The World Tribune spoke with SGI-USA member Gerald Oda, head coach of the Honolulu Little League baseball team. The Hawaii team won the 2018 Little League World Series, a worldwide baseball tournament for children ages 10–12. The interview was conducted on Aug. 22.
World Tribune: Congratulations on your 10–0 victory on Aug. 22, which advances your team to the U.S. championship game and semi-finals for the Little League World Series! Tell us about your journey leading up to this.
Gerald Oda: Thank you! We are an all-star team from the Honolulu Little League, and we’ve been playing together since June, although I’ve coached some of the players for the past three years.
My brothers Donovan, Keith (fellow coach of the team) and I have been coaching for 25 years. Baseball was
a large part of our childhood and through coaching, we can show our appreciation to the community and demonstrate actual proof of our Buddhist practice in society.
WT: Have you been to the Little League World Series before?
Oda: In 2014, my team made it to the regional stage, where we were eliminated. I was crushed because two years earlier, I had made a strong determination that 2014 would be the year we would go all the way. I had chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo abundantly and made all-out efforts, but I didn’t see my prayers answered. At that time, I remembered SGI President Ikeda’s guidance:
In Nichiren Buddhism, it is said that no prayer goes unanswered. But this is very different from having every wish instantly gratified, as if by magic . . . Nonetheless, viewed from a deeper, longer-term perspective, all your prayers serve to propel you in the direction of happiness.
Sometimes our immediate prayers are realized, and sometimes they aren’t. When we look back later, however, we can say with absolute conviction that everything turned out for the best.” (Discussions on Youth, p. 225)
And things did turn out for the best!
WT: How so?
Oda: In 2016, Keith and I determined once again to make it to the Little League World Series by 2018. Around that time, Sensei wrote a message to SGI members around the world, saying, “Please promise with me to work hard over the next two years with our fellow members around the world to expand our network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and forge ahead with energy, wisdom and good cheer to make the triumph of mentor and disciple resound into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law” (Oct. 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 3).
Shortly after, the SGI-USA youth announced the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival to be held on Sept. 23, 2018. All the cards lined up. If we made it to Williamsport [site of the tournament in Pennsylvania], it would be one month before the 50K Festival, and we could stand as proud disciples showing the greatness of the SGI and Sensei on a national stage.
Because of Sensei’s encouragement and the youth of America waging the Lions of Justice campaign, I was able to renew my faith and find deeper purpose in my determination. That’s why when each of us on the team was able to introduce ourselves on ESPN, I gave a shout out to the SGI-USA youth and 50K. Because of them, I’m here! And I wear an SGI pin, because I hope to encourage people who are watching our games.
I want the SGI-USA youth to know that I’m fighting alongside them. So far, I’ve personally registered three youth to attend the 50K Festival.
WT: How does Buddhism inform your coaching?
Oda: Everything my brother and I do as coaches is based on President Ikeda’s guidance. His encouragement to treasure and raise the youth, to give 100 percent to the individual in front of us and to be a good example is constantly on our minds. I always chant for the kids to have the most enjoyable experiences and to recognize their own vow for peace.
Nichiren Daishonin writes, “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy” (“Happiness in This World,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 681). This is a key lesson we try to instill in the kids. We remind them that although they will have bad days, the most important thing is how they approach those moments, as well as how they treat their success.
We also stress the importance of showing appreciation to all the staff working behind the scenes, who allow us to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. At the end of the tournament, we’ll encourage them to repay their debt of gratitude for all those who’ve supported them.
WT: What does the 50K movement mean to you?
Oda: It’s about the journey. How much more of a genuine disciple have I become?
In our first game of the world series, we went into extra innings. It was an extremely long game. The kids were tired, and the coaching staff was also tired. I told my brother, “We can’t show the players any sign that we’ve given up.” We ended up winning on a walk-off home run. That, to me, is 50K. The spirit to never succumb, to always do our best.
WT: Any parting thoughts?
Oda: I really want to say thank you for the tremendous support we’ve received from members all across the country chanting for our victory.
We are encouraging the boys that this is our opportunity to give back and provide hope to the people of Hawaii watching our game as Hurricane Lane approaches.
We will proudly represent Sensei and all the SGI members! Mahalo!