The saga of Japan’s most storied pro baseball team took a new twist on Tuesday, when former Tatsunori Hara rejoined the Yomiuri Giants as skipper for the third time.
The 60-year-old Hara, the skipper of Japan’s second World Baseball Classic championship team in 2009, guided the Giants to seven Central League pennants and three Japan Series championships in two stints — from 2002 to 2003 and again from 2006 to 2015.
“Today, manager Yoshinobu Takahashi officially leaves his post and will become a special adviser to the team,” Giants owner Toshikazu Yamaguchi said at a news conference.
“Tatsunori Hara has today agreed to manage the team on a three-year deal, through the end of the 2021 season.”
The return of the 60-year-old Hara marks the first time the club has brought a manager back for a third stint.
“Mr. Takahashi has given the team a young look,” Hara said. “He has given us a direction forward and I intend to carry on in that direction.
“Being away from the game for three years, watching it like a fan sees it, what the essence of the game is. All pros begin by playing youth ball, or by playing catch with their dad. It’s a place for pushing yourself, for striving. It’s fun and creates a space for big dreams.
“That’s where we all start. You come off the field sweating after a game. Win and you’re exuberant, lose and you suffer. I want the players to push themselves (that way) in pursuit of our goal.”
Three years ago, Takahashi retired as a player in order to manage the team from 2016 after Hara abruptly announced he was quitting in October 2015.
After finishing second, fourth and third over the last three seasons, Takahashi told the club earlier this month that he would not return for 2019. The following day, the Giants asked Hara to resume the post.
Hara said managing again had not been his plan.
“When the Giants asked me to manage next season, it stoked a fire in me,” Hara said. “Was I keen to manage? Not really. But I began to look forward to it, and I’m starting this fresh, like a newbie.”
Asked to evaluate his predecessor’s work, Hara said that for three years he had refrained from telling Takahashi what to do.
“We spoke sometimes. I encouraged him and when things worked I congratulated him,” Hara said.
“Watching it as I had, as a fan, I saw lots of good things from his team. Those things were not so evident from the standpoint of results, from the number of wins, but he leaves the team in a good position.”
Hara was inducted into Japan’s baseball Hall of Fame this year. The only other Giants managers to win more pennants are fellow Hall of Famers Tetsuharu Kawakami and Shigeru Mizuhara.