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[10/9/2013] Samurai Japan holds a press conference for Hiroki Kokubo

by on Oct.09, 2013 @ 10:00 pm, under Samurai Japan
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Samurai Japan held a press conference today to introduce Hiroki Kukubo as their first long-term standing manager.  His first job will be to guide Samurai Japan in three international games against Taiwan in November.

Sponichi has posted portions of the press conference:

Why did you accept the position?

When I first received the proposal, I was not sure if I should accept.  But there is meaning to taking on challenges so I accepted.

How will you lead the team?

I want to run things from the perspective of the players.  I want people to see that the team is young and full of energy.  It will be a team that unifies Japanese baseball and I will be at the top as manager.  I will be aware of what I need to do.

What is Japan's strength?

Pitching and defense.  And small ball.  We have to work on our ability to score that one run, otherwise we will have a hard time against countries that have power and speed.

Which players would you like to see on the team?

In the medium-term, a player that can be a part of the WBC team.  But I cannot really name names.

What kind of coaching staff will you select?

I am thinking young.  I do not have managing experience myself.  I do not think I will have to select people that have a lot of experience on the international stage.

Source: Sponichi 10/9/2013

Nikkan Sports posted this quote, which appears to be a mix of the above:

When they first came to me with this proposal, I was not sure if a person like me, with no managerial experience, should accept the position.  But, life is about taking on challenges.  It is not about whether or not you can do something, but rather doing or not doing.  I gathered up my courage and accepted.

Source: Nikkan Sports 10/9/2013

On a side note, Kokubo will be assigned the number ninety.  The number comes from the nine he wore when he was an active player and is also the number that comes after the eighty-nine Sadaharu Oh wore when he managed the Hawks.

Source: Daily Sports 10/9/2013

UPDATE 10/10 @ 7:48pm -

Sponichi posted additional portions of the press conference this morning.  Below are sections not previous included:

What did you do when you first received the proposal?

I never considered it, so I could not get a real feel for it.

Did you ask anyone for advice?

I spoke to Softbank's [Sadaharu] Oh and he told me that these things were all about chance and timing.

What kind of team do you want to put together?

I may have retired as a veteran player, but I am new to managing.  I want to look at things from a player's perspective and show others our energy.

How will you approach the games in Taiwan?

Winning is important, but selecting players while looking four years down the road is something I also want to do.

Source: Sponichi 10/10/2013

UPDATE 10/11 @ 1:15am -

Sanspo has posted a different version that might help explain some of the things he said above.

On the proposal.

Honestly, I was not sure what to do, but life takes on meaning with challenges.  I do not have a set type of style, but I want to create a strong team with the understand that I am the top manager in Japan.

On being forty-two.

I am not to far away from active players so I want to show that I still have energy.  I would like to communicate with players from their perspective.

On player selections.

I cannot name any names.  I want to select players that can move, players that are healthy.

On amateur players making it onto the roster.

If their skills are up there, then there is a chance.  It is possible that players that are planning to turn pro within the next year or so make it to the team.

Source: Sanspo 10/10/2013

[10/2/2013] Reports: Hiroki Kokubo to manage Samurai Japan

by on Oct.03, 2013 @ 1:30 am, under NPB
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According to a number of reports, Hiroki Kokubo (41) has been tentatively selected to manage Samurai Japan.  An official announcement is expected in the coming days.

"We feel he is a good choice as we begin a new chapter for Samurai Japan.  We pushed hard for it and we have the ok.  We hope was can make this happen," a person connected to the NPB said.

Source: Nikkan Sports 10/2/2013, Sponichi 10/2/2013, Sponichi 10/2/2013Daily Sports 10/2/2013

UPDATE @ 5:10pm -

Kokubo has already accepted the position.  An announcement could be made as early as Friday.  His first job will be to prepare for three international games against Taiwan between November 8 and 11.  Further into the future, the Premium 12 in 2015 and the WBC in 2017.

A Samurai Japan Committee will be established.  Shinya Miyamoto could be named the top official for the professional division, while Kozo Otagaki could lead the amateur division.

Sadaharu Oh, Tatsunori Hara, and Koji Yamamoto will likely take on advisory roles.

The roster for the three international games against Taiwan will most likely be made up of players twenty-seven and under.  There will be a mix of professional players and amateur players.

Kokubo will most likely start out with a two-year contract.

