• Kyodo

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Hideki Kuriyama will remain at the helm of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for a seventh season, the Pacific League club said Wednesday.

Kuriyama met with team owner Juichi Suezawa in Tokyo and agreed to a contract extension that will keep him in Sapporo through the 2018 season. He will be the Fighters’ second longest-serving manager after Keiji Osawa, who was in charge for eight years from 1976.

The 56-year-old Kuriyama blamed himself for the Fighters’ fifth-place finish with a 60-83 record, a year after winning the Japan Series. He also went to the series in his rookie year as a skipper in 2012.

“I feel a huge weight of responsibility for the way the team turned out,” Kuriyama said. “I’m more motivated than ever now. I’m absolutely determined to win the championship next year.”

The Fighters could lose key players in the offseason with two-way star Shohei Otani expected to be posted to the major leagues, and slugger Sho Nakata having acquired his domestic free agency rights.

Despite the roster changes that await, Kuriyama looked ahead to the new season.

“I have my opinions and feelings, but it’s not my concern,” he said. “All I can do is try to win with the players who are dedicating their lives to fight for the Fighters.”

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