Japan's World Baseball Classic-winning skipper Hideki Kuriyama revealed Friday that advice from high school and corporate team managers was part of his recipe for success at the tournament in March.
"I listened to and learned from high school and corporate team managers, as their teams mostly play single-elimination tournaments," Kuriyama said at a press conference just days after finishing his term as Samurai Japan manager.
"The most important thing that I learned was not to wait too long (to make pitching or other changes)."
At the WBC, teams played in pools before the single-elimination rounds starting with the quarterfinals. Japan won all seven of its games at the tournament.
Kuriyama, who was Shohei Ohtani's first pro manager and helped develop him as a two-way player at the Nippon Ham Fighters, guided Japan to an unprecedented third WBC title.
"Things may not always go your way, but I kept telling myself during the WBC to pull out every possible option," he said.
Kuriyama emphasized how his players devoted themselves to the team, adding he believes the strength of Japanese baseball, based on work ethic and training methods, impressed people watching both in Japan and abroad.
"I knew those great parts of Japanese baseball we have inherited from older generations is something of which we can be proud," Kuriyama said.
Generally speaking, Japanese baseball is not known for power-hitting, but in its 3-2 victory in the final against the United States, Japan had solo home runs from Munetaka Murakami and Kazuma Okamoto.
"The Americans might not have had all their best players, but our guys went after them, playing their usual game, and that included hitting home runs," Kuriyama said.
Kuriyama also admitted he felt pressure to win, as the WBC is often treated as the most important thing of all for baseball in Japan.
"I borrowed star players from each club, so I had to keep them injury-free while concentrating on winning games," he said.
"The players knew what they had to do, much more than I did. I imagine myself saying 'thank you' to them wherever and whenever I see them."
The 62-year-old is often called a new-school Japanese baseball manager, one who communicates well with players and listens to them, setting him apart from stereotypical skippers who listened less and were more inclined toward being dictatorial.
Asked what he will do next, Kuriyama said, "I have some ideas, but things haven't been sorted out within myself."
"I'm getting old, so I'll try to make moves with a little sense of urgency. Anything I do will be for baseball."
Kuriyama's replacement has not yet been selected. The senior national team is next scheduled to compete at the Nov. 16-19 Asia Professional Baseball Championship at Tokyo Dome.