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Dejected Nomura ends reign as Rakuten manager

by Kaz Nagatsuka

SAPPORO — Katsuya Nomura’s griping yet deeply attached days with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and the team’s emotional run has come to an end.

After the Eagles were eliminated from postseason play by losing to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 9-4 in the fourth game of the Pacific League Climax Series second stage in Sapporo on Saturday, Nomura walked toward the outfield to greet his team’s fans in the right-field stands for the final time.

A moment later, Nomura was surrounded by his Eagles players and coaches, and even Fighters members, and was tossed into the air for a doage. Throughout the stadium, the fans spontaneously started clapping their hands warmly to reward his achievements in baseball.

But the 74-year-old skipper didn’t show any tears. Instead, he showed up in the backstage before a throng of reporters, flashing a smile and telling some jokes.

“You guys came here to surround this losing manager, huh?” Nomura said. “Now, somebody give me a job please!”

And finally he took a chair and started looking back at the series. He used his signature grumbling mannerisms while talking about his own team.

“It was an error-filled second stage, and I’ve been vexing all the time,” he said. “Today’s game was symbolic of that.”

Nomura, who was told that he would not have his contract extended by the Eagles ballclub after the regular season, did not hesitate to rip even his best players.

In fact, he defended ace Iwakuma, who was sent in as an emergency reliever and gave up a costly three-run homer to Terrmel Sledge in the eighth, on his final day as the Eagles boss.

“We made him do an unaccustomed thing,” Nomura said. “I guess (Iwakuma) strained too much.”

But there was one thing that Nomura didn’t speak badly about: the Eagles fans.

“I had a dream to hold a Japan Series in Sendai,” he said. “But we can’t and that’s the most regrettable thing for me. I apologize for the fans in Sendai.”