Former professional Japanese baseball player, Kimura Shogo, is now in Sri Lanka to play cricket. Having retired from professional baseball, he started playing cricket in 2018with the sole intention of playing inthe Indian Premier League (IPL) as a professional cricketer. Since 2019, he has been having training stints at Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC). Striders Corporation (Japan) along with its local counterpart, Softlogic Holdings PLC (Sri Lanka) have been the chief organizers for Shogo’s training sessions in Sri Lanka.
In order to familiarize himself with playing conditions in the subcontinent, Shogo selected Sri Lanka as hisprimary destination for training, as part of his journey to featuring in the Indian Premier League. During the previous sessions at SSC, he was able to get trained by some of the leading coaches in Sri Lanka andeven got the opportunity to play alongside prominent Sri Lankan national team cricketers. However, his last visit to Sri Lanka, which took place in March 2020, was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shogo is the first baseball player in the world to have changedhisprofessional sports career to cricket. He hopes his personal missionwill set a trendthat could help drive the growth of cricket in Japan. Last year, Japan took part in the Under-19 Cricket World Cup for the first time. Commenting on his journey to Sri Lanka, Shogo said “This means more to me than playing at SSC or in the IPL; I would like my experience to be the inspiration for young Japanese cricketers to visit Sri Lanka and improve their cricketing skills to reach the pinnacle of the sport”.
SSC’s immediate past Chairman of Cricket, Samantha Dodanwela said that, “SSC is more than happy to support Shogo to develop his cricketing skills to ensure that he will one day represent his country, Japan.” He also stated that the enthusiasm and the commitment which Shogo has shown during his stay in Sri Lanka has been truly commendable and he has no doubts that Shogo will have a great cricketing future. According to SSC, this could be the start of a long-term partnership between Japan and Sri Lanka in terms of cricket and they are fully committed to provide any sort of assistance in developing cricket in Japan.
Since 2014, Striders Corporation has been committed to sustainable development in Sri Lanka by making investments to promote social capital. Ryotaro Hayakawa, President of Striders Corporation, himself has been a long-standing supporter of thenational baseball team of Sri Lanka. Striders Corporation decided to support Mr. Kimura because of their corporate philosophywhich is “Stride with Challengers”. He continued to say that “As a perpetual partner of Sri Lanka, Striders would like to promote Sri Lanka as one of the key destinations for travel after the pandemic, and sports tourism could be one of the lucrative markets Sri Lanka could venture into”.
As the local partner of Striders Corporation, Softlogic Holdings PLC has been playing a key role in organizing Shogo’s training sessions with SSC. Chairman of Softlogic Holdings PLC, Mr. Ashok Pathirage, commented that he is happy to facilitate Kimura’s visit to Sri Lanka during the pandemic which gives the green light for tourists and business visitors to resume their flights to Sri Lanka. He also spoke on the country’s resounding success in containing the pandemic and resuming life in the country.