Nine players in red and black uniforms are in the Kochi city stadium. Among them, one player stands out who is playing catcher and making a lot of hits and clean-up home runs. His eyes in the batter box are precisely like a Samurai, but actually, he is a Japanese-American. However, nationality doesn’t matter in his blood there is a Samurai spirit.
“I always wanted to play in Japan,” 29years old Zack Colby said. “After I finished college, I had a choice to make. It was to continue my career in States or to go play where my family was from Japan. ”
The Kochi Fighting Dogs, one of the Shikoku island teams, take their name from Kochi’s famous tradition of dog fighting. The team belongs to the first independent baseball league, which aims “to expand the bottom of Japanese baseball, training of players, and revitalizing the communities.”
Professional baseball in Japanese occurs within four professional leagues. The highest level of professional league is Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), discharged famous major leaguers such as Ichiro, Shohei Otani, Yu Darvish and so on. Followed by Japan Amateur Baseball Association (company team baseball), and two independent league teams, the Route Inn Baseball Challenge League (BCL) and Shikoku Island League plus (SIL).
The Kochi Fighting Dogs have a deep connection with local people and of course between the players themselves.
“While playing in Japan, I had many chances and wanted to go play in the United States,” Zack said. “However, I chose to stay in SIL for so long because the fans made it so pleasurable to stay.”
Also, he added, “I have made so many friends that have become like family to me the past 5 years.”
The Kochi Fighting Dogs are, of course, a baseball team, but they also engage in many kinds of activities to revitalize communities. Dogs built a strong tie with local people in Kochi prefecture.
They participate in ginger and rice harvesting, baseball summer camp and class, sports training class, internship and volunteer programs, raising cows and so on… they are doing many kinds of things with local people.
The Dogs baseball side is also active. They produce many professional players and some famous players join the Dogs. The most renowned player to join Dogs is probably Manny Ramirez who’d played with the Boston Red Socks. Thanks to those activities they did, the numbers of audiences were 17,682 (34games) in 2015
“My biggest desire was to play in Japan, so it overruled that. There were times when coaches tried to get me to come back to the states, but I wanted to stay faithful to a team that had given me everything the fighting dogs.”
From this, nobody doubt he wants to leave and go back to play in his home country. Japanese baseball attracts people to watch and also play somehow. Now his aim is entirely playing in Japan and to ultimately enter the NPB.
“I finished well in Japan for the first half,” Zack said. “I am the catcher for the team and doing well. I really am happy with my career line for the past 5 years and could not have asked for more.”
“There is only one thing I can say about fighting dogs. They are excellent. I love The Dogs.”