There is no Southern California representative in the Little League World Series this year. However, SoCal will have a presence in Williamsport, Pa., in the form of Japan.
Tokyo Kitasuna, Japan’s representative at this year’s LLWS, is the sister team of the Beach City Baseball Academy (BCBA) in El Segundo.
Beach City provided financial assistance to cover expenses of equipment and travel for Tokyo Kitasuna.
“Sports are an incredible way to bring people and communities together and team activities have been continuously proven to help children build confidence, improve social skills and increase their overall sense of self,” said Beach City Baseball Academy general manager Richard Murad. “We are thrilled to be able to continue this support through this sponsorship and are excited to help give these children an experience that we hope will change their lives while uniting the global community as well.”
The players from the Tokyo Kitasuna Little League made a visit to El Segundo last year. Originally, BCBA was supposed to go to Japan for a tournament but a massive 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami. The natural disaster left Kitasuna’s field flooded.
BCBA was able to donate their tickets to the players from Kitasuna to come to Los Angeles to participate in a 10-day tournament hosted by BCBA.
While the Japanese players were in town, in lieu of hotels, each player stayed at the home of a Beach City player.
In addition to the tournament, which was held at El Segundo’s Recreation Park, members of both teams had the opportunity to go to a Dodgers game as guests of then Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.
Players took pictures with big leaguers, received autographs and gave the traditional “It’s Time For Dodger Baseball!” in front of the crowd at Chavez Ravine.
Former Major League outfielder and current FOX Sports West analyst Kenny Lofton threw out the first pitch during one of the tournament games and had the opportunity to see Kitasuna up close.
He said he’s not surprised that the team qualified for the LLWS.
“They had a couple of big kids that were hitting the ball a long ways,” Lofton said. “Seeing them play they were going to be a pretty good team. It’s how they went about the game and how they approached it. When you approach the game the way they did, it’s a good chance you’re going to win.”
As a 12-year-old, Lofton was one game shy of making it to Williamsport. for the Little League World Series and he credits Murad for aiding the players from Tokyo Kitasuna in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Richard was a guy who stepped up and you need people like Richard,” Lofton said. “Richard understands the importance of young kids playing sports and playing baseball and he just did his part as an individual to make that happen.”
Tokyo Kitasuna is no stranger to the Little League World Series. They are making their third appearance. They won the championship in 2001 and in 2007 lost in the title game.