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March 23, 2009

Tatsunori Hara

Hisashi Iwakuma

Daisuke Matsuzaka

Ichiro Suzuki


THE MODERATOR: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are joined by Manager Tatsunori Hara from the champions of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
Manager Hara, could you please give us your impressions of the game and Team Japan's successes?
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, we represented Japan. Since the team has been formed together, it's been more than a month. Day by day, the team evolved. Today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the way we re-evolved and got stronger. That's how we started.
Today we were able to greet the day, and the fact that we were able to remain one of the best two was within myself wonderful. Of course, the goal is to win, but within myself, somewhere there was satisfaction about the fact that we were able to come this far. So in that sense, I was able to do this game today. A rather relaxed machinery.
But then again, when the game started, Team Korea, and the finals, and as was expected, it became a very close game. I felt like we could have scored more, but it was difficult for us to earn runs with the Korean defense.
But we were able to hold on. So we tied at 3-3 and faced a tenth inning. At the end, Ichiro hit the ball into center, and we were able to score two runs. I believe that the base hit is something that I will never forget. It's an image that will forever be imprinted in my mind.
So even though I did expect it, the fact that it became such a close game -- I believe it was a close game. We became number 1 in the world. Last time it was Manager Oh that won the World Championship, and the fact that we were able to obtain Victory No. 2, following him I feel happy, and I feel really thankful for that. Thank you.

Q. Hara-san, congratulations. Your move in the ninth inning to bring in Darvish against the left-handed hitters, particularly when you had your top left-handed reliever on the mound, that was a gamble and it worked out for you, but Darvish wound up allowing the tying run. What played into your thinking about doing this?
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, in the bullpen, the pitcher who was the best is the one I picked. That is why I picked him.

Q. Congratulations. Today's order, I feel like the order was done so that you wanted to bring down the pitcher, Jungkeun Bong, but I feel like it didn't work that well. Can you explain the order and your intentions for that?
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, let's see. It's true that Pitcher Bong was something we needed to address. Otherwise, we didn't see that we could win. So providing the offense, I feel like we provided the best order for that. Whether or not it worked well, that's something we cannot discuss. I just believed it, and we believed it, so we used them in that order.
It's true there were a lot of pitches that ended up being thrown, and I believe it was a win after all, that it was 0-3 that we were able to bring him down.

Q. Can you talk about facing Korea five times in this tournament and the general rivalry between the two countries?
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, first of all, I've said a lot of times already, we first played in the Tokyo Dome in the first round. It was the second game we played against the Koreans. And at that time, we won, Japan did. And at the press conference, at that time, I said I had the feeling that we were going to meet them a number of times. The fact that we actually did end up playing five times, the most number of times that you can play against any team, the fact that we were able to do that, it is something that I had a feeling we would do, but I am also surprised that we did.
So under this rule, we did follow the rules, and we did play under those rules. And we did the best we could do against a team that we were to play against. As a result we played five games against the Koreans, and in the end, we were able to win. That's how it ended.

Q. The extra inning, the tenth inning, I would like to know you're feeling when you went into the extra inning.
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, as I said earlier, when I said we were tied, I felt like we were holding it up, that's why we were able to get into the tenth inning. I did feel that it would be an advantage to us.
There is only one person on the Korean team that was on the bench, and, of course, they had a lot of pitchers. But in that sense, in terms of offense, I felt that the Japan team had more variation and more players left in the tenth inning.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Korean baseball. The professional baseball league started late in Korea, but can you give us an impression of your thoughts on Korean baseball itself?
TATSUNORI HARA: I believe that Korean baseball is a wonderful style in itself. It's a wonderful country that has that specific style. You have organizational power and speed. They're at the world level now, I believe.
In playing against Korea, there were three wins, two losses, so in that sense, Japan was able to lead slightly, somewhat. But as you know, baseball wins and losses are just paper-thin differences, especially in this World Baseball Classic. The fact that the two Asian countries were able to play against each other in the finals is something that we and the Koreans can be proud of.
So in that sense, we're in a good rivalry and want to continue pulling baseball together this way.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we have been joined by players Ichiro Suzuki and Dice-K Matsuzaka.

Q. Ichiro, in the tenth inning, right after you had the hit and reached second base, it seemed like you didn't seem any different from any other time. Why do you feel that you didn't act any differently at that time?
ICHIRO SUZUKI: Can I answer right away?

