• Kyodo

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Atsunori Inaba, the manager of Japan's gold-winning Olympic baseball team, has been appointed general manager of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, the Pacific League club said Wednesday.

The front office change means Hiroshi Yoshimura will step aside from his role as general manager and focus on his other responsibilities leading all facets of the club's business operations.

The Sapporo-based team has yet to announce a new manager for the 2022 season, although former Fighters and New York Mets outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo is viewed as a strong candidate.

Another candidate mentioned in the local media, former skipper Trey Hillman, said on Tuesday that he will not take a job that keeps him away from his Texas home for prolonged periods so he can spend time with his father.

Hideki Kuriyama, who received notable recognition for guiding two-way star Shohei Ohtani at the outset of his career, will leave his position at the end of the season, ending a 10-year managerial stint.

The Fighters missed out on a Climax Series playoff berth for the third consecutive season.

The 49-year-old Inaba played for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the Central League for 10 seasons and another 10 with the Fighters. He represented Japan in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and 2013.

He retired in 2014 and became the national team manager in July 2017. In August, Samurai Japan won their first Olympic gold medal in baseball by beating the United States in the final.

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