HALL-DALE

November 1, 2010

Japanese Sox answer students

Pitchers write back to students learning language

BY MATTHEW STONE Staff Writer

FARMINGDALE -- Two years ago, the students in Sachiko Clough's eighth-grade Japanese classes at Hall-Dale Middle School scrawled messages in Japanese on a poster, and Clough sent the notes to the Boston Red Sox.

click image to enlarge

From left, students Natasha Brown, Gregory Plourde and Austin Gardiner pose with the letters they received recently from the Boston Red Sox in response to messages they had written in Japanese two years ago to Sox pitchers and Japan natives Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima. The students wrote the messages in their eighth-grade Japanese class.

Contributed photo

click image to enlarge

Hall-Dale Middle School teacher Sachiko Clough and her former students at the Farmingdale school received letters from Red Sox players Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

In their 28 messages to Red Sox pitchers and Japan natives Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, the Hall-Dale students -- now sophomores at Hall-Dale High School -- introduced themselves in the Japanese language they were beginning to learn, told them about Maine and invited them to visit.

"We actually didn't expect a response at all," said Natasha Brown, 15.

But last week, each of the students who wrote messages to the players opened up two letters sent in response -- written half in English, half in Japanese and signed by Matsuzaka and Okajima.

"It was very surprising that they responded," said Brown, of Dresden.

On Red Sox letterhead, the students received expressions of thanks for being supportive Red Sox fans and encouragement to continue studying and working hard in Japanese class.

"They're big stars in the MLB," said Sam Shepherd, 15, of Hallowell. "It's a keepsake."

Clough said she conceived of the assignment as a way to connect her Japanese lessons to the outside world in a place where that's difficult to do.

"We live in Maine, and Japan is so far away," she said.

It helped, Clough said, that the assignment had to do with the Red Sox -- a popular subject among students.

The response from the Red Sox organization came after some prodding from the Japanese consulate in Boston, she said. And, Clough said, she suspects it helped that the students' messages were written in Japanese.

"Every day, they get letters and cards from all over the U.S.," she said. "Writing in Japanese is very rare."

Some students said they'd forgotten about the assignment from two years ago involving Japanese and the two Red Sox pitchers.

"I totally forgot we did this," said Greg Plourde, 15, of Dresden.

Still, he joked, Iit's kind of nice getting a letter I can't read."

"It's pretty sweet," said Wyatt Rush, a 15-year-old from Farmingdale. "I wasn't expecting to ever be written back."

Matthew Stone -- 623-3811, ext. 435

mstone@centralmaine.com

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