Q. And also in the batter's box, the fifth pitch, when you saw the curve ball that came towards your foot, did you see that it bounced once? Did you see that?
TATSUNORI HARA: Go ahead, please.
ICHIRO SUZUKI: Well, when I reached second base, the way I acted, well in regards to that, it was because it's my way to remain the same way that I am. If I do not do that, I cannot support myself in a tough situation like that. So I always made it a point to do that. In regards to the foul ball, it did not bounce once.
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by Hisashi Iwakuma.

Q. Ichiro, were you surprised they did not walk you in the tenth inning with the open base?
ICHIRO SUZUKI: There was no surprise. Number two, there was Nakajima, and he is a batter you wanted to avoid. So there was a possibility for the bases to be loaded, and I knew they would want to fight against that, so I wasn't at all surprised.

Q. Ichiro, the last time you went to the batter's box, do thoughts come to you, or are you in a mode of Zen where you think of nothing but just standing in the batter's box?
ICHIRO SUZUKI: I thought about a whole lot of things. I really wish I could be in the state of Zen, but I felt like it was -- I kept thinking of all these things that I shouldn't think about. But usually when I think of all the things I shouldn't think about, I can't really hit. But I was able to hit, so I felt like maybe I surpassed something myself.

Q. Manager Hara, regarding the intentional walk that Korea did not issue to Ichiro, what do you think about that?
THE MODERATOR: Can you repeat the question?

Q. What do you think about the intentional walk not being issued to Ichiro by the Korean pitcher? There was a sign, but the Korean team did not communicate well.
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, there is nothing we can say about that. I just thought they were serious, that they wanted to play straight with us. That's how we looked at it. So I don't know what to say about that.

Q. Iwakuma, and Mr. Dice-K, I wanted to ask you each a question. Mr. Iwakuma, when you pitched against the Korean team what do you think about the most that you were able to do so well? And Mr. Matsuzaka, I wanted to ask you, from the last win and this win, what's the difference that you feel in you?
HISASHI IWAKUMA: In regards to the Korean hits, I felt that they hit straight, so I wanted to control lower. So I calmed down, and I was able to throw low. I felt that I was able to do the best I could.
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: The difference between last time and this time is I was able to participate as a champion, and I was again able to win the championship again. So that's the biggest difference.

Q. Matsuzaka, after having won the championship the last time, now there is three years later, and now you were playing in the tournament winning one by one with the pressure of having to win the championship again. Now that you have conquered that, how do you feel?
ICHIRO SUZUKI: What was the question again?

Q. (No microphone.)
ICHIRO SUZUKI: With the pressure and the expectations, I felt that it was impossible to increase the performance under such pressure. But personally, there was more pain and hurt and things that I usually do not feel that I experienced this time. I think any team would understand this, I think it's true that, as expected, it was going to be tough.
In a game of baseball, when you think about the season, it's a special situation. But in the case of Korea, where they have such strong power, and organizational power, I could see that watching Korea that they had that kind of strength. I really felt that.
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: I don't know if I need to speak at all. But, personally, in regards to the season, if it's the season, I usually pitch looking at the content. All you have to do is pitch well, and it doesn't really matter even if you lose. But in a tournament like this, you can't just throw a good pitch, you have to bring it to the win for the team. Whatever you do, you have to always think of winning, no matter what. That is how I played the games in this tournament.
Like I said, I was in a different position from the last time, because I was already a champion last time. And then there are players younger than me that I wanted to show by action rather than by words, so that was something I had in my mind. I believe I did some things that I did that I would not ordinarily do. So in that sense, I was able to experience how difficult baseball could be. In that sense it was a very good experience for me.

Q. Dice-K, you've now won two World Baseball Classic titles, two World Baseball Classic MVPs, and a World Series in the last three years. How do you put that all into perspective?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: That's difficult. It's not something that a lot of people can experience, and it's not something that anybody can earn. So I feel that I'm a very lucky. I'm really thankful about the MVP. I didn't think that it was going to be me at all. I felt that I was lucky, and I felt that -- it couldn't be compared to Mr. Iwakuma, who pitched today. So I felt that Iwakuma would get the MVP myself.

Q. Ichiro, you won two WBCs. Are you going to be around for the Japanese national team next time around?
ICHIRO SUZUKI: That's a very difficult question. That's four years from now. I don't even know if I'm going to be alive four years from now. What kind of a question is that? That is what I would like to say.

Q. How about the others? Dice-K?
DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Well, I'm not sure if I was asked that question last time, but it is something that I'm asked a lot. My answer doesn't change, that I want to continue to be a player that would be invited to this. That's how I feel.
HISASHI IWAKUMA: Well, I was able to participate in WBC for the first time, and it was really fun. It was the pride of Japan. And if possible, I would like to participate again.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That concludes this evening.
Congratulations, Team Japan.

End of FastScripts

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