International innings: UBC baseball in talks with UTokyo for potential friendly

UBC’s baseball team may be looking to expand their breadth overseas, as discussions of interest in a match against the University of Tokyo arose in President Santa Ono’s recent visit to Japan.

As it stands, the planning process for the game is only in the beginning stages.

 “Right now, nothing is definitive. We’re in the middle of a conversation, but there’s mutual interest,” said Ono.

Ono believes that holding a tournament between UBC and the University of Tokyo, also known as UTokyo or Todai, will continue to build the existing partnership between the two universities. During Ono’s last visit to Tokyo, he signed UBC to a trilateral academic agreement with UTokyo and the Max Planck Society.

“This kind of series between university baseball teams in different nations is really a cultural experience,” said Ono. “[UTokyo] is a major collaborator of the University of British Columbia. We’ve had a relationship with them since the late 70s.”

Established in 1877, the University of Tokyo is one of the top-ranked universities in both Japan and Asia. UTokyo’s baseball team is part of the Tokyo Big6 Baseball League and has been active since 1917.

Terry McKaig — director of baseball operations at UBC — is also looking forward to the potential game against UTokyo given his own baseball history. During his playing days with the National Baseball Institute in 1995/96, McKaig played a match against Keio University, another Big6 League team.

McKaig believes that organizing a game between the two universities will be beneficial when it comes to recruiting. Scheduling international games, according to McKaig, will make the T-Birds a more appealing choice for recruits. 

“Usually a recruit will look at your schedule. They want to see who you play,” said McKaig. “A lot of schools don’t play teams from Asia, so that would be something that I think would make us a little bit unique.”

Whether the match against UTokyo can take place will depend largely on its financial feasibility. Still, McKaig sees the project as an initiative to enhance student experience at the university and is grateful for Ono’s support.

“Professor Ono’s been really supportive of it and it’s great to have a president that’s willing to help start these talks,” said McKaig. “Then it’s up to us with the schools to see if we can make it work.”