Yakult Swallows catcher Atsuya Furuta came to agreement with his Central League club Tuesday on a two-year deal that will make him the first player-manager in 29 years in Japanese professional baseball.
Furuta, 40, reached an agreement with team president Yoshikazu Tagiku and other top club officials and takes over from Tsutomu Wakamatsu who stepped down at the end of the season after a seven-year stint.
“I have decided to accept an offer from the club and become a player-manager. It’s a tough job and not many people can do it, but I’ll give my all to both roles,” Furuta said.
Katsuya Nomura last served as player-manager in Japanese baseball when he steered the Nankai Hawks from 1970 to 1977. Nomura later managed the Swallows and Hanshin Tigers and is currently in talks with the Rakuten Eagles for the manager’s job at the Pacific League team.
Furuta received the offer from Yakult on Sept. 22 and had since asked the front office of the Tokyo club to step up efforts to build up the team and improve marketing operations — key conditions he cited for accepting the offer.
Furuta joined Yakult from Ritsumeikan University in 1990 as a second-round draft pick and soon developed into one of the best catchers in Japan with solid work behind the plate and with clutch hitting.
Furuta won the Central League batting title in 1991 and has helped the Swallows win five league titles and four Japan Series crowns. He has been named the Most Valuable Player in the league and the Japan Series twice each while winning 10 Golden Gloves.
In April this year, Furuta became the 32nd player in Japan to post 2,000 career hits.
On Wednesday, Furuta said he is set to step down as president of the Japanese baseball players association after eight years in office.
He has shown outstanding leadership as the top figure for the association and is known for playing a key role in the first-ever players strike last year in opposition to a move for drastic realignment of Japanese pro baseball.
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