A Japanese city is rolling out the red carpet for the Aussie Spirit as they prepare for the biggest event on the world softball calendar this year.
The Spirit are assured not only of a warm welcome, but also of a top-quality training environment ahead of the XVI Women’s Softball World Championship in August.
Ota City, 86km northwest of Tokyo, has just unveiled a new stadium and first-class training facilities.
Under an arrangement between Softball Australia and Ota City, the Aussie Spirit will have full use of the stadium and amenities as they prepare for their most important tournament in recent years.
The XVI Women’s Softball World Championship, which is the Aussie Spirit’s first opportunity to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, will be held in Chiba from August 2-12.
As part of their preparation, the Spirit will compete as a team in the National Pro Fastpitch league in the US. After the NPF season, they head to Japan, arriving in Ota City on July 21 for a pre-tournament training camp that will run until July 31. The camp will include high-quality games against Japanese Women’s Softball League teams.
Ota City promises a warm welcome for the Spirit players, coaches and support staff. As well as a stadium that opened only weeks ago, the city will take care of accommodation, food and transport for the Australian touring party.
Ota Sports Park is a new stadium that also includes a batting cage, bullpen, a gym and two auxiliary fields.
Nearby Ota Municipal High School includes an indoor practice area, batting cages, and bullpens. And only a few minutes away is the Sougo Health Centre, which has a weight room, an indoor running track and a heated pool.
Softball Australia CEO Chet Gray and Ota City Mayor Shimizu Masayoshi have signed an agreement that also includes the Spirit players being involved in various cultural exchange programs during their stay.
“Ota City have done everything possible to give us the best preparation for the World Championship,” Gray says.
“Their facilities are world class and they are doing everything they can to help our athletes reach their full potential.
“We are very grateful to Mr Masayoshi and his staff, and we hope this is the start of an ongoing relationship between Ota City and Softball Australia.”
Ota City also seems keen to develop a longer-term relationship with Australian teams. Part of their agreement says: “Both parties shall accept and approve of each other’s mutual differences in language and culture, and endeavour to develop a mutually friendly relationship not only during your World 2018 stay, but in the future as well.”