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Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011

Title-winning Akiyama nabs Matsutaro Shoriki Award


Fukuoka Softbank Hawks manager Koji Akiyama was named the recipient of the prestigious Matsutaro Shoriki Award Tuesday for his contributions to the development of Japanese baseball.

Akiyama, 49, led the Hawks to their first Japan Series title in eight years after winning the Pacific League pennant for the second year in a row.

He won his second Shoriki Award after winning the accolade as a player with the Seibu Lions in 1991. Akiyama is the only other person since Softbank chairman Sadaharu Oh to win the award as both a player and manager.

Akiyama heard the good news before starting a practice for the upcoming Asia Series, featuring league championship teams from Japan, South Korea, Australia and host Taiwan getting under way on Friday.

"I was simply flabbergasted. It is a great honor," said Akiyama. "I've heard that a lot of people were happy that we won the Japan Series.

"I have a great sense of achievement this year. I know I didn't win this award by myself but got a lot of support from the people around me. I am very thankful."

The Hawks finished the regular season 17½ games ahead of the runnerup Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to win the PL title and had winning records against all 11 other clubs.

"He really made Japanese baseball exciting to the very end. His leadership as manager was brilliant at all the crucial stages," Oh said, explaining the reason why Akiyama was chosen.

Softbank outfielder Seiichi Uchikawa, who won the PL batting title in his first season with the club, was also a candidate for the award, but the selection committee voted unanimously for Akiyama in the end.

Aside from Oh, Masao Taguchi, Shigeru Sugishita, Futoshi Nakanishi and Koji Yamamoto also sat on the selection committee.

BayStars dump Obana


YOKOHAMA — The Yokohama BayStars said Tuesday they have fired manager Takao Obana in the second season of his three-year contract.

Obana's release comes in the wake of Yokohama parent company Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings Inc. announcing Nov. 4 it will sell the Central league club to DeNA Co.

"I regret that I wasn't able to respond to the fans' expectations. I wanted to have another shot next season to work with the players who developed with the team, but there's nothing that can be done," the 54-year-old Obana said.

A shakeup of the coaching staff was anticipated with the buyout by DeNA, which will become the new owner of the team if it passes a screening process that is set to conclude Dec. 1.

The BayStars, who changed to their current team name from the Taiyo Whales in 1992, won Japan Series titles in 1960 and 1998. The Central League club has spent the last four years in last place.

Nakajima plans move


Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima was given permission by his team Tuesday to use the posting system during the offseason in a bid to make a move to the major leagues, team sources said.

"I am confident. I want to make sure that I make my mark in the majors since I plan to do this," said Nakajima, who had wanted to use the posting system last year to move to the majors before the Pacific League team convinced him to stay put.

Now the 29-year-old's service with the Lions since 2002 has finally been recognized.

"I'd like to contribute to my new team by getting hits into the gap," Nakajima said.

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