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Thursday, September 19, 2013
Ryozo Kato resigns as commish

ESPN.com news services

Japanese baseball commissioner Ryozo Kato has announced his resignation at an owners' meeting.

Wladimir Balentien
Wladimir Balentien broke Sadaharu Oh's 49-year-old home run record in a season in which there is controversy over a new, livelier baseball.

Kato, a former Japanese ambassador to the United States, came under criticism in June when it was revealed the league had secretly switched to a livelier baseball for the 2013 season. The new ball has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of home runs.

"I caused a lot of problems over the ball, and that was a huge reason for my decision,'' Kyodo news agency quoted Kato as saying.

On Sunday, former major leaguer Wladimir Balentien hit his 56th and 57th home runs, breaking the Japanese season record set by legendary slugger Sadaharu Oh 49 years ago.

As of Thursday morning, Balentien's record home run count stood at 58.

The 72-year-old Kato, who is in his third term a commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball, said he was never informed of the change to a livelier ball. The players' union called for his resignation when the issue came to light.

A third-party panel investigating the issue is scheduled to submit a report by the end of this month.

Kato said he will quit the post after the regular season, which ends Oct. 6. No immediate announcement was made regarding Kato's successor.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.