Toro Baseball’s head coach Murphy Su’a was selected to serve as head coach in the fifth annual USA-Japan Friendly Series, which took place in Tokyo and Osaka in late June. He led a group of 18 local high school players who regularly train at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy (UYA) in Compton to a four-game series against the citywide Tokyo All-Stars, Akashi Commercial High School, and Osaka Toin High School. Although the UYA team lost all four games, their coach says that it was a winning team on a more personal level.
Su’a says that the trip to Japan was for the UYA students was “simply amazing,” and that the UYA team looked forward to playing the Tokyo All-Stars.
“The atmosphere had the feel of the World Olympic Games,” recalls Su’a. “We briefed our players on the style of play in Japan [since] only one player had been exposed to their dynamic and regimented approach to the game.”
The UYA provided a venue for the 2010 NCAA West Region Baseball Tournament in 2010, hosted by CSU Dominguez Hills. Su’a continues the relationship by volunteering at UYA’s camps, clinics, and seminars. He says that the trip enabled the team from Compton to learn about the many similarities between themselves and the Japanese student athletes.
“Players on both sides of the field were highly committed to the sport of baseball and played the game with great passion. They both have the challenges of balancing academics and athletics among other responsibilities. Many are hoping to continue their baseball careers in college and/or playing at the professional level while others will struggle with the reality of having to hang up their cleats after their high school career,” says Su’a. “They most likely share similar social, economic, and emotional challenges like many youth their age. However, regardless of uniform, language. or culture it was obvious to see that when they were on the baseball field, life was good and nothing else mattered.”
Su’a says that their hosts in Osaka and Tokyo kept an “impressive” itinerary for their visitors and made certain that the group was able to experience the most treasured monuments and historical sites in both cities.
“I personally gained a great love and respect for the Japanese people and culture and I know everyone that made the trip including players, coaches, officials, and parents will retain something from this experience for the rest of their lives,” says Su’a.