Tag Archives: retirement

Maverick Uehara runs his course

Former Yomiuri Giants ace and Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara announced his retirement Monday in Tokyo, bringing an end to an entertaining and dynamic career in which he became the first Japanese player to register 100 wins, saves and holds.

At a press conference in which the 44-year-old worked in vain to hold back tears, saying he came into the season knowing it would be his last. Three months after the start of camp and unable to get batters out on the farm despite feeling fit, Uehara said he wanted to call it quits sooner rather than later – when a retirement press conference might be a distraction during the pennant race.

Read a transcript of Uehara’s retirement press conference in Tokyo HERE.

Uehara burst on the scene in 1999, going 20-4 for the Giants after he turned down the Angels, who were said to have offered a deal worth $9 million – about seven times what an NPB team could officially offer an amateur.

In 2005, he told Japan’s Daily Yomiuri (now the Japan News) the Giants guaranteed he would start on the first team, while the Angels would only go as far as handing him a Double-A opening. Between that, not having to be deal with a language barrier and whatever the Giants were offering under the table, Uehara signed his future away to Yomiuri.

Within a few years, however, Uehara was pushing the Giants for an early exit so he could play in the majors.

“Nine years needed for free agency in Japan is truly a long time, but as an amateur, you don’t think about that,” he told the Daily Yomiuri.

When the Giants’ windbag owner Tsuneo Watanabe told the media that he would fire any player who asked to be posted, Uehara demanded to be posted. When Watanabe threatened to release any player with the temerity to send an agent to contract negotiations, Uehara sent his agent, only for the Giants to deny that Uehara’s representative was in fact an agent.

When Japanese players aquire the service time needed to file for free agency, NPB alerts the media, and reporters descend on them, only to hear, “We’re in the middle of the season. My only focus is on winning a championship.”

Not Uehara.

“I’m going to the majors,” he said during the middle of the 2008 season, a mediocre year that went downhill after he broke the taboo of talking about free agency during the season.

In 1999, he won the Central League’s rookie of the year award and winning the Sawamura Award as Nippon Professional Baseball’s most impressive starting pitcher.

At the end of the season, with the Giants out of the pennant race, Uehara made a meme of himself by protesting a Japanese baseball custom of not competing in order to assist a teammate’s pursuit of an individual title.

With Hideki Matsui pursuing the CL home run title, Uehara was ordered to walk Yakult Swallows slugger Roberton Petagine. Uehara, showed his bent for idealism and tears by crying on the mound, and his distaste for the order by kicking the dirt on the mound after Petagine trotted to first base.

The following year Uehara began suffering the first of a long series of leg injuries but bounced back to be one of the league’s top pitchers from 2002 to 2004. For two years after that Uehara battled more injuries and in 2007 was sent to the bullpen, where he was dynamite as the Giants despite constantly lobbying for a return to the rotation that his fitness wouldn’t justify.

He got a brief shot at starting in 2008 but failed badly, and chose the Baltimore Orioles the following season because they promised him a chance to start in 2009. Traded to the Texas Rangers in 2011, the following season, he was in a pitching staff with two former NPB strikeout leaders, Colby Lewis and Yu Darvish, as well as his high school teammate, Yoshinori Tateyama.

In high school, Tateyama had been the ace, while Uehara who had run track in junior high, was an outfielder, whose principle mound role came as a senior as a batting practice pitcher. He didn’t begin pitching in earnest until he entered university, where he went to earn a teaching credential.

Uehara’s stay with the Rangers, however, was brief. He was cut loose after a poor run of results at the end of the 2012 season and available to the Red Sox at a bargain price and finished seventh in the American League’s Cy Young Award voting.

After one last season in the majors with the Chicago Cubs in 2017, Uehara, at 42 with 95 MLB saves under his belt said he would retire rather than return to NPB, but in March he admitted that he was not ready to give up the life of a pro ballplayer and signed with Yomiuri.

He pitched in 36 games last year for the Giants, going 0-5 with 14 holds and no saves. Last October, he had surgery to clean out his left knee. The Giants released him and re-signed him for 2019 after he was declared fit.

Although he said he was fit all spring, he was ineffective. Through April, he toiled with the Giants’ minor leaguers. He struck out 10 batters in nine innings in the Eastern League but allowed four runs. At his retirement press conference on Monday, he said he’d come into the 2019 season knowing it would be his last. That knowledge, he said, hindered his search for the extra gear he might have had that would turn his year around.

“If you have a next year, then you work even harder,” he said. “This year I was going to compete for a full season, but I had already told myself I didn’t have any more next years. As one would expect, I found it very hard to keep my body and mind in sync.”

Koji Uehara retirement presser

「本日をもちまして、21年間の現役生活を終えたいな、と思います。えー……(涙をぬぐう。約10秒言葉に詰まる)。これまで自分に関わってくれた人、方々に感謝したいと思います。ありがとうございました」

Uehara: “Today, I’m calling an end to my active career of 21 years. I would like to thank those who’ve been on this journey with me.”


-引退を決めた今の胸の内は

上原: まぁ、もうちょっとやりたかったなという、そういう思いです。

–Your feelings today, having decided to retire?

Uehara: “Well, what I think is that I wanted to keep going a little longer.”

-引退を決めてからの心境の変化は

上原 自分が決めた以上、もうユニホームを着ることはないわけですから。気持ちを切り替えていかなければと