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Yamamoto top candidate for WBC job

Kyodo

Koji Yamamoto is now the leading candidate to manage Japan at next March’s World Baseball Classic, a Nippon Professional Baseball source said Monday.

The 65-year-old Hall of Famer has not managed since 2005, when he quit after his Hiroshima Carp finished last in the Central League. If selected, Yamamoto would be the country’s first WBC manager not actively managing one of NPB’s 12 teams.

Japan won both the 2006 and 2009 editions of the WBC.

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks skipper Koji Akiyama had been the leading candidate to lead Japan, but the 50-year-old has repeatedly said the WBC job would conflict with his club responsibilities. Unable to persuade him, sources said, another candidate needed to be found.

Yamamoto refused to say much about the speculation.

“I can’t say anything. The season is still in progress,” said Yamamoto, who currently works as a baseball analyst.

“I am grateful and honored to be considered a candidate.”

Yamamoto served two five-year stints as manager of the Carp, leading them to the 1991 Central League pennant. He was a fielding and base-running coach during Japan’s disastrous 2008 Beijing Olympic campaign.