carried on by practicing and scrimmaging Thursday at venerable
In the minds of the Japanese players, baseball is the universal
sport to follow -- whether it's on the Internet or on a Jumbo Tron in
the throng of Tokyo.
"I know [my] players are dreaming about some day coming [to the
United States] to play baseball," first-year Rikkyo Coach Masahisa
Sakaguchi said through interpreter Kaz Sakamoto.
"The idea was to come here and experience real baseball and
experience the culture.
"No matter how big the support is for baseball [in Japan], the
United States is the originating country."
The 65-member team arrived in Los Angeles on Tuesday following an
11-hour flight from Tokyo.
It marked the first time that the 95-year-old program had visited
the United States since 1999.
All isn't lost for Rikkyo, who will compete against Stanford
University in an exhibition game at 2 p.m. Thursday in Palo Alto.
With Japanese imports like Ichiro Suzuki, Hideo Nomo and Hideki
Matsui rapidly excelling in North America, the Rikkyo players pay
close attention to those players' success rate and popularity on the
They've also seen a vast improvement.
"I see a difference in fundamentals," second baseman Yuichi Tabata
said during a break. "Do the fundamentals learned in Japan work here?
"It's mainly about fundamentals such as fielding and baserunning
that I want to work on so I can improve."
Rikkyo third baseman Taichi Higa said it's been a goal for him to
compete on North American soil.
"I've already heard about the power and speed over here," Higa
said. "I wanted to come over here and see that.
"I want to study the [American] players, and I want to win against