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Nomura has nothing to fear

by Kaz Nagatsuka

SAPPORO — For Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles’ illustrious manager Katsuya Nomura, there is nothing to be afraid of any more, even of his own ballclub.

Nomura, who guided Rakuten to a second-place finish and its first postseason appearance in the club’s five-year history, was told by Rakuten owner and president Toru Shimada that the 74-year-old skipper would not be leading the team after this season, instead being offered an “honorable manager” position.

As he sat in the dugout before Game 1 of the second stage of the Pacific League Climax Series at Sapporo Dome, Nomura angrily started ripping the Eagles organization.

“I still don’t understand why I’m going to have to be fired,” said Nomura, who is in his fourth year with the Eagles. “What have I done? Have I done anything that hurt the team?”

Reports said that Shimada rejected the notion that Nomura is going to be “fired”; instead, his contract will be “expired.”

But no matter how Shimada put it, for Nomura, who has managed at Nankai Hawks, Yakult Swallows and Hanshin Tigers before arriving in Sendai, it is no different from being fired. (He also managed the Shidax team of an industrial league.)

“Expired? Whatever. . . .,” mumbled Nomura, who said during the first stage that he loves the Rakuten Eagles, but not the Rakuten ball club.

But he has no intention to leave the team, possibly baseball in general, as a loser. The outgoing manager has inspired the team and the city of Sendai in the playoffs.

Asked how he feels to hear that in a recent poll over 70 percent of citizens think the Eagles will advance to the Japan Series, Nomura finally showed some smiles on his wrinkled face.

“Um, it doesn’t make us feel comfortable,” he laughed.

Sapporo Dome is the place Nomura and his Eagles opened their season back in April. Rakuten swept the three-game series versus the Fighters.

The old-school Nomura did not change his underwear for luck that time.

He made it clear that he would do the same in the critical showdown to clinch a berth for the NPB championship series.

“It’ll be the same. If we win today, I’ll do it, and if we lose, I won’t do that,” Nomura said, seemingly feeling a bit embarrassed.