FUKUOKA – Fukuoka Softbank Hawks manager Koji Akiyama, who guided the club to its first Pacific League championship in three years, announced Tuesday that he will step down from his post at the end of the season.
Speaking at a news conference at Yafuoku Dome on the eve of the final stage of the Pacific League Climax Series, Akiyama, however, said he hopes to shut out all of the noise caused by his bombshell announcement ahead of the big series.
Good luck with that.
“I have been a farm team coach, a top team coach and a manager going into my 10th year now. For me it is the end of one chapter,” Akiyama said.
“I told myself I would aim for a Japan Series championship as one of my goals this season. We still have the CS and the Japan Series to aim for. For the players and coaches who have to deal with the media (circus), I want to say I’d like to shut out all of the noise.”
“I want the players focused on how we can win so we can reach the Japan Series,” added Akiyama, whose team will play either the Orix Buffaloes-Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters series winner on Wednesday.
Akiyama said he had planned to call it quits no matter what the outcome this season, reiterating that the announcement has caused some disturbance to his players and coaches during the postseason.
“Right now, we have to be focused on tomorrow,” he said. “I want the players, staff and coaches focused on the series. That’s all.
“We had as our goal from the start of spring training to win the Japan Series. We have cleared one hurdle with a league championship. Next we want to win this series to get to the next stage so we can win the championship. Just take it one game at a time from tomorrow, just like during the regular season.”
Akiyama, 52, took the helm in 2009 and led the Hawks to pennants in 2010 and 2011. The Hawks beat the Chunichi Dragons in seven games to win the 2011 Japan Series.
Akiyama is in the final year of a six-year contract, but the club had plans for him to continue. Team owner Masayoshi Son, the Softbank Corp. Internet mogul, was apparently one of his biggest cheerleaders.
“He has received a glowing evaluation from us,” said team president-cum-acting owner Yoshimitsu Goto. “Team owner Masayoshi Son put his absolute confidence in him.”
The Hawks defeated second-place Orix in their final game on Oct. 2 to clinch the league title, but the team went on a conspicuous 1-9 slide after coming within reach of a magic number on Sept. 17.
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