Renewal of Chicago-Waseda baseball series set
Back when Chicago was a member of the Big Ten Conference, its baseball team regularly played Waseda University of Japan over a 26-year period ending in 1936.
The schools will renew their rivalry after a 72-year hiatus in late March when the Maroons travel to Japan for play three games against Waseda in three different cities.
At part of Waseda’s celebration of the 125th anniversary of its founding, Chicago will play the defending Japanese college baseball champions in Hiroshima City Stadium March 23, the Osaka Dome March 24 and the Seibu Dome in Tokyo March 25.
“Our universities share a significant part of history that is treasured by us all,” said Chicago baseball coach Brian Baldea. “The opportunity for my players, assistant coaches and me to be part of renewing this historic relationship is an honor that we will never forget.”
The teams played a total of 10 series from 1910, when Chicago made the first of its five trips to Japan to play Waseda, to 1936, when Waseda paid the last of its five visits to Chicago -- just a little over five years before war erupted between the United States and Japan.
Chicago’s last games at Waseda attracted crowds of more than 20,000 and are thought to have played a significant role in boosting Japanese interest in the sport. Much like Chicago, Waseda is a research university, though considerably larger in enrollment with more than 50,000 students on its eight campuses.
Last spring, Waseda won its 39th Tokyo Big6 Baseball League title, and last summer, five Waseda players were members of the Japanese team that won the USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Stars Series.
Chicago, a member of Division III since its formation in 1973, has finished .500 or better in 12 of the past 13 years under Baldea, the most victorious coach in the Maroon baseball program’s 116-year history.
Though this is the Maroons’ first baseball trip to Japan in 78 years, Chicago athletics teams are not unaccustomed to international travel.
“The University of Chicago has valued study abroad, and the Department of Athletics has been committed to a genuinely unique support of international team travel, with teams competing in China, Australia, Italy and Scotland during the past few years,” said Tom Weingartner, director of athletics at the university.
“With this trip, we are honored to be guests of Waseda University to renew a long-standing relationship and appreciate that our student-athletes will gain a special cultural understanding of the world through this kind of competition,” he said. “It will be a remarkable experience -- one they will carry with them always.”
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association