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Male-female baseball games coming soon
Eiichi Nishiyama / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
Chukyo Women's University's baseball club has made history by becoming the first women's team to be admitted to a college baseball association, in Aichi Prefecture.
The association approved the club's admission because the club has existed for a long time and its membership would not interfere with league games.
The club will play against men's teams in the association's lowest group, the fifth division, next spring.
After receiving the club's application, the association observed the team's practice sessions and discussed whether to approve admission for nearly two months.
Conservative opinion claimed it would be dangerous for women to play against men because of the difference in ability.
Others held that it would be implausible to exclude the club merely on gender grounds.
The club's membership was approved by a vote of 17-10.
Nonfiction writer Kazuo Sayama, who has written many books on baseball, welcomed the decision and said, "Townball, from which baseball developed in the United States, was enjoyed by men and women, young and old. I feel there's a real possibility that the club's admission will make baseball more enjoyable."
In the 1950s, there was a women's pro-baseball federation. Kayoko Tanaka, 76, who was a team captain at the time, congratulated the Chukyo Women's University club. "We were as good as good high school baseball teams. They'll become a strong team soon," she said.
Equestrian events, which are an Olympic sport, do not distinguish between athletes' gender, and female athletes have won the world championship. However, this may be a special case.
Some female players participate in high school baseball practice games, but the Japan High School Baseball Federation does not allow the players to register.
A federation spokesman said, "We admit that there are top-level women players, but there is an overall difference in physical power, and so the players' safety can't be assured."
According to the Women's Baseball Association Japan, there are about 300 female baseball players. Five high schools have women baseball clubs.
A new baseball club will be created next spring at Shobi University in Saitama Prefecture. The university said it would aim to win the women's world championship.
Part of the background to the college baseball association's decision is the desire to stimulate university baseball and increase attendance at games.
Chukyo Women's University baseball club manager Shoichi Nakahara said, "We're under pressure because of all the attention, but first we'd like to just win a game and boost our spirits."
When league games begin, the pros and cons of the decision will become clearer. It is feared that the team will be regularly thrashed, losing by high margins. But the pioneering club will no doubt act as a stimulus to Japanese baseball.
(Dec. 22, 2005)