Na Koa Ikaika Hosts Japan Team in Exhibition Series

July 7, 2012, 5:28 AM HST · Updated July 7, 5:30 AM
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By Rodney S. Yap

Na Koa Ikaika Maui, the Valley Isle’s professional baseball team, will host the Ishikawa Million Stars of Japan for an exhibition series, beginning on Tuesday, July 10, at Maehara Stadium.

The two teams will also play on Wednesday, July 11, at Maehara Stadium. First pitch is 5:35 p.m. for both home games. In September, the Maui team will visit the Million Stars in Ishikawa. The game marks the first meeting between independent pro teams from Japan and the US playing in the 50th state.

The Ishikawa Million Stars is a Japanese semi-professional baseball team, established in 2007. They compete in the Baseball Challenge League (BCL), an independent professional league in Japan. The BCL is composed of six (6) teams between two (2) divisions; the Hokuriku Division, which consists of teams from Ishikawa, Fukui and Toyama and the Shinetsu Division, consisting of teams from Niigata, Gunma and Nagano. Quite a few BCL Alumni have gone on to very successful careers in the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), the highest level of baseball in Japan (similar to Major League Baseball).

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The Japan-Maui baseball connection dates back to the early ’50s with Maui legend Wally Yonamine, who was born in Olowalu and moved to Japan, where he starred with the Yomiuri Giants from 1951 to 1962. He was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 and played professionally with the S.F. 49ers. The Hawaii Winter Baseball League in the ’90s also drew talent from Japan.

“We are honored and humbled to have our friends from the Ishikawa Million Stars visit us for this historic two-game exhibition series and are excited about the potential of a new League with our new friends,” said Bob Young, owner of Na Koa Ikaika Maui. “The explosion of talent and continued growth of independent pro baseball around the world warrants further dialogue about expanding our horizons in the near future.”

Na Koa Ikaika Maui is in its third season. The team is one of Hawaii’s only two professional sports organizations (the other being sister team – Hawaii Stars on the Big Island of Hawaii) competing in the North American Baseball league (NAL) against teams from California, and Texas.

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