28/07/2021 - 07/08/2021


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Baseball Olympic Games 2020 - Official Payoff

Atsunori Inaba looks back on Japan's first-ever Olympic baseball gold medal, says victory is for whole country

Atsunori Inaba looks back on Japan's first-ever Olympic baseball gold medal, says victory is for whole country
The Olympic manager and former Olympian player himself discussed how he selected the teams, the reasons for success and the challenges.

Atsunori Inaba managed Samurai Japan to back-to-back historical wins: the WBSC Premier12 2019 title and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games gold medal.

Inaba spoke about his accomplishments in an interview published by the Samurai Japan website.

"I spent four years working, together with my coaches, for this gold medal. I believe this dedication was the main factor in our success. Over the last four years, I was able to build relationships with the players."

Inaba put together a roster that mixed young players and veterans. In particular, the pitching staff counted on a lot of players with limited international experience.

"We had some young pitchers. We also had rookies. We also had veterans like Masahiro Tanaka and Yudai Ono," commented Inaba. "The fact a lot of young pitchers did well in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) lately was a factor. I selected the pitchers that I thought would best suit international baseball. I think we created a great mix of veterans and younger players."

The goal was to always be building building a good team, not assembling good players, he reflected.

"When I announced the roster, I was told a lot of things, and there were real pros and cons, but I thought I could win with this team, so I thought I should watch them play without any hesitation [Inaba laughs]."

Japan had great contributions out of the bench, particularly from infielder Sosuke Genda and outfielders Ryoya Kurihara and Kensuke Kondoh.

"They were well prepared. They knew they would be called up in key situations near the end of the game. When I watched Ryoya [Kurihara] execute his bunt against the United States, I was filled with gratitude. Everybody was doing what we needed to win."

Inaba talked about the challenges of living in a bubble during the Games.

"This time, I was forced to live in a hotel. I could not go out even to a convenience store. We also had a bus transfer from Fukushima to Yokohama that lasted more than five hours. The players and the staff did it without complaining, and this shows how hard we wanted this Olympic gold medal."

Inaba believes the gold medal belongs to the whole Japanese baseball community: "We won this gold medal thanks to the support and cooperation of a lot of people. I received the support of all the different coaches. I'm grateful for that. We interrupted the NPB pennant race to play in the Olympics. I really wish to thank all the clubs."

Inaba's last thought was for the fans.

"I can only thank fans. We had great crowds at the Premier12, and this time it was disappointing to play with no fans. Still, we felt they were behind us, even watching TV. I saw a child wearing a Japanese hat and a uniform in the streets of Hokkaido, where I live, which made me happy. I am really proud of our fans. Thank you so much for being so supportive in the last 4 years."