Consul General of Japan in Miami Ken Okaniwa warmed up his pitching arm near home plate at Marlins Park.
Okaniwa prepared to start off the Miami Marlins versus the Washington Nationals game by throwing out the first pitch Sunday in celebration of Japanese Heritage Day.
“I feel a little nervous,” he said.
More than 400 Japanese fans turned out to Little Havana’s Marlins Park to celebrate their country’s heritage and honor their country’s baseball hero, Ichiro Suzuki, who started in left field and has been on a tear at the plate.
For Hirokuni Hibi, who is a part of Miami Hoshuko Japanese School, a school devoted to teach classes in Japanese for children located in West Miami-Dade, it brings comfort.
“It’s a great feeling because it makes us feel like we are a part of the community,” he said. “Although we are a minority in Miami, but still having all of us Japanese watching the Marlins game is great. We feel a part of Miami.”
The Miami Marlins donated more than $2,000 to the school.
“We appreciate the donation,” he said.
About 50 students from the school were present. At the game, some of those from the Land of the Rising Sun wore traditional kimonos and nostalgia for the Oendan, which roughly translates to cheering section in Japanese. There are about 9,000 Japanese living in Florida, Okaniwa said.
The Fushu Daiko, Japanese Taiko Drumming, also provided entertainment between innings.
Prior to the game, on the west plaza of the ballpark, the Izume Karate school out of Doral performed training exercises from the martial art.
In honor of Suzuki, who is in search of 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball, the Marlins gave away Suzuki bobbleheads to fans, who held the giveaways up high when he batted.
“He is a great player,” Okaniwa said. “I hope Japanese and people who like Japan can continue getting together to support their local team.”