Although the disaster struck on the other side of the world, the SoftBank Hawks and some of their players have been touched by the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.
For years, the powerhouse in Japan's Pacific League has sent players to Puerto Rico's winter league to learn how the game is played in a different environment. But this year, because of uncertainty over the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente's season, the Hawks will only send players to Taiwan's winter league.
Reliever Sho Iwasaki and star center fielder Yuki Yanagita, the PL's 2015 MVP, both told Kyodo News on Sunday about their Puerto Rican experiences.
"It's a place I've been, so of course, I felt concern and worry," said Iwasaki, who played there after Japan's 2010 season, prior to his first career breakthrough as a starter.
"I grew up playing baseball in Japan, a wealthy country, and was able to play in a place which is less fortunate. While Puerto Rico is not such a poor country, I could sense how hungry the players are to succeed. And that taught me that I needed to be more like them, that I'd depended too heavily on the circumstances in our rich country."
Yanagita played in Puerto Rico for nearly two months in the winter of 2011-2012. By lucky coincidence, he was a teammate of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, whom Yanagita credits with helping him iron out his batting mechanics.
"It was a huge part of my development," he said. "My time in Puerto Rico meant so much to me, and I am saddened by this current situation.
"On one level, I have many memories of that country, and on another level, it's sad that some young (Hawks) players will not get to experience it this year. Baseball is so big there and you feel that."
"I can only pray that the conditions will soon allow baseball to return to normal so that we can go back there, and that the people there can recover from this disaster."