Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Manager Hideki Kuriyama to remain with Fighters

Kyodo

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters agreed to a one-year contract with manager Hideki Kuriyama after the Pacific League club finished the 2019 season with a disappointing fifth-place finish.

Next year will be Kuriyama’s ninth season with the Sapporo-based club, making the 58-year-old’s stint in the dugout the longest in team history, surpassing Keiji Osawa’s run from 1976 to 1983.

“Our focus is to win (the Japan Series) and bring joy to our supportive fans,” Kuriyama said.

“Winning (the championship) is everything,” he added.

The Fighters, winners of the 2016 Japan Series title, got off to a bad start this season, and their pitching staff was hard-hit by injuries. The club started August a half-game behind the league-leaders, but equaled the team record for most losses in a single month with 20.

Kuriyama was an outfielder for the Yakult Swallows in the Central League for seven years before he retired in 1990 and moved on to new career as a TV baseball commentator and university lecturer. As a rookie manager in 2012, he helped Nippon Ham win the PL pennant despite losing ace Yu Darvish to the major leagues in the offseason.

The skipper is credited with devising a two-way role for Shohei Ohtani. In 2016, Ohtani became the first player to win two Best Nine Awards in a single season as the PL’s best pitcher and best designated hitter.

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