Source: Sports Hochi 10/3/2013, Sports Hochi 10/3/2013, Sponichi 10/3/2013

UPDATE @ 5:44pm -

The NPB announced that Kokubo was named manager of Samurai Japan.  A press conference will be held within the next couple of days.

Source: Sponichi 10/3/2013

UPDATE @ 8:54pm -

An official contract has yet to be signed, but will most likely run through to the 2017 WBC.

Source: Daily Sports 10/3/2013

UPDATE @ 9:10pm -

Kokubo spoke to reporters at a hotel in Fukuoka today and said, "I have seen the WBC as the tournament that decides the world's best team ever since baseball was removed from the Olympics.  In addition to the responsibility, there is a lot of influence [that comes with managing Samurai Japan].  I played under a lot of different managers [over my career].  I feel my own ideals of managing will develop over time."

Source: Nikkan Sports 10/3/2013

[8/21/2013] Hiroki Kokubo reportedly a top managerial candidate for Samurai Japan

by on Aug.21, 2013 @ 1:08 pm, under NPB, WBC
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According to Sports Hochi, former Softbank Hawk Hiroki Kokubo (forty-one) is a top candidate to become Samurai Japan's first standing manager.  If Kokubo is selected as manager, it will be his job to manage the NPB's "thirteenth team" and prepare it for international competition.

The NPB replied to the reports by saying that while the Samurai Japan Operations Division was beginning to consider candidates, it was still too early to finalize any decisions.  They had nothing to say about Kokubo being a possible candidate.

Source: Sports Hochi 8/20/2013, Sports Hochi 8/21/2013

Softbank Hawks: Hiroki Kokubo’s retirement speech

by on Oct.09, 2012 @ 1:55 am, under NPB
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Daily Sports has posted Hiroki Kokubo's retirement speech:

I am extremely grateful to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks organization for putting together this retirement ceremony for me today.  Thank you.

As a surprise, I heard more than 30,000 people sign Happy Birthday, something I will probably never hear again.  It touched me deeply.  Thank you.

I would like to take this time to thank all the managers and coaches that gave me advise, all the team staff that assisted me during my workouts, and especially to all the teammates I fought with to win championships over my nineteen-year career with the Daiei Hawks, Giants, and Softbank Hawks.  Thank you.

Within that, my encounter with [Sadaharu] Oh.  This was a turning point in my baseball career.  He of course gave me advise on improving my skill, but he also taught me everything about what it means to be a pro.  Those [things he taught me] are still coursing through my veins.  Thank you chairman Oh.

I turned forty-one today.  I hear I was born around 7am in the morning.  My mother came to watch me play on July 14 and again today.  With her own hands, she raised me and gave me this strong body.  And she gave me the opportunity to play baseball.  I am grateful.  Thank you mother.

From the time I turned pro until today, I always demanded a lot [from myself].  Even if I put together a season that satisfied me, I felt there was always more, more that I could do.  That is how I came to where I am.  Last year I hit my 400th home run, this year my 2,000th hit.  One by one my ideals became a reality.  But inside of that, I felt ideals remain ideals and striving for that brings about growth.  Upon putting this uniform on, I can no longer move toward the ideal player I want to become.  For that reason, I decided this year, to graciously take the uniform off.

This is near the end now, but to the fans, nineteen years ago, I came to Fukuoka without any ties or connections.  I am proud to have been able to play in front of such warm fans and I am fully of appreciation.

I got hurt a lot, but each time I came back and put the uniform on to stand on this field.  It is because I had those strong feelings that I was able to overcome all those injuries.

While unfortunate that we could not win a third straight pennant, we still have a chance to play at this home field in front of everyone while wearing this uniform.  A little while ago, the players also spoke about what they wanted to accomplish.  Just like them, my goal will be to get through the Climax Series to create another opportunity to play in front of all of you one more time while wearing this uniform.

To all the fans, thank you very much for the last nineteen years.

Source: Daily Sports 10/8/2012

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UPDATE 10/9 @ 8:25pm - Nikkan Sports posted his post-game interview:

How did you feel to make your speech after getting no-hit?

I was thinking about making an apology at the start.  To have that happen in front of so many fans...  I thought it best to feel embarrassed.  Although I am retiring.

It was your birthday.

With over 30,000 people, it was a Guinness like Happy Birthday.  It will become a good memory.

The fans got noisy during your third trip to the plate.

