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March 22, 2009

Tatsunori Hara

Kenji Johjima


THE MODERATOR: Welcome Team Japan. I will go ahead and open up our session with a question to manager Hara. Manager Hara tell us your overall impression of tonight's game and your feelings on Japan's performance.
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, we came here to Los Angeles, and the four teams remained. And in terms of the difference of power, I really didn't think there was any difference in the abilities. But today, I felt somewhat that Japan, the Japanese team was able to concentrate more, perhaps, and was able to hang on a little bit more and had a little bit more spirit power.
I think that is the result that we see here, that we were able to help that result.

Q. Manager Hara, you said that you were going to play your own game and not to really care about the other team. Did you have your own strategies? What kind of measures did you have in place beforehand, if you could talk about it, please?
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, in terms of measures, well, rather than measures, we had a little bit over a month, and the team itself evolved, I believe. In the process, in terms of the order, we came up with strategies and we were able to come up with a lot of variations in terms of strategies, and I believe that was apparent in today's game in terms of concentration. And we were able to get the big win.

Q. Congratulations, Manager Hara and Johjima, we would like you to answer one at a time. I believe this is the first time that you were able to win in an official tournament. I would like you to share your feelings about that. And also in terms of Johjima, I understand that you are a major leaguer. You must have a special feeling for it in that you were able to beat America. Talk about that.
KENJI JOHJIMA: Among the four teams, Japan did win today, but by just looking at this game, you cannot say that Japan was better than America, you know. That even if Japan -- we don't feel like that.
But the fact that we played in the United States wearing a Japanese uniform, and three years ago where I was not able to represent Japan in this WBC, the fact that I was able to play against America is something that is very much going to be a big memory for me. It's overwhelming for me.
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, the significance for me to play against the United States, it is, of course, where baseball was born, and I really respect the American baseball. So the fact that I was able to play against the American team was wonderful. And the fact that we won today is something that, even for the Japanese baseball world, it is something that will remain in history, I believe.
So in terms of playing against the Americans, Johjima and other major leaguers do play on the Japanese team, and the fact that they were there on the Japanese team, I believe, did play a major role, a big role, factor in the win, I believe.
I'm not just saying that just because he's sitting right next to me, but I believe this is something that the major leaguers became more of a reality for us. And I believe that a lot of people led the way for us. Ichiro, Johjima, Iwamura, Kuriyama, and our starter, Matsuzaka, those are now players in the major leagues, and the fact that they are doing that makes us feel that in Japan, we can do this. We can do it, too.
It really give us encouragement that we can do it, too. That it's a fact that we can do it. Again, that is what led to the results today.

Q. I believe you use a lot of end runs. Is that part of your strategy today? Is that your strategy? And there are hitters that you had from Note 3, was that also the manager's strategy to do that?
TATSUNORI HARA: Yes, that was my strategy. Yes, it was my strategy.
And for Jo, I told you to hit from the third, from note three, right?
KENJI JOHJIMA: But, no, I read the sign wrong.
TATSUNORI HARA: No, you read it right.

Q. Tomorrow you are going to play against the Koreans, and you will play for the fifth time against them tomorrow. Do you have any strategies for that? Also, the fact that you will be playing against the Koreans for the fifth time, what do you feel about the elimination process of WBC?
TATSUNORI HARA: I think there were too many questions, and it was a little difficult to understand. But as far as the rules of WBC is concerned, those are just rules that we must follow, that Japan is willing to play along with. I have nothing against that.
I play within the rules and came to this day knowing those rules. We have played against the Korean team in Japan, and Japan won the first time. And when we did win, it was a cold game. And at that time, I felt that we would be playing with the Korean team many number of times.
I never really thought that when it came true that we will be playing against them five times, the most number of times you could ever play a team. And at the top of the world, that we would be able to do that. That we were able to come up to the stage together, I really feel great respect for the Koreans for that.
And at the same time, I feel like it's the one game of the century, and Japan would like, as a team, to do the best that we can. And in terms of strategy, in playing the game, that's something that you can observe tomorrow when we do play. Thank you.

Q. So Hara and Johjima, as to the final, what are you determined to do tomorrow? And how do you feel that you will be able to win or lose? What will be the difference?
TATSUNORI HARA: As I said earlier, I think that says all. What would make the difference between winning or losing, I believe that you just have to play a good game. And that is the big goal of the Japanese team.

Q. Hara-san, you spoke in San Diego about the pride and respect you had for the Americans and catching up with the Americans. Do you feel tonight that you surpassed them?
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, no, I have no thoughts whatsoever that I have surpassed them, no, not at all. But the American baseball team came to recognize the Japanese team. To some extent, that is something that I believe is the result of this.
THE MODERATOR: Johjima, in the second and third innings you had the sacrifice flies. Did you do that on purpose?
KENJI JOHJIMA: Well, the sacrifice fly, it would be easier to hit than do a sacrifice fly, but it's true that I did consciously do that. And I knew it would be more of a possibility that it would be a sacrifice fly. The first time the wind was coming from the left, I felt that if the fly went in that direction, I felt that the runner would definitely be able to advance. I felt that the percentage was high for that to happen.
Both times I felt that way when I was in the batter's box. But I actually did aim for a hit for myself.

Q. Manager Hara, just wanted to ask you what was Murata's injury that allowed Kawasaki into the lineup? Can you talk about the difference he made tonight?
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, Murata had a tear in the hamstring, and that was pretty serious. That is why he could not play anymore. He was the main batter for our team, and for us, that was a big set-back.
But Kawasaki and Kataoka, actually, he was supposed to be at shortstop, but he did play the defense of the third base. And within the last month, he managed to make that his own position. So he has his own batting, uses his legs, and was able to hit the way Kawasaki himself plays baseball in his own, good way.

Q. I would like to have the impression of what you thought about the Matsuzaka pitching?
KENJI JOHJIMA: Compared to the Cuba game, I believe that the control of the slider was not as good. And so for the second ones, I asked them to be straight balls. I believe that the change-up was good. And what I think is good about him is if one ball is not good, one pitch, even when that ball is not good, he would not give up. I think that's what's good about Matsuzaka. In that sense, for that reason, maybe there was a lot of balls in that inning, but I believe that we were able to work through that.
I can say he was able to keep it down to two runs even though the condition wasn't as good as the last time. And the fact that after the two runs, the fact that he was able to strike out the next batter, that's why he's called an ace. I believe he showed that the kind of ball he throws is an ace.
TATSUNORI HARA: Just as Johjima said, I agree. It's true the condition was not that good, but Johjima worked with him and a lot of types of balls were used, and a lot of thoughts were put in there, ideas. And he kept on with his responsibility, and there were a lot of balls to hit through.
But the fact that he was able to hold it down to just two runs there, I believe, was his strength and ability.

Q. Manager Hara, Darvish came up at the end. Does it mean that the starter would be limited? Is it possible? Could you give us the name?
TATSUNORI HARA: The starter for tomorrow is Iwakuma.

Q. Could you please tell us why you used Darvish?
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, it's because if we didn't win today, there wasn't going to be a tomorrow.

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