New NPB boss determined to regain public trust
January 18, 2014 (The Asahi)
New Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Katsuhiko Kumazaki loved the sport when he was a young boy growing up in Gifu Prefecture cheering for Nagoya's Chunichi Dragons, his favorite ball club.
Kumazaki and the neighborhood kids couldn't afford real baseball equipment, so they made do with a makeshift ball that was a rock wrapped in cloth and a large tree branch for a bat.
“I was a poor player," he says, remembering his boyhood diamond days. "The only thing I was good at was jeering at players on the opposing team.”
The kid who once specialized in "razzberries" went on to become an accomplished prosecutor, and on Jan. 1, the 71-year-old lawyer assumed his new post as head of NPB.
Kumazaki was highly respected as a tough prosecutor and went on to serve as the director of the Special Investigation Department of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors’ Office. He is a big fan of TV samurai drama and once made an appearance as an extra. But he never lost his interest in baseball.
In 2005, Kumazaki became an adviser to NPB commissioner Yasuchika Negoro to help rid the sport of mobster connections to businesses related to professional baseball. Since then, he has seldom been absent from NPB meetings.
Kumazaki is well aware of the challenges and problems facing the Japanese professional game. He takes over the post knowing full well that the NPB commissioner often faces harsh criticism.
“Affection for baseball has existed steadily among the Japanese people," he says. "I hope that it will also continue to exist among the young people in the future.”
Kumazaki also plans to be an active commissioner of baseball.
“The NPB commissioner must not be just a figurehead in this era,” he says. He also rejected a proposal for a salary increase for the baseball commissioner.
Although Kumazaki still operates a law firm, he won't take on new clients so he can devote his time to NPB.
“I will work hard so that professional baseball can regain the people’s trust,” he says.
(Read the full story on The Asahi)