On December 2nd, the Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda will be honored by the Japanese Emperor and receive the Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions to the development of Japanese baseball.
Lasorda will receive the honor in Los Angeles from Counsul General Junichi Ihara on behalf of the Emperor.
“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 and is awarded in the name of the Emperor.
The Order of the Rising Sun was first allowed to be conveyed to non-Japanese residents in 1981. There are six classes, and the one Lasorda will receive will be "Gold Rays with Rosette".
Lasorda began his association with Japanese baseball in 1965, when he traveled to work with the Tokyo Giants as a guest coach. He instructed them on all aspects of the game: hitting, fielding, pitching, base running, and strategy.
He also gave advice on scouting techniques and setting up a player development system. Starting in 1965, the Tokyo Giants won nine consecutive titles.
The Dodgers then toured Japan in 1966, playing a series of games against Japanese teams. Japanese teams have also made many visits to the Dodgers spring training in Vero Beach over the years.
The Dodgers returned to Japan in 1993 to play in the Akihiro “Ike” Ikuhara Friendship Series. Ikuhara was a long time Dodger front office employee who served as the Dodger's conduit to Japan for many years. He had passed away the year before the series was played.
1995 saw Hideo Nomo arrive in Los Angeles, creating a wave of "Nomomania." His success opened the door for many more Japanese players to come and play in the Major Leagues. Lasorda was instrumental in aiding Nomo in his transition to life in the Majors as well as life in the United States.
Most recently, as Official Ambassador during the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, Lasorda traveled to Japan. In addition to his duties as spokesperson for the tournament, Tommy threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the games played in Japan.