The Chunichi Dragons announced today that 57-year-old Hiromitsu Ochiai will not be returning as manager after the current season and that 70-year-old Morimichi Takagi was named as his successor (he'll officially take over on 12/1).
The Dragons have already informed Ochiai of their decision and received his acknowledgement.
"We thought this was a turning point kind of year," said Chunichi Dragons rep Ryohei Sato. "We want to bring in a fresh pair of eyes. We've got a strong competitive foundation and we don't think making this kind of announcement now will cause any problems. Instead, it might help motivate players to work as hard as ever so that they can toss their manager into the air [one last time]."
Of being named the next manager, Morimichi Takagi said, "I'm still surprised [at how this turned out]. It was something out of the blue. It'll be tough following in the tracks of a manager like [Hiromitsu] Ochiai, but I am a baseball person. I managed to get another shot at this age and I'm ready to give it my best."
UPDATE 9/23 @ 2:25am - A few more notes and updates:
First a little background on Takagi: he played for the Dragons between 1960 and 1980 and spent the last 2 years as a player / coach. In 1981, he made coach and was later promoted to Ni-gun manager (1984 - 1985). Takagi became head coach in 1986 and then spent the next few years working as a baseball commentator. Takagi returned to the Dragons in 1992 and spent 5 years as manager of the Ichi-gun team and put together a 244-249-6 record. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Incidentally, Takagi received the offer from the Dragons about a week ago.
It appears the players weren't informed about this being Ochiai's last year and only found out about it through the press conference that was held.
"I haven't heard anything official so I have no comments," said Masahiko Morino.
"Even though there was an announcement, I'm not allowed to comment. That's the kind of world I live in," said Masahiro Araki.
"I worked with him for a long time. All we have left to do is win [for him]," said Hirokazu Ibata.
And team rep Sato also alluded to the Dragons having no other choice regarding the timing. "We were obligated to communicate our decision a month before his contract runs out," said Sato. "There are issues for the next season to consider, so we really had no choice but to make the public announcement now."
UPDATE 9/23 @ 2:40pm - Team rep Sato told reporters that Ochiai wasn't bound to the Dragons after the season and could move on to working with other teams.
UPDATE 9/23 @ 2:48pm - At 40 years and 9 months (on opening day 2012), Takagi will become the second oldest person to manage a team, right behind Katsuya Nomura's record of 74 years and 4 months.