Infielder Munetaka Murakami of Team Japan celebrates hitting a solo home run with coach Coach Hirokazu Ibata in the third inning against Team United States during the gold medal game between Team United States and Team Japan on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on August 07, 2021 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
World Baseball Network
Former infielder Hirokazu Ibata has been named manager of Japan’s senior national team.
Ibata played 17 seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball with the Chunichi Dragons and Yomiuri Giants, appearing in 1896 career games with 1912 hits and a .281/.352.352 slash line.
He’s previously served as the coach of Japan’s U-15 national team and has coached for Yomiuri, but has no managerial experience in NPB.
“I’m undeserving of this huge job, but I’ll pour everything I have into it and serve with all my strength to honor my debt to Japanese baseball,” Ibata told a news conference.
Ibata played for Japan at the 2013 World Baseball Classic, where they took fourth place, and was a coach on Japan’s gold-medal team at the 2021 Summer Olympics, held in Tokyo.
Hideki Kuriyama, who managed Japan to the 2023 World Baseball Classic title, stepped down this year when his contract expired.
Akio Ishii is currently managing Japan at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
Ibata’s first appearance as manager of Japan will be at the Asia Professional Baseball Championship, which starts Nov. 16 at the Tokyo Dome.
According to Japan Forward, a decision on whether Ibata will manage Japan at the 2026 World Baseball Classic will be made closer to the event.