Normally, you get four trips.  I thought I might get to bat with the bases loaded and two out, but we were no-hit...

What did [Sadaharu] Oh say to you?

That life is only half-done and that he wanted me to continue working hard for yakyu.

Do you have any special memories with Oh?

These are kind of big, like using me just because I was hitting or trying me at second when I never played that position before.  I was very patient with me.  Without him, I would not be able to talk about having a pro baseball career.

You cried.

I did not think I would.  Nobuhiko [Matsunaka] gave me [flowers] and I started remembering things.

What did you remember?

Back when I was weak, the times that were difficult.  I have a lot more memories of the struggles and the pain.  This includes last year's Nippon Series MVP.  I remember more of the difficult times.

Source: Nikkan Sports 10/9/2012

Pacific League to present Hirotoshi Masui and Hiroki Kokubo with awards

by on Oct.01, 2012 @ 6:08 pm, under NPB
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The Pacific League held a board of directors meeting in Tokyo today.  Among the issues they discussed:

  • recognize Hirotoshi Masui (HAM) and Hiroki Kokubo (SOF) for the accomplishments -- give Masui commendation for setting a new rookie record with forty-four holds and give present Kokubo with an achievement award for his nineteen-year career.
  • if Shinnosuke Abe (YOM) wins a triple crown, recognize the achievement with a special commendation, even though he plays in the Central League

Source: Nikkan Sports 10/1/2012

Softbank Hawks: Hiroki Kokubo to retire after the season

by on Aug.14, 2012 @ 9:39 pm, under NPB
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Hiroki Kokubo held a press conference after tonight's game against the Chiba Lotte Marines tonight and announced that this will be his last season.

Source: Sponichi 8/14/2012, Mainichi 8/14/2012

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UPDATE @ 11:52pm - Nikkan Sports has posted parts of his press conference.

Your reason for retiring.

There is no one thing.  It was a slow progression.  The ball was not flying quite as much during batting practice.  I could not hit them over even during practice.  I experienced those kinds of conflicts.

Any regrets?

As of this moment, I can not think of anything I left unfinished over my career.  But I do not want to regret not finishing in first place in the fall.

Did Koji Akiyama say anything to you?

He said I could still pinch-hit and even start.  He said we should do our best until the very end.

Did you tell your teammates?

I told them after the game.  Everyone was surprised and could not react.  I told them I wanted to retire after finishing the season in first and getting tossed into the air.

Plans for the rest of the season?

I will give it everything I have and do my best to carry my weight with this team.  I want to finish after burning myself completely out.  I want to try and [help the team] finish in first for the third straight year.

UPDATE 8/15 @ 5:33pm - Sanspo also posted portions of the press conference.

Who did you report your retirement to?

I informed [Sadaharu] Oh, [Koji] Akiyama, and [Itaru] Kobayashi that I would be retiring after the current season.

When did you decide?

I can not really say.  I was a slow progression.  When I thought about playing next year, I was already emotionally moving toward retirement.

Is it because you were not starting in as many games?

No.  I feel healthy.  My stats have dropped this season.  I have not been able to hit the ball very far during pre-game batting practice.  During games, balls I thought could be home runs ended up getting caught in center.  I made my living hitting the ball far so that played a part in the decision.  I have no regrets.

What about your teammates?

I did not want to keep it from my teammates.  I gathered everyone together after the game and told them.  I think they were surprised.

What was Oh's reaction?

When talking to Oh, the tears would not stop.  Oh told me about how he had to ultimately decide when to retire.  Akiyama asked if I had any regrets.  I have made this announcement to retire, but there are still games to play and I want to help the team, even as a pinch-hitter.  I want to finish by burning myself completely out.

Softbank Hawks: Hiroki Kokubo collects 2,000th career hit in first game back

by on Jun.24, 2012 @ 3:20 pm, under NPB
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Hiroki Kokubo collected his 2,000th career hit off the first pitch he saw from Brian Wolfe (Nippon Ham) in the bottom of the 4th inning of today's game against the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Kokubo is:

  • the forty-first player in NPB history to reach the milestone
  • the third player to reach the milestone this season (behind Atsunori Inaba and Shinya Miyamoto)
  • the tenth player out of college to reach the milestone
  • the third oldest player to reach the milestone: Miyamoto was forty-one years and five months; Hiromitsu Ochiai was forty-one years and four months; and Kokubo is forty-years and eight months
  • the fourteenth player to record 2,000 hits and have at least 400 homers

Source: Asahi Shimbun 6/24/2012, Sponichi 6/24/2012

The Hawks have opened up a section on their website that commemorates Kokubo's 2,000 hit.

