CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan --
Athletes of the world gather every four years to participate in the Olympics, where sporting competitions break language barriers and bridge culture gaps, uniting nations.
In this fashion, sports serve as a universal language, allowing all competitors to enjoy the day, and it was in this spirit that Okinawa and U.S. athletes came together to compete at Camp Kinser Oct. 26 during a fast-pitch softball game.
Local community leaders and U.S. service members organized the event as a way to demonstrate the neighborly attitude both groups share, according to Koji Nikawadori, head coach for Team Urasoe.
“Events like this are a great way to show our true (relationship) to the world,” said Nikawadori. “More importantly than showing the world, it shows our children that we are good neighbors to each other.”
The friendly competition involved female athletes from high schools throughout the Urasoe area competing against the Ryukyu Ruckus, an all-female softball team comprised of service members with 3rd Marine Logistics Group, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“It’s really cool (the leadership from both sides) could come together and put on an event like this,” said Jamie Emery, the head coach, designated hitter and reserve pitcher for the Ruckus. “Everyone on the teams are passionate about softball and this is a great way to share that passion with our host nation.”
As a result of this mutual passion, both teams hold a high level of respect for each other, according to Emery.
“We see the dedication and love (the Urasoe players) have for the game, and admire that very much,” said Emery. “We had only had eight practices to prepare for this, and I’m so proud of the way we played today.”
The game ended with a tie score of 10-10 after one extra inning, but it did not lessen the enjoyment for either team.
“Playing the game is what counts, no matter who wins or loses,” said Nikawadori. “Ending in a tie almost made it better.”
The effort of both teams demonstrated values service members and civilians can admire, according to Nikawadori.
“Ending in a tie shows how skilled both teams are,” said Nikawadori. “I tell my players, ‘discipline and determination are one’s destiny.’ I think everyone on the field showed that today.”
Immediately following the game, Brig. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, and Lt. Gen. John Wissler shared a few inspirational words with the players and coaches of both teams.
“Today was a great day,” said Nelson, the commanding general of 3rd MLG and event co-organizer. “We (all) came out here expecting to see a great deal of camaraderie, and that’s exactly what we have on many, many levels. Any time we get a chance to do that, we need to take full advantage.”
Wissler echoed the sentiments of sportsmanship and community good will.
“It’s a good thing (the game) ended in a tie,” said Wissler, the III MEF commanding general and event co-organizer. “This way everybody wins. We came out to play and have a good time, and I can see we did that. Days like this gives us a chance to continue our fulfilling relationship (with the local community), and I hope there are many more days like this.”