In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Japanese baseball national team was managed by Senichi Hoshino and it was nicknamed Hoshino Japan.
Right before the previous tournament, the 2004 Athens Olympics, the team’s manager Shigeo Nagashima suffered a stroke, and he was replaced by Kiyoshi Nakahata, however the team only managed a bronze medal in the end. To clear this stain of defeat, NPB decided their next Japanese national team manager should be Senichi Hoshino, who has led the Chunichi Dragons to their league championship victory twice, and in 2003 he got the Hanshin Tigers their first league victory in 18 years.
It was decided that baseball would be removed from the 2012 London Olympics (later re-added to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics). At the time there were high expectations to win the gold medal as a crowning achievement in the final Olympics.
In the league finals of the Asian Baseball Championship that was held in December of 2007, they went against Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Philippines. Japan team achieved an overwhelming victory in all 3 matches with a score of 24-5. By coming in first place they earned the right to enter the Olympic finals, which further increased expectations that they would bring home a medal.
However under performance and injuries plagued the team’s main athletes one after another right before the Olympics. Koji Uehara, who at the time was enrolled in the Giants, Kyuji Fujikawa, who is the closer with the Hanshin Tigers, and others were expected to perform well, but continued to be in bad shape.
Moreover the player Takahiro Arai, who many had pinned their hopes on (at the time he was enrolled in Hanshin Tigers), also complained about lower back pain. Even Masahiro Tanaka, who later played for the New York Yankees, experienced pain in his right shoulder. Even after arriving in Beijing, one after another the batters had complaints about injuries, which struck a serious blow to their lineup.
When the single round robin preliminary league tournament started in the Olympics, they scored 4 wins and 3 losses. With a 4th place finish, they barely advanced to the finals of the tournament. However, in the semifinals they lost 2-6 to their old rivals, South Korea. Moreover, with the bronze medal on the line, in the fight for 3rd place against the United States they lost 4-8 and finished in 4th place.
After the tournament, manager Hoshino received a lot of criticism for his some mistakes like swapping pitchers at the wrong time, re-using the player who had made a fatal defensive errors and hiring Koji Yamamoto, who didn’t have experience as a defensive base running coach, etc.
As a result, Hoshino is forced to give up his position as the manager for the 2009 2nd WBC Japanese national, which he had been already unofficially promised.
While team was indeed utterly defeated, we can’t ignore the efforts of the outfielder Nori Aoki from the Yakult Swallows, who performed excellently during the tournament. Aoki participated in all of the matches, and with a batting average of .294, and OBP .359 he carried the team to the match for 3rd place, where he hit a home run and had a batting average of .500.