Jan 23 –The 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees were announced at a press conference held at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. In the player section, Atsuya Furuta, a silver medalist in the Seoul Olympics, former player-manager for Yakult, and 2000-plus hitter was selected. No inductees were selected for the expert section, but the late Kazuo Hayashi, founder of the Japanese Little League, was granted special recognition, as was the late Ryuhei Murayama, founder of Asahi Shinbum and founder of the All Japan Middle School Baseball Championships, making for a total of 3 honorees.
Inductees are selected by a vote of the Selection Committee. Furuta received 255 votes (76.8%) out of a total of 332 eligible votes, surpassing the 75% benchmark required for induction. Hayashi received 13 votes and Murayama received 12 votes, both surpassing the 10 votes necessary for this category, and became 2015 inductees.
Furuta competed in the Seoul Olympics while at Toyota Motor Company. Teaming up with pitchers like Hideo Nomo who would become active in the professional leagues, he contributed to a silver medal. Selected 2nd in the 1990 draft by the Yakult Swallows, Furuta became starting catcher in his first year. He would become a leading catcher in the baseball world under the guidance of manager Katsuya Nomura.
Five-time league champion, three-time NPB champion, total of 2093 hits -- he has indeed left a legacy as a leading catcher in the baseball world.
In 1964, Hayashi saw how popular little league was in America and wanted to “let kids in Japan play too”, so he established the Japan Little League. After establishing the Chofu team in 1965 (currently Chofu Little League), he became executive director of the Little Senior Baseball Association. He continued to contribute to developments in the little senior league and expand its frontiers. His Chofu little senior team grew to become a powerhouse team, churning out the likes of Daisuke Araki (pitcher), who would play for Waseda Jitsugyo High School, and over 20 other professional baseball players.
Ryuhei Murayama founded The Asahi Shimbun in 1879. In 1915, he established the All Japan Middle School Baseball Championship, which was later renamed the All Japan High School Tournament and became a national sporting event. Through such activity, he has contributed to the expansion of the baseball population and improvement of baseball skills. He is being honored today in acknowledgment of his achievements.
Furuta expressed his joy at receiving the honor of induction.
“First, I want to thank my parents. And also, my junior high and high school coaches and Mr. Yoshinobu Suzuki (Vice-president of Nippon Baseball Association) for pushing me before I became a pro. After becoming a pro, if I didn’t have the strict instruction from manager Nomura, I wouldn’t be being inducted into the Hall of Fame today. In addition, I’m grateful to manager Wakamatsu and my teammates for believing in me.
Lastly, when I was president of the players’ association, there were some problems with reshuffling in the baseball world, but the fans support at that time was really big for me. I’d like to thank everyone for that again.”
Friend and partner with Furuta during the Seoul Olympics, Hideo Nomo was also present at the induction ceremony and offered the following congratulatory remarks to Furuta.
“The guy who was the friendliest to me at those first Olympic outings was Furuta. He was great at defense at the time, but even more so as a pro. As for hitting, he was the league’s leading hitter and built up a lot of success, so I hope that he communicates his baseball technique to the future players as well.”
Comments from Representatives of the Awardees
Kiyokazu Hayashi (eldest son of Kazuo Hayashi)
This story is over 50 years old now, but I remember my father telling me that “a regulation baseball little league like the one in America has been set up in Japan. If you make it to an international tournament, you can play baseball in America.” And then, a little bit later, I did actually get to go to America for an international tournament. I remember being in awe of the America players having fun playing baseball.
Mr. Kazuo Hayashi simply loves children and has worked almost 50 years now for their benefit. On this day, I am standing here in memory of him to accept this highest honor in baseball. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone.”
Shinya Iida (Chairman and Executive Director at The Asahi Shimbun)
“The summer Koshien has taken root in society as a synonym for summer itself. Over 800 thousand people have come out to the stadiums to watch games in the 6 years from the 90th tournament in 2008 to the 96th tournament. The fact that the Koshien tournament, which started 100 years ago as a part of education, has developed this far is a testament to the years of hard work put in by high school players, leaders and others involved in the high school baseball world. (Mr. Murayama) accepts this award on behalf of everyone who loves high school baseball and would like to partake of this joy with everyone who wishes to see high school baseball develop.”
You can watch a video of the Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee announcement at the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. (external link)
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