Hall of Fame Manager and Special Advisor to the Chairman Tommy Lasorda will be honored by the Emperor of Japan and will receive the Order of the Rising Sun. The award was announced on November 3 by the Japanese government. Lasorda is receiving this decoration because of his contributions to the development of Japanese baseball, and will be honored in Los Angeles on December 2, where Consul General Junichi Ihara will bestow Lasorda with the decoration.
“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this award,” said Lasorda. “I have the highest respect for the Japanese people and have loved working with them in every aspect to help build a bridge between our two countries through baseball.”
The Order of the Rising Sun was established in 1875 by the Meiji government in Japan . The Order was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese government by “Edict on the Establishment of Decoration and Service Medals.” It is awarded in the name of the Emperor in the same way as all the decorations that were established thereafter.
The Order of the Rising Sun was conferred on non-Japanese recipients starting in 1981. It is administered by the Decoration Bureau of the Office of the Prime Minister. With six classes of the Order, Lasorda’s Order will be decorated with “Gold Rays with Rosette.” The ‘Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette’ is an eight-pointed silver badge with white enameled rays, bearing a central emblem of a red enameled sun disc surrounded by red rays, and with three paulownia blossoms between each arm of the cross.
Lasorda is being honored because of his efforts in the development of Japanese baseball. He has worked to build a bridge between American and Japanese baseball for parts of five decades, while spreading goodwill through the respective country’s love of the game.
Lasorda and the Dodgers have a long history with Japanese baseball. In 1965, on behalf of the Dodgers, Lasorda traveled to Japan as a guest coach of the Tokyo Giants. Lasorda worked with Tetsuharu Kawakami , Manager of the Giants, and his coaching staff and players, and trained them on all aspects of the game including the fundamentals of pitching, hitting, fielding, base running, and baseball strategy as well as scouting techniques and the creation of a player development system. The Giants won nine consecutive titles starting that year.
The relationship between the Dodgers and Japanese baseball grew tremendously because of Lasorda’s visit to Japan in 1965. The Dodgers toured Japan in 1966 and played a series of games against Japanese teams. These visits led to a series of visits by Japanese teams to the Dodgers’ Spring Training facility in Vero Beach , Florida for baseball clinics conducted by Lasorda and other Dodger coaches. The Tokyo Giants visited five times, the first being in 1961, and four subsequent visits in 1967, ’71, ’75 and ’80 while the Chunichi Dragons visited Dodgertown in 1988.
Lasorda and the Dodgers visited Japan again in 1993 for the Akihiro “Ike” Ikuhara Friendship Series. Ikuhara, who passed away one year before the Friendship Series, was the Dodgers’ conduit to Japan for many years and was an instrumental part of the relationship between Japanese baseball and the Dodgers.
In 1995, Hideo Nomo became only the second Japanese-born player to appear in Major League Baseball. The Nomo signing and his success opened the doors for Japanese players in the United States . Lasorda is credited for helping Nomo’s transition from the Japanese league to the Major Leagues, and more importantly, for helping him adjust to the cultural changes from Japan to the United States.
After Lasorda’s retirement from managing the Dodgers in 1996, and his Hall of Fame induction in 1997, he continued his relationship with Japanese baseball by signing a Friendship Agreement with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2001. Similar to what he did in 1965 with the Tokyo Giants, Lasorda visited the Buffaloes in Japan more than 15 times over the next three years conducting clinics for the players and coaching staff, as well as instructing the Buffaloes in scouting and player development. The Buffaloes also visited Dodgertown in 2001, ’02, and ’03 for fall training camp hosted by Lasorda and Dodger coaches.
Lasorda’s involvement with Japan goes beyond his expertise in baseball. In June 2005, he was asked by President George W. Bush to serve as a delegate to the U.S. National Day at the World Expo in Aichi, Japan . He represented the United States at the World Expo as each country hosts a National Day and has a pavilion on which to host their exhibit.
As Lasorda’s role in the globalization of the game grew, Commissioner Bud Selig appointed him as the Official Ambassador of the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. In that capacity, Lasorda served as a spokesperson for the tournament and traveled to Japan to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the WBC for the games being played in Japan .
Source: Los Angeles Dodgers