Under-18 baseball tourney to be held in Indonesia

A Japanese former pro baseball player is organizing a tournament for young ball players in Indonesia. Shibata Shogo hopes the event will help popularize the sport in the soccer-mad Southeast Asian country.

Shibata said on Monday that the "Asia Koshien" tourney will be staged in Jakarta for five days from December 17. It's named after Japan's legendary annual high school baseball championship, which has been held in Koshien Stadium, near the western city of Osaka, for a century. At least eight teams of Indonesian players aged up to 18 will compete in the event.

Shibata once played at Koshien, while fighting Behcet's disease, which causes inflammation throughout the body. He later played in Japan's pro league for three years.

Asia Koshien is the latest initiative to boost baseball in Indonesia. The country's first pro team was launched last year with private Japanese funding.

Shibata said, "Koshien and baseball are definitely brands that Japan can be proud of, so I will do my utmost to grow the concept."

He said he hopes people across Southeast Asia will get to know about Koshien so he can arrange similar meets elsewhere in the region.