Other notes:

  • Kokubo plans to give his mother his 2,000th hit baseball.  Source: Sponichi 6/25/2012
  • He reached the milestone thirty-three days after recording his 1,999th hit.  Source: Sponichi 6/25/2012
  • He received around 280 congratulatory e-mails.  During a guest appearance on KBC Kyushu Asahi's News Pia, Kokubo said he was not thinking about retirement.  Source: Nikkan Sports 6/25/2012
  • He ordered about three hundred of his bats and will personalize each with a message and an autograph.  He plans to give these out to various people that have helped him.  Source: Sports Hochi 6/26/2012
  • Wakayama Prefecture is planning to present Kokubo with some sort of award during the off-season.  They may even opt to create a new award.  Kokubo has already received the Prefecture's Sports Award in 2007.  Source: Nikkan Sports 6/26/2012

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Countdown to 2,000

Hit Game # Date Opponent Pitcher Venue
1 2 4/10/1994 Orix Koji Noda Green Stadium Kobe
1,000 1008 9/27/2002 Seibu Mitsutaka Goto Yahoo Dome
1,500 1480 9/15/2007 Nippon Ham Shintaro Ejiri Yahoo Dome
2,000 1997 6/24/2012 Nippon Ham Brian Wolfe Yahoo Dome

Softbank Hawks: Nobuhiko Matsunaka taken off active roster with wrist sprain

by on Jun.18, 2012 @ 5:56 pm, under NPB
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Nobuhiko Matsunaka was taken off the active roster today with a left hand joint sprain (there was no damage to bones).  Matsunaka was evaluated at a hospital on Sunday after he hurt his wrist while sliding into first on a ground out to short during a game against Yokohama on June 16.  Source: Nikkan Sports 6/18/2012Sponichi 6/18/2012

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Hideki Okajima has not allowed a run in any of the twenty-four games he has appeared in so far this year.

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Once Terry Doyle's work visa clears (likely later this month), the Hawks will have him pitch in a few games at Ni-gun.  Source: Sponichi 6/18/2012

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Hiroki Kokubo will likely be added to the active roster on June 26 if can play through an upcoming three-game series against the Ni-gun Hiroshima Carp (begins on June 22) without getting tired and needing rest.  Source: Sports Hochi Osaka 6/18/2012

Softbank Hawks: Settsu taken off active roster for rest; Kokubo could return 6/26

by on Jun.17, 2012 @ 11:07 pm, under NPB
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Tadashi Settsu was taken off the active roster today since he is not scheduled to pitch for at least ten days.  The Hawks also want to give Settsu a chance to rest before his next start.  Source: Sponichi 6/17/2012

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka did not take part in pre-game practice and was held out of today's game because he hurt his left wrist when sliding head first into first during Saturday's game against Yokohama.  Source: Sponichi 6/17/2012

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The Hawks held a press conference at Yahoo Dome for Terry Doyle today.  The Hawks have uploaded footage of the press conference at Ustream.  Source: Daily Sports 6/17/2012

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Hiroki Kokubo worked out at Yahoo Dome today.  He will begin taking live batting practice on Tuesday and will play in a Ni-gun game next weekend.  If everything is ok, he might be able to return to the active roster as early as June 26.

Kokubo may also undergo another evaluation on Monday.

Source: Nikkan Sports 6/17/2012

Softbank Hawks: Hiroki Kokubo taken off active roster

by on May.25, 2012 @ 3:28 pm, under NPB
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Hiroki Kokubo was taken off the active roster today with lower back pains.

UPDATE @ 6:27pm - Kokubo got an MRI on his lower back today and was diagnosed with a slipped disc.

"I had a hard time deciding what to do, but I figured if I played, I probably wouldn't do very well. ... It hurts to even talk.  This is the first time I have experienced a slipped disc so I am not really sure [how things will go]," said Kokubo.

Kokubo will rest for a few days and, if everything is ok, begin his rehab at the Saitozaki training facilities on May 29.  The earliest he might be able to return to the active roster would be June 5.

Incidentally, this is apparently separate from the lower back pains he was experiencing earlier on.