World No.1 Japan heading into 2022 baseball season with new manager, uniforms

World No.1 Japan heading into 2022 baseball season with new manager, uniforms
Hideki Kuriyama, who succeeded Atsunori Inaba, announced three members of his coaching staff. Olympic gold medalists Hiromi Itoh (pictured above) and Munetaka Murakami, and Women's National team players Akino Tanaka and Wakana Mori introduced the new uniforms.

Samurai Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama will helm the world No. 1 baseball programme for the upcoming exhibition contests against Chinese Taipei on 5 and 6 March.

Kuriyama's coaching staff will include bench coach Kazuyuki Shirai, pitching coach Masato Yoshii, hitting coach Sadaaki Yoshimura, and defence/baserunning coach Masaji Shimizu. Additional coaches will be announced at a later date.

Shirai, Yoshii and Shimizu all worked with Kuriyama during his time with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). The new manager said that Yoshimura, who spent his whole career as a player and coach with the Yomiuri Giants, was his choice because of his knowledge of data analytics.

"I looked for coaches who know international baseball and are familiar with Samurai Japan," commented Kuriyama through Samurai Japan official website.

The manager plans to visit all training camps during NPB Spring Training.
"Before I select a player, I need to know him. I will take my time to talk with coaches and players. We will select players who really want to represent Japan."

Kuriyama believes baseball is changing.
"It is important to stay ahead of the changes. Coaching is always a learning experience. I want to field teams that play hard and inspire their fans. A Samurai Japan player must know he is not allowed to lose."

Japan is the defending WBSC Premier12 Champion and the Olympic gold medalist. Kuriyama is looking forward to leading his team at the World Baseball Classic.
"We don't have a date yet, but we look forward to it happening in 2023. We will need players who understand that every game is like a game seven in the World Baseball Classic. Hopefully, everybody will be eligible. It is not the time to worry about that."

What's your goal for the next World Baseball Classic?
"I think I will do everything to win. I want to get there ready."

What's the goal for the upcoming 2022 season?
"We won't compete in official tournaments. The goal is starting our preparation in order to be ready for 2023."

Kuriyama will also serve as a coordinator of all the National Team programmes.
"Every National Team shares the same values. We also want these values to inspire young kids. The numbers of kids playing baseball has declined in Japan. Some people believe it's because of the costs connected to baseball. My goal is to have the kids feel how fun playing baseball is."

Olympic gold medalists Hiromi Itoh (pictured above) and Munetaka Murakami, together with Women's National Team players Akino Tanaka and Wakana Mori, attended the presentation of the new Samurai Japan and Madonna Japan uniforms on 13 January.