japanese Collegiate All-Stars series, a five-game series between the top collegiate players from both countries, is an annual event for both countries and has become a staple for baseball fans in both nations. This marks the 36th year of the event.
"This series is a huge part of our player development during the summer," Paul Seiler, USA Baseball's Executive Director/CEO, says of the on-going series. "When you play Japan, you have to be ready. We are two countries who take our baseball very seriously."
The series between the USA Baseball National Team and the Japan Collegiate All-Stars begins July 4 in Durham, N.C., site of four of the games. One game will be played in Kannapolis, N.C.
Prior to opening the series in Durham, the Japanese team will get in some exhibition games versus collegiate league teams on July 1st and 2nd in Columbia, South Carolina and Fayetteville, North Carolina respectively.
Although the U.S. holds an all-time winning record (21-14) against the Japanese in the event, the series has been all-even the last 10 years with each side winning five series. The U.S. won last year, with series MVP Pedro Alvarez of Vanderbilt University batting .409 (9-for-22) with 9 RBI.
Past series MVPs have included Huston Street, then of the University of Texas, and former University of Tennessee star Todd Helton.
While the U.S. selects their National Team players from colleges and universities across the country - some of which never reach the College World Series in Omaha - the Japanese Collegiate All-Stars are primarily comprised of players from teams that fared well in the All-Japan Collegiate Championship, Japan's version of the College World Series. Waseda University recently won this year's event, its first championship in 33 years, behind the pitching of Yuki Saito, a national sensation just one year out of high school.
Saito won two games in the tournament, and became the first freshman to ever win the tournament MVP. He is expected to be named to the Japanese Collegiate All-Star Team and travel to the U.S.
Japanese teams have been playing against organized U.S. teams for more than 100 years. The first games occurred in 1905 when Waseda University visited the U.S. to play a series. The U.S. vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series began in 1972 in Japan, with late legendary USC coach Rod Dedeaux helping organize the event before the era of corporate sponsorships and mass media coverage.
Since then, the series has grown thanks to an understanding and appreciation both countries have for the other. "That's what makes it work," Seiler says. "It's not just an exchange of sport; it's an exchange of culture, too. And with it comes some great baseball."