CHIBA – Tadahito Iguchi, a member of the 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox and a three-time Japan Series winner, will manage the Chiba Lotte Marines next season, according to sources Tuesday.
Although a long list of Japanese players have competed in the majors, the 42-year-old Iguchi will be the first Japanese former big leaguer to manage in NPB. The team is expected to make the announcement on Thursday with a press conference to follow on Saturday.
Prior to his career finale on Sept. 24, the last-place Marines had offered Iguchi the job to replace outgoing skipper Tsutomu Ito. Although Iguchi was inclined to accept, he did not want to distract the club from trying to end the season on a winning note.
A second baseman for most of his career, Iguchi turned pro in 1997 with the Daiei Hawks and quickly made his mark with his power and base stealing, while developing into one of Japan’s best fielders.
His all-around contribution made him one of the most valuable players in NPB, and he was recognized as such by winning both the Golden Glove and Best Nine Award in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
Iguchi spent three seasons with the White Sox starting in 2005. After splitting the 2008 season with the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres, he returned to Japan with the Marines.
His acquisition in 2009 was marred by a regrettable season in which the club’s top executives tried to weasel their way out of paying Bobby Valentine’s hefty contract by undermining the manager’s efforts at every turn.
But despite being forced to play Iguchi ahead of a younger player who was ready to take over at second, Valentine had nothing but praise for the former big leaguer.
“We knew what a good player he had been, of course,” Valentine said. “But we never knew what a good teammate he was.”