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Chunichi Dragons Back in Okinawa with Fire Power

By: Marie W. Conway

Date Posted: 2000-02-12

Over 700 people gathered at Chatan Hall last Monday, January 31st, to welcome the professional baseball team Chunichi Dragons. The players, coaches and management staff are here for their usual spring training.

Chatan Town organized the welcome celebration for the Dragons, who were winners of last year’s Central League Title. Although they went on to compete in the playoffs, Pacific League’s Daiei Hawks emerged victorious with the All-Japan Champion title, after beating every other team on their way. Speaking at the ceremony, the Dragons’ General Manager, Senichi Hoshino, said he hopes to win the national championship this year with their strong hitting and great pitching. “This year,” he said, “we hope to be lucky because it is the year of the Dragon according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar.”

Chatan Town authorities have named the new Ferris wheel (located across from the 7-Plex Theater and Jusco), “Dragon Palace” - after the current Chinese Zodiac year and the Chunichi Dragons.

For the past few years, the Dragons have used Chatan’s practice fields for their training grounds. The Dragons started their month long camp on February 1st, and will play daily from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. except for the 4th, 9th, 14th, 18th, and 23rd. Okinawa’s Governor Keiichi Inamine and Chatan’s Mayor Choichi Hentona, both speakers at the event, agreed that the local economy would receive a boost from hosting spring training.

Many die-hard fans follow their teams from mainland to Okinawa in order to watch first hand any new developments during the spring training. Local youngsters also come out to root for their heroes. Maeko Kishimoto, a Kyuyou High School student, told Japan Update that he came to the celebration “to see Kenshin Kawakami, who is the coolest guy in the Dragon’s team.”

Due to Okinawa’s subtropical weather, Central League’s Yakult Swallows, Yokohama Bay Stars, and Hiroshima Carp, as well as Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters all hold their

spring training here. The teams will be practicing in different areas around the island, throughout the month of February. A practice game will pit the Dragon’s against the Yokohama Bay Stars, the 1998 National Champions, on Saturday, February 26th at 11:00 a.m. The match will take place at Chatan’s stadium.

For more information, in Japanese, about the Dragons, call 098-936-9688.

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