Baseball holds a special meaning for legions of fans worldwide. For junior Ryuta Amaike, baseball gave him the opportunity to form life-changing friendships, assimilate to a foreign culture and gain success on the field and in the classroom.
Amaike’s trip to Bloomsburg started in his native Japan, where he developed a love for the game he began playing as a 3-year-old. When he was in sixth grade, his mother met and married an American man, and the family moved to the United States. Although Amaike knew no English, he bridged the cultural gap between himself and his new peers through baseball.
“I had to start everything over,” he remembers. “As soon as I came over I joined the Little League team. You didn’t need to speak English to play baseball. The guys on the team taught me how to speak English and would call me to hang out. Baseball helped me assimilate.”
When Amaike was a sophomore at Whitehall High School, his mother and stepdad separated, and his mother moved back to Japan. Rather than return to his native country, Amaike decided to stay with his stepfather, who often was away. Alone many nights, Amaike fell behind in his studies.
A Bloomsburg alumnus and his family were among friends who noticed something was wrong. Amaike spent much of his time at the home of Mark Bonshak ’86 after forming a friendship through baseball with his son, Matt. The family grew concerned about his living situation.
“We would drop him off at home and there was no one there. We started to question it,” Bonshak says. “His mother told him he could stay in the U.S., but he would likely have to quit school and get a job or come back to Japan.”
Instead, Bonshak and his wife, the former Catherine Gober ’87, took custodial control of Amaike. They encouraged him to become a U.S. citizen and focus on turning things around in the classroom.
“Academics were not a big part of his family,” Bonshak says. “That was a big change coming into our house where it was all about academics and athletics.”
“They encouraged me to stay on top of school,” Amaike adds. “They showed me the importance of getting my degree and how I could use baseball as a way of getting there.”
When college became an option for Amaike, Bonshak mentioned his alma mater. He was a catcher, left fielder and team captain for the Huskies from 1982 to 1986 and his teams helped raise money to install the outfield fences and scoreboard at Danny Litwhiler Field.
Amaike, whose family remains in Japan, officially became a U.S. citizen during his freshman year at Bloomsburg. Though forced to sit out his freshman year due to a knee injury, he made his on-field debut this spring and finished the year with a 2-1 record and 2.92 ERA as part of the conference rotation late in the season. The Huskies finished with a school-record of 20 conference wins.
“He just loves baseball; he lives and dies for the sport,” Bonshak says. “The players are close at Bloomsburg, it is a family atmosphere – much the same as it was when I played there.” •
Scott Eddy is assistant sports information director.