By Sean Rooney on August 17, 2018.
Jumpei Akunama couldn’t help but laugh at the situation two of his Medicine Hat Mavericks teammates found themselves in Thursday.
The Japanese pitcher had figured out that Barry Caine and Jordan Dray — both University of British Columbia Thunderbirds players — were supposed to be in Tokyo this week.
Small world, he wrote as a hashtag accompanying a post on Twitter following the Mavs’ playoff game in Regina.
In some years, players would jump at a chance for a trip of a lifetime. Not Caine or Dray though. They might have only known their summer baseball teammates for a couple months, but they weren’t leaving them behind in the chase for a title.
“Usually the college team comes before the summer league team,” said Dray, an outfielder, “But right now this is different. Our team’s super close, we’re going for a championship right now. I can’t leave this right now.”
Caine didn’t even pitch in the Western Major Baseball League finals this week — sidelined due to a case of strep throat.
“I’ve been here for over two months, I can’t leave this team,” he said. “If we got knocked out early enough I probably would have went, but I’m not going to leave here.”
UBC flew out to Japan Tuesday, just as the Mavs were playing Game 3 of the WMBL finals in Regina. They’ll play six games against university teams, and soak up as much culture as they can. On Thursday they reported visiting the Great Buddha of Kamakura and practising with Keio University’s team.
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Experience is experience and the Mavericks’ Thunderbirds agree they would have great memories no matter where they were this week.
“I haven’t played in a series like this since I was in Little League,” said Caine. “Being a part of this is going to help my game for when I go to UBC, when there’s high-pressure situations it’s going to be easier for me.”
“I would much rather be here right now,” added Dray. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”