World Baseball Project was honored to be on hand for a pair of goodwill games this past Saturday, in Dong Nai province, Vietnam. The “Baseball Friend” matches, hosted by the Japanese Vietnam Baseball Association (JVBA), invited clubs from Cambodia and Vietnam to join the local Japanese club for a day of development-oriented competition, inclusive of Japanese baseball formalities and played in observation of international baseball rules and regulations. The matches were not official, in the sense of impact on international rankings, but were true competitive affairs in the name of friendship through baseball. Gifts were exchanged in an opening ceremony, making well apparent the collective love for baseball and a profound respect for the sport.
The Cambodian team travelled from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City to participate in the day’s spirited competition. Cambodia rallied late to topple a Saigon-based Japanese team. Their contest was tight throughout, as the crafty, talented Japanese squad took a 6-5 lead into the top of the ninth. Cambodia, however, caught a wave that stunned a fatigued pitcher, plating 9 in the inning, en route to a 14-6 victory.
Based in Ho Chi Minh City, the rapidly-developing Vietnamese team was invited by Mr. Manibu Kitabori, of JVBA, to participate in the day’s activities, in the interest of further developing their baseball observation and game-speed skills. Members were encouraged to watch closely during the first match, and some were even invited to take the field with Japanese players in the later innings of the match against Cambodia – a great opportunity, indeed.
The Ho Chi Minh club then prepared for their 5-inning matinee match against members of the Cambodian club, following a lunch provided courtesy of JVBA. The two teams traded early jitters and mental mistakes, resulting in a 5-3 Cambodian advantage as the second inning came to a close. Clutch hitting and shut-down pitching proved to be the difference for Vietnam in the end. Three runners crossed the plate for Vietnam in the 4th, proving enough to make the difference. The boys tacked on 2 more in the top of the fifth for added insurance, ultimately closing out the day’s festivities with an 8-5 win.
For all participants, the day exhibited what a great honor and privilege it is to have the opportunity to participate in baseball, underscored by a chance to play on one of the area’s few well-groomed baseball surfaces. Players on all sides were extremely grateful to the hosting members of JVBA and look forward to their next competition opportunity. For the Ho Chi Minh club, their eyes are fixed on a Thanksgiving weekend tournament in the nation’s capital, Ha Noi.