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Japanese baseball coach returns to Tokyo for Olympics – with Team Israel

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On an April day in 2012, Reuvena Dayan drove her husband to the Baptist Village complex in Petah Tikva. She didn’t tell him why, but he correctly guessed her intent: to show him that the facility includes a baseball field — a rarity in Israel.

“It was the biggest surprise I could give a Japanese guy who works in baseball,” Dayan recalled recently.

Dayan’s husband, Kazumasa Kibe, had worked for more than 30 years in his hometown of Fukuoka, Japan, as a baseball coach and physical education teacher. Yet as recently as a decade ago, Israel, where he now lives, was still considered a baseball backwater.

Fast forward to today and the 64-year-old retiree known as “Kaz” is back visiting Japan — as a coach for Team Israel. The Jewish state is one of only six national baseball teams competing at the Tokyo Olympics, which will formally open on July 23. Israel’s first game is on July 29 in Yokohama versus South Korea, at 1:00 p.m. Jerusalem time.

Fellow coaches, players and administrators credit Kaz with helping Israel at the Olympics-qualifying tournaments in Europe in 2019, as well as the country’s earlier international breakthrough at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, where Team Israel finished sixth. He’s also credited with helping Israel achieve successes in overseas youth tournaments over the years.

Although he is not an Israeli citizen, Kaz has been a ubiquitous presence in the Israel Association of Baseball for far longer, conveying the game’s finer points to many IAB youth and adult players almost from the moment of that 2012 spousal surprise. And he does it all as a volunteer, with abundant patience........

© The Times of Israel

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