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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Tigers Skipper Akinobu Okada Wins Shoriki Award

The Hanshin Tigers manager lands the Shoriki Award, an annual honor for top contributions to Japanese baseball, after leading the team to a Japan Series title.

Hanshin Tigers manager Akinobu Okada, who led the Pacific League club to its first Japan Series title since 1985 on November 5, is the 2023 Matsutaro Shoriki Award winner.

Consisting of former professional players, the award selection committee announced that Okada had been chosen for the honor on Tuesday, November 14. 

"It's a great honor. I'm so grateful," Okada was quoted as saying by Sports Hochi upon learning the news.

The Shoriki Award recognizes a person who has, in the view of the committee, contributed the most to Japanese baseball for that year. 

Shoriki, who passed away in 1969, was hailed as the father of Japanese pro baseball. He served as owner of the franchise that became the Yomiuri Giants. In his latter role as Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner, the two-league system was implemented. And Shoriki played a vital role in the establishment of the Japan Series in 1950.

Former Samurai Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama, who guided the national team to the World Baseball Classic title in March, and 2023 American League MVP Shohei Ohtani were given special awards and monetary prizes by the committee. 

Shoriki Award
From left, Akinobu Okada, Hideki Kuriyama and Shohei Ohtani. (KYODO)

Moving Hearts with Baseball

Kuriyama said he was honored to be recognized by the committee.

"This is a great honor, and I could not be more pleased," Kuriyama said in a statement. "I'd be so happy if we were able to move the hearts of so many people after the MLB players, including [Yu] Darvish and Masataka [Yoshida], and my fellow honoree Shohei, gave everything of themselves despite their severe schedules."

Getting Darvish and Ohtani to commit to playing for the Japan national team at the WBC was a huge factor in the committee's decision to honor Kuriyama, Sports Hochi reported.

Background on the History of the Shoriki Award

The Shoriki Award has been presented annually since 1977. 

On a few occasions, there have been multiple winners. Ichiro Suzuki and Shigeo Nagashima shared the honor in 1994. NPB managers Sadaharu Oh and Senichi Hoshino were selected in 2003. Tatsunori Hara and Shinnosuke Abe were chosen in 2012.

Although players and managers have been selected over the years for the award, Japan Series-winning skippers have now won it for six consecutive years.

Japan Series
Akinobu Okada lifts the 2023 Japan Series championship trophy. (ⒸSANKEI)

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Okada's Leadership Style Places Premium on Small Details

Wedge Online, the Japanese-language monthly magazine's website, reported that Okada's selection as the Shoriki Award recipient highlighted his tactical managerial decisions throughout the 2023 NPB season.

For instance, a Wedge Online article published on Thursday, November 16 cited Okada's "meticulous leadership." This paid dividends for the Tigers on offense. Hanshin led the Central League in walks (494) and in runs (555) during the regular season.

Committee chair Koji Yamamoto pointed out that Okada's managerial approach highlighted his skills in "emphasizing the four bases," the publication reported. 

Elaborating on Okada's leadership, Yamamoto offered this insight, NHK reported: "As a manager who used to be an infielder, he played baseball with a sense of precision throughout the year, emphasizing his ability to make the opposing pitcher throw more pitches and winning a game with a one-run difference.''

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New York Mets starter Kodai Senga pitches against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on May 17 at Citi Field. (GETTY IMAGES/via KYODO)

Senga Finishes Second in NL Rookie of the Year Voting

New York Mets right-hander Kodai Senga was second in National League Rookie of the Year voting. Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll received all 30 first-place votes for the annual award, it was announced on Monday, November 13.

Senga received 22 second-place votes. 

A former Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks pitcher (2012-22), Senga made 29 starts for the Mets in his first MLB season. He had a 12-7 record with a 2.98 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 166⅓ innings. Over his final 14 starts, the 30-year-old closed out the season with a 6-2 win-loss mark and a 2.44 ERA.

Carroll, who appeared in 155 games, had 25 home runs, 10 triples, 54 stolen bases, and batted .285 for the Diamondbacks.

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Japan's Ayase Ueda completes his hat trick against Myanmar in the 50th minute in a World Cup qualifier on November 16 in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. (KYODO)

Soccer

Japan Routs Myanmar to Open World Cup Qualifying Campaign

Ayase Ueda notched a hat trick in Japan's 5-0 triumph over Myanmar in the teams' first 2026 World Cup Asian qualifier on Thursday, November 16 in Suita, Osaka Prefecture.

Ueda gave Japan a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute at Panasonic Stadium Suita. After Daichi Kamada doubled the lead in the 28th minute, Ueda extended the hosts' lead to 3-0 in first-half injury time.

Japan increased its advantage to 4-0 in the 50th minute as Ueda hit his target for the third time.

Ritsu Doan accounted for Japan's final goal in the 86th minute.

After the match, Ueda spoke about his individual goals and the team's aspirations.

"It was the first game so we wanted to get the win," Ueda said, according to Agence France-Presse. "I think I was able to show my strong points tonight."

Ueda joined Dutch club Feyenoord in August 2023 on a five-year contract after spending the previous season with Belgium's Cercle Brugge,

Up next: The Samurai Blue return to action on Tuesday, November 21 against Syria in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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East Asia Super League
Ryukyu Golden Kings forward Allen Durham makes a pass in the second quarter of an East Asia Super League Group B game on November 15 at Okinawa Arena. (EASL)

Basketball

Ryukyu Improves to 2-1 in the EASL

The Ryukyu Golden Kings outscored the visiting Meralco Bolts 31-13 in the second quarter to take a commanding lead into halftime of their East Asia Super League Group B game on Wednesday, November 15.

Ryukyu, the reigning B.League champion, dominated in the second half and recorded an 89-61 victory at Okinawa Arena over its Philippine Basketball Association opponent.

Keita Imamura, who sank five 3-pointers, paced the Golden Kings with 19 points. Allen Durham scored 16 points and added team-high totals in rebounds (nine) and assists (six). Jack Cooley finished with 12 points and Yoshiyuki Matsuwaki contributed 11. Ryuichi Kishimoto and Hayato Maki added nine points apiece.

As a team, the Golden Kings canned 18 of 35 3-point attempts, including 3-for-3 by both Durham and Kishimoto.

Durham, a former Meralco player, admitted that he enjoyed the competition.

"It was a great game, [and] it was good to see my old teammates and old friends," the veteran forward told reporters after the game. "I wish them the best of luck this season."

The Golden Kings, now 2-1 in the EASL, play their next Group B match on December 13 against the Bolts (0-1). It will be contested at Macau's Studio City Event Center.

Ibaraki Robots head coach Rich Glesmann in a file photo. (B. LEAGUE)

Glesmann Returns for Second Stint to Lead the Robots

The B.League's Ibaraki Robots, an Eastern Conference club, have made another coaching change after a 1-13 start this season.

James Andrisevic was dismissed as supervising head coach on November 3. Fellow American Chris Holm became the temporary bench boss starting the next day.

Holm guided the Robots to a 92-88 victory over the Nagasaki Velca on November 5 in his second game in charge. 

Since then, Ibaraki has lost three consecutive games.

Holm will now return to a supporting role on the revamped coaching staff as an assistant. 

Rich Glesmann, who led the club from 2020-23, is returning for a second stint in charge.

Ibaraki went 23-37 in 2022-23.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to return to the Ibaraki Robots organization," Glesmann said in a statement. "The connection the Robots have with the entire Ibaraki community is both powerful and inspiring. Although the Robots have endured a tough start to the 2023-24 season, I am confident the coaches, players, staff, sponsors, and fans can all work together toward creating a positive change. Excited to get to work."

The Robots return to action against the visiting Nagoya Diamond Dolphins on December 2 and 3.

Tominaga Gives Nebraska a Boost in Win over Stony Brook

Keisei Tominaga poured in 16 points in his second game of the 2023-24 college basketball season, helping the University of Nebraska cruise past visiting Stony Brook University 84-63 on Wednesday, November 15.

The senior guard made 7 of 11 shots from the floor, including 2 of 6 3-point attempts. He added three rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 25 minutes in the Cornhusker Classic game.

Nebraska improved to 4-0.

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Rowing

World Rowing, Japan Sports Council Announce Collaboration

World Rowing and the Japan Sports Council on Tuesday, November 14 announced a memorandum of understanding had been finalized by the two organizations, setting in motion a plan to collaborate on a joint research project on virtual sports and indoor rowing.

According to a news report on the World Rowing website, "Probable areas of cooperation will include exchange programs and visits by representatives from both organizations; international joint research; presentation of case studies at international conferences, seminars, and workshops; publication of article(s) and academic papers."

Satoshi Ashidate, the CEO and president of the Japan Sports Council, said the partnership is a significant development.

"I am very pleased to announce that this is the first time for the JSC to conclude an agreement for collaboration and cooperation with an international sports federation," Ashidate said. "We are particularly excited about our international joint research project with World Rowing. ... Through the framework of this cooperative agreement, we expect to see significant results in the field of virtual sports by utilizing the resources possessed by both the JSC and World Rowing."

Miho Takagi competes in the women's 1,000-meter race at a World Cup speed skating meet in Beijing on November 18. (KYODO)

Speed Skating

Takagi Triumphs in Pair of Races at World Cup Meet in Beijing

Three-time Olympian Miho Takagi won the women's 1,000-meter event at an ISU World Cup meet on Saturday, November 18 in Beijing.

Takagi claimed victory by 0.01 seconds over American Kimi Goetz, completing the race in 1 minute, 14.44 seconds at the National Speed Skating Oval.

On Friday, Takagi was victorious at 1,500 meters. In the previous World Cup tour stop, Takagi also triumphed at the same distance in Obihiro, Hokkaido Prefecture, on November 11.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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