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Japan turns to Hara as last resort

by Jim Allen (Oct 28, 2008)

Tatsunori Hara turned out to be the obvious and last real choice for Japan.

A successful manager of a high-profile team, Hara got the nod from commissioner Ryozo Kato on Monday after Nippon Professional Baseball's chief administrator met his advisory committee for the second time.

Hara's nomination--he has yet to accept--ended a roundabout process in which there were many opinions but little progress on who should manage Japan's team for the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

"Hara has had a good career and good results," said Japan's 2006 WBC manager Sadaharu Oh. "On top of that, he's energetic and enthusiastic."

The new commissioner, who stated early on he would take command of the process and make a decision this month, dropped Hara's name at Monday's meeting with his advisory committee, which included Oh.

"The commissioner brought up Hara, for the first time today and we all said, 'He'll do, won't he?'" Oh said.

Senichi Hoshino, who sat on the committee, had been in line for the job until his failure to lead Japan to a medal at the Beijing Olympics. After the group met on Oct. 15, Hoshino was still among the candidates despite his public refusals to be dragooned into the job.

Hoshino, who had not managed since getting the Hanshin Tigers to the Japan Series in 2003, was criticized as being out of touch. The 61-year-old did not speak to reporters after the meeting.

"When manager Hoshino dropped out, we were back to Square 1," Oh said. "We discussed the relative merits of having an active manager or one who is not currently on the field. In the end, we decided that the advantages of having someone who is engaged on the field outweigh the other concerns."

Katsuya Nomura, 75, the manager of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles was also considered a candidate for the job.

Oh, however, said that youth and health was an issue.

"You want someone with knowledge and experience but you also want someone healthy and energetic," said Oh, who retired as Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks skipper at the end of this season citing poor results and his own failing health.

"I'll repeat what the commissioner said: that it's time for us to look to the next generation. Like me, Hara came up with Yomiuri. He understands that part of his job is seeing to the best interest of baseball as a whole. I think he'll accept and do a fine job.

"If he accepts and wants my council, I will give him everything I can."

After Hoshino removed himself from contention, there was a strong sentiment toward giving the job to the Japan Series winner. Kato to his credit declined that easy way out.

"The Japan Series does not start until Nov. 1, and we want to move forward with our preparations as quickly as possible," Kato said. "We don't want to wait and just see how things turn out.

"We have to put a team together soon. The 2009 WBC is going to be a much tougher fight."

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Mayumi takes over Tigers

Former Tigers slugger Akinobu Mayumi was formally presented as Hanshin's new manager on Monday. He is returning to the team for the first time since retiring in 1995.

"My image of the team was always of our 1985 championship club," said Mayumi, who was the leadoff hitter for the power-laden Japan Series champs.

"But watching from behind the backnet [as an analyst], I have gained an appreciation for the value of defense. There are times when you won't score if you are only waiting for hits. I want a varied offense employing well-executed base running, bunts and the hit and run."


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