Kumazaki named NPB commissioner

Kyodo

Former prosecutor Katsuhiko Kumazaki was confirmed as Nippon Professional Baseball’s next commissioner on Thursday at an extraordinary owners meeting.

“I get the feeling this is going to be a sobering experience, what with all the heaps of issues we have at the moment,” the 71-year-old attorney said.

“I want to use all the power at my disposal to make pro baseball a vital body that gives back to society.

“Coming from a prosecutor’s background, I am determined to be rigorously fair and politically impartial in the execution of my professional duties.”

Kumazaki, who will assume his new post on Jan. 1, replaces Ryozo Kato, who resigned in October due to the fallout from the scandal that erupted when his subordinates changed NPB’s ball and tried to conceal the change from the commissioner, players and teams.

“It is a matter of course that you notify those in charge,” Kumazaki said, regarding how the ball change was mishandled. “Just implementing more efficient systems will not do.”

Since 2005, Kumazaki has been an adviser to the commissioner and was the candidate of the Central League’s teams.

A block of Pacific League clubs wanted an experienced business leader but was unable to settle on a single candidate. Kumazaki’s approval was finally achieved, according to sources, when Chiba Lotte ended its resistance and Tohoku Rakuten finally followed suit.

When Kato was up for reappointment to a third term in July 2012, some PL teams seized the opportunity to demand more transparency in the commissioner selection process. Kato was approved conditionally and without the approval of either Rakuten or Orix.

One reform now being investigated is the establishment of an executive director’s position, which could help advance the baseball business.

“The role of the commissioner is getting so big,” Kumazaki said. “It is essential to have a full-time position responsible for areas such as accounting and financial matters that also has the authority to deal with the particulars.”