Baseball: New skipper Kokubo aims to take Hawks back to summit

The SoftBank Hawks are determined to reclaim the Pacific League pennant and the mantle of Japan's premier baseball club, new manager Hiroki Kokubo said Monday at his introductory press conference.

A former star slugger for the Fukuoka-based Hawks, the 52-year-old Kokubo has been promoted from managing their farm team.

He succeeds Hiroshi Fujimoto at the helm of the club, which last won the PL and the Japan Series in 2020.

"Our goal is to win the Pacific League championship and be No. 1 in Japan. We must do everything in our power to achieve that," Kokubo said.

The Hawks finished third in the PL this year before losing to the Lotte Marines in the first round of the playoffs.

Having played under manager Sadaharu Oh during his time as a Hawks infielder, Kokubo said he wanted to instill the team with the spirit of the Japanese baseball legend, who now serves as club chairman.

"It's important for the main players to take the lead and for the younger players to follow them into battle," Kokubo said.

Oh, who was at the press conference in Fukuoka, said he had "high hopes" for Kokubo.

"He understands Hawks baseball and what it means to be a professional baseball player," Oh said.

Kokubo joined the then Daiei Hawks in 1994 and won the home run title in 1995. He spent the majority of his career with the club, apart from a three-season stint from 2004 with the Central League's Yomiuri Giants. He reached 2,000 career hits in 2012, the year he announced his retirement.

© Kyodo News