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March 19, 2006

Sadaharu Oh

Ichiro Suzuki


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon to all of you. I'd like to welcome you to our formal interview session today with Team Japan manager Sadahara Oh and Ichiro Suzuki, who is due to arrive shortly. I'd like to go over the procedures before we start. Jacki Noh is our interpreter for Korea and she will interpret if necessary. We ask if you have a question raise your hand and once selected I will call you to the podium to speak. Please state your question, speak slowly, be brief, and also if you could state one question. If you have more than one question, if we have time, we'll be sure to come back to you.
Also, remember to please turn off your cell phones, and we thank you for your cooperation. .
Before we get started, we'll ask once again if we need interpretation for any of our Korean journalists. We'll start with our first question.
Q. This is for both Manager Oh and also Ichiro. Do you think the success of this tournament can help bring baseball back for the London Olympics in 2012, and will you speak to any Olympic officials to try to make that happen?
SADAHARU OH: Well, for us, the baseball people, this first WBC event is such a success, is a great success, and it showed a lot of positives to the baseball world for sure. But I don't really know how the Olympic committees would perceive this success. So I can't tell anything about baseball being back to the Olympic Games. But if there's anything I can do to bring back this great sport to the Olympic Games, I would love to do it.
ICHIRO SUZUKI: First of all, about this WBC event, this was the very first time that this kind of baseball tournament was held, so this was not perfect so far, but so far up to this point, I believe a lot of people in the entire world have paid attention to baseball, and I really expect this event to develop further in the near future.
Personally, I believe WBC is for the professional players, professional teams, and the Olympic Games are set for amateur players or amateur teams. But at the same time, I would like to see the success of this event lead to the fact that baseball will be back to the Olympic Games, but I can't see myself participating in any effort to bring baseball back to the Olympic Games.
Q. For Ichiro first, what is it like playing for a legend like Sadahara Oh, particularly compared to other managers you've played for, and for Mr. Oh, I wanted to ask you as the all-time world home run champion, what is your position on Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, the American record, and steroids?
ICHIRO SUZUKI: Well, what I felt first was that Mr. Oh acts just the same privately and also publicly. Normally when I meet people, I do get an impression, I do get a different impression from the first impression that I had publicly. But that never is the case with Mr. Oh.
And Mr. Oh was a great hitter of all time, and also he has so many records, especially the world home run record, and he's such a great hitter, and I asked him the question, as I always wonder about my hitting, as well, and my question to him was, "Did it ever become easier for you at the plate?" And he said, "That never happened to me." That's a great answer to me, and that gave me such great courage because I always wonder how I should hit, and I never thought the hitting would become easy. That was a great answer, and I'm really glad that I could hear that.
SADAHARU OH: Well, for those great hitters, I really wanted to play with him on the same field, but it didn't happen, and it's already in the past, so I don't really look back. And I did try my best in Japanese baseball; that's how I came up with that big number in home runs, and that's nothing we can compare that number to anything. It's not comparable because we lived in different worlds, different eras. I would just say that our lives were just different back then.
For the matter of steroids, now it's totally banned from baseball, but in the past, not only in the baseball world but many Olympians used it because they didn't recognize the danger of it to their health, and of course as competitors, they always wanted to have a good result, and in order to achieve that, they didn't mind using anything to enhance their performance.
Of course from now on it should be banned and nobody should use it at all, but questioning people who used it in the past who didn't really know much danger of it I think is not really necessary at the moment.
Q. Can you please tell us who the starting pitcher is for tomorrow's game?
SADAHARU OH: You all will know it by the time it's going to be announced officially at 9:00 o'clock. Or would you like to know it now (laughter)? Who's starting for the Cuban team (laughter)? Okay, later (laughter).
Q. This is a question to Ichiro. You're one of only two MLB players who are in the final match besides Akinori Otsuka from the Japan team. How do you feel about that? And another question to Ichiro, there are some Korean media members here, but in yesterday's game, once again, you were booed so hard by the Korean-American fans in the stands, but that may be caused by your comment being mistakenly relayed to the Korean people in the reports. What did you think of being booed so hard in the game yesterday?
SADAHARU OH: First of all, I feel really proud that I'm the only one of two that will be playing in the finals, only two the Major League Baseball players to play in the final game. Of course, I sense that MLB is hurting a little bit. But I do welcome the boos from the fans actually. Last night they didn't really boo me hard enough. I was expecting a little harder heckling, and I would love that, as well.
They might have perceived my comments in a lot of ways, but the comments will be perceived in that way anyway, so I don't really mind about that.
Q. For the manager, how has Hideki Matsui's decision not to play for Japan affected his popularity in Japan? And how has Ichiro's decision to play affected his popularity? Has it moved him beyond Matsui in terms of popularity in Japan?
SADAHARU OH: Well, for the Japanese fans, they might have that kind of opinion, that Matsui should have been in this tournament playing for the Japanese team. But I'm not really backing up Matsui, but the time frame the Japanese team had was a little too early, the time limit to decide the roster was a little early. So there were some players probably, not even the Major League Baseball players, who play in Japan who didn't want to participate at the beginning but who actually wanted -- came to be wanting to play in these games later on, but their decision was made after the time limit.
I would like to make a suggestion to the organizer, the Japanese organizer, to delay the deadline of submitting the final roster so we can have better perception of the games. And for the popularity, the players do get their popularity on the field mainly, and Matsui hasn't played a real game yet this year, so I'm sure he will have a lot of opportunities to win back his popularity back in Japan.
And of course, there was a wrong impression of Ichiro that he is sort of selfish. But as people can see, he really committed himself to this team and he put so much time into this. Now he's one of the leaders of the team, as well. A lot of people would like him performing very well, and I'm sure his popularity went up once again in Japan.
ICHIRO SUZUKI: I don't think this is a type of question that I need to answer as a player.
Q. Ichiro, we're used to seeing your dedication and your serious approach to baseball. Now we're also seeing a little bit more emotion on the field. Can you explain what might be pulling that out in the WBC? And also, now that you've been back in the Japanese system for a little bit of time, what in Japanese baseball would you like to see major league players do, and what would you like to see Japanese players do that you've learned from major leaguers?
ICHIRO SUZUKI: Well, first of all, this was my first time to play for the Team Japan, and I do think that I have the Japanese flag on my shoulders, so that might be the primary reason that I became so emotional in these games at the WBC.
For the second part of the question, if there's anything I can bring back to the major league from the Japanese style, I would say that they would need to clean up the dugout a little bit more because I've experienced so many filthy dugouts in the States. I would like to suggest that seriously (laughter).
On the other hand, if there's anything that I can bring back from America to Japan, I would say that I think the players have more passion in America than the Japanese players do. I don't see anybody who is cool about it, and I had to work to hard to catch up with those guys who are really passionate about the game of baseball. That's the difference I saw, and that's something that I would like to relate to my Japanese colleagues.

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