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San Mateo Sister City Association Fields Youth Baseball
Exchange Team for Toyonaka, Japan
2023 marks the 60th Anniversary of the San Mateo-Toyonaka Sister City relationship;
Cultural Exchange Team travels to Japan this fall as Competitors and Ambassadors
SAN MATEO, Calif. – March 22, 2023 – As the City of San Mateo celebrates the 60th anniversary of its Sister City relationship with Toyonaka, Japan this year, a select squad of 20 youth baseball players is preparing to travel to Japan this fall for the biennial Baseball Cultural Exchange.
The baseball exchange is part of a series of Sister City events that strengthen the bond between the two cities and educate each community about international cooperation and cultural respect. The 2023 San Mateo-Toyonaka team, like all previous teams, represents the diversity of the City of San Mateo, with 10 to 12-year-old player-ambassadors from multiple schools, neighborhoods, leagues, and ethnicities.
With a roster in place and fundraising in full swing, the San Mateo Sister City Association is moving quickly to the late September send-off of the tenth team to travel to Toyonaka, Japan, continuing a legacy that began in 1979. The 20 boys on the 2023 team were chosen based both on their athletic skills and their ability to be compelling ambassadors.
The exchange is chaperoned entirely by Sister City Association members and volunteers. Players travel without their parents, staying in the homes of the Japanese players they will meet on the baseball field. Unlike programs that require personal financial responsibility from players’ families, the team is supported 100 percent through the community. The San Mateo Sister City Association – which includes community leaders, program alumni and player parents – has a goal of raising $90,000 to cover the cost of travel expenses and uniforms/gear.
The 2023 San Mateo-Toyonaka team will spend the first two days of their trip acclimating to Japan in Tokyo before departing for Toyonaka, a city of 400,000 near Osaka, where they will play five games facing All-Stars from the city’s multiple leagues. On occasion, and in the true spirit of the exchange, the final game may have mixed teams of San Mateo and Toyonaka players on either side.
Players were selected based on their performance at multiple tryouts, a written application and personal interviews. The San Mateo-Toyonaka 2023 Baseball Cultural Exchange roster includes: Jackson Bottani, Miguel Ceja Jr., Peter Cruz, Alonzo DeLeon, Caleb Fuata, Colton Godfrey, Cody Gordon, Camilo Guillen, Charles Joseph Johnson, Cole Kuboyama, Ayden Lolin, Zachary Marinec, Evan McCoy, Maddox Stone, Tyler Uyekubo, Carter Weyer, Jacob Wright, Aidan Yoshino, Waylon Zargar, and Justin Zucca.
"As a player on the 1990 team, I can say this is an absolutely unforgettable experience,” says Gavin Owen, Coach and current President of the San Mateo Sister City Association. “This exchange program is all about giving the kids an opportunity to interact with other kids who love to play baseball, as well as their families, while sharing our respective cultures. Each player leaves with new and, ultimately, lifelong friends in Japan, along with a better perspective of the world around us.”
Preparations for the trip include on-field practice, as well as studying Japanese culture and San Mateo history in monthly classes. The players will learn basic Japanese, Japanese customs and the importance of being ambassadors of San Mateo and the United States.
Players and player families are also instrumental in raising the funds needed for the trip. In addition to personal outreach by players and soliciting sponsorship from area businesses, the San Mateo-Toyonaka Sister City Association will be hosting a number of fundraisers throughout the spring and summer. More information about the program can be found at https://www.smsistercity.com/fundraising.html. Community donations can be made on the same page.
About San Mateo-Toyonaka Sister City Association
The San Mateo-Toyonaka Sister City Association, established in 1963, has successfully forged a strong and lasting relationship between the two cities of San Mateo, California and Toyonaka, Japan. San Mateo Sister City Association is a 501(c)(3) Organization, Tax ID: 94-1588552
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