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Japanese little league team joins program to donate money for 1 polio vaccine per hit

Yu Kutsuna, left, of the Kitanagoya Hawks, hits a double during a game at the Chokushi Grounds in Toyoake, Aichi Prefecture, on Nov. 14, 2021. (Mainichi/Motoyori Arakawa)

NAGOYA -- A little league baseball club in the central Japan prefecture of Aichi is participating in a program to donate 20 yen (17 cents), or the cost of one polio vaccine dose, to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) every time a player gets a hit.

    As of Nov. 14, the Kitanagoya Hawks in the prefectural city of Kitanagoya had rapped out a total of 299 hits in 57 games this season, good for donations worth 299 polio shots. Manager Kenji Hayakawa, 51, commented, "The kids are doing their best, because they can contribute to society by doing something they love: play baseball."

    In a Nov. 14 game in the prefectural city of Toyoake, the team's opponents scored first in the top of the first inning, but the Hawks flipped the script, scoring two runs in the bottom of the second. After the Hawks leadoff batter in the fifth smacked a single to left, opponents' miscues helped the team push multiple runs across the plate. The game was called after Hawks sixth-grade player Yu Kutsuna doubled over the left fielder's head. The team recorded six hits that day.

    Osaka-based Next Age Inc., which offers consulting services on the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), planned the donation effort to enable children to work toward one of the 17 goals: ensuring "good health and well-being" among all individuals.

    Three other little league teams -- one each from Osaka, Tokyo and Yokohama -- have also joined the program. Funding for the donations is being provided by J-Port, an industrial waste transport and disposal firm in Osaka, and Yokohama-based fashion and lifestyle business NMT Japan.

    Hawks manager Hayakawa learned of the program in spring this year when he was called by a Next Age representative. He decided to have the team participate, thinking it would enhance the children's motivation. He says that the about 30 players on the team cheered when he told them about the program, and captain Sota Eguchi, a sixth-grader, expressed surprise, saying, "I didn't know we could give vaccines to people by doing this."

    Kutsuna, who doubled in the Nov. 14 game, said, "I was really surprised when I heard about the program. I think it's a good project."

    (Japanese original by Motoyori Arakawa, Nagoya News Center)

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