Hara to manage Japan Team

Finally, Team Japan has named manager.

After long time research, Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara formally agree to be the manager of the Japan national team for World Baseball Classic next March.

“I’ll do my best to help Japan form a strong squad to defend the title,” “I will do my level best and become a power in forming a strong team” said Hara, who led the Giants to overcome a 13-game deficit to the Central League pennant for the second straight year and their first Japan Series in six years. “I didn’t expect at all [to be asked for the managerial job]. But leading the Japan squad is an honor for me,” Hara said.

According to Yomiuri Shimbun, Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Ryozo Kato visited The Yomiuri Shimbun’s head office Tuesday morning and asked Giants owner Takuo Takihana to allow Hara to skipper Japan as it looks for its second straight WBC title. Then Kato went to the Yomiuri Giants training complex in Kawasaki to meet Hara.

Kato, former Japanese ambassador to the United States, said he appreciates that Hara accepted the job. “I really appreciate Mr. Hara’s understanding in accepting this job even while he prepares for the Japan Series,” Kato said. “I told him he will have our full cooperation–along with special adviser Sadaharu Oh–in the process of selecting coaches and players.”

“Now I’m focusing on our preparations for the Japan Series. After doing my best for the Giants, then I’ll give my all for Japan,” Hara said, ahead of Game 1 on Saturday against the Saitama Seibu Lions at Tokyo Dome.

“We’ll have players, fans and coaches all banding together to take on the world,” said Hara at a press conference following the decision. “That’s the power of Japan.”

Japan’s Olympic coach Senichi Hoshino has refused to stay on to lead the defending champions at next year’s World Baseball Classic (WBC). The 61-year-old’s decision not to answer his country’s call leaves Japanese baseball officials with even fewer options ahead of the March tournament.

“Even if I am asked I will turn it down,” Hoshino told Japanese media. “I have informed (Japan’s baseball) commissioner of my decision.”

Hoshino suffered intense criticism after Japan failed to secure a medal at this year’s Beijing Olympics.
“I’ve already been engulfed in flames once — why should I have to drag someone’s chestnuts out of the fire again?” he said on his personal website. “I don’t want to put my family through that again.”

After Hoshino reject, Katsuya Nomura, manager of the Rakuten Eagles, thinks Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki could be just the man to lead Japan’s defense of the title at the 2009 WBC.

“Maybe we should just let Ichiro be a playing manager,” Nomura was quoted to say on the Nikkansports Web site. But the idea is not come true.

“In the end, We got back to the drawing board after Mr. Hoshino decided to back off and we decided an active manager would be best, and Hara’s name came up,” said Sadaharu Oh, a special adviser to the committee and former manager of the Softbank Hawks.

Kato said Hara was chosen by an NPB advisory committee because of his youth, good health and managerial experience. “Earlier we planned to pick a manager who is not a club team manager, but it eventually wasn’t a practical idea,” Kato said. “And we decided that Mr. Hara fits mostly to the position considering his experience and achievements.”

Apart from Kato and Oh, who led Japan to victory in the inaugural 2006 WBC competition, other members of the WBC organizing committee include Senichi Hoshino, Rakuten Eagles manager Katsuya Nomura; Yakult Swallows manager Shigeru Takada, and baseball commentator Kenjiro Nomura.

Hara is scheduled to start selecting coaches and players after the Japan Series. Training camp for the WBC will begin on Feb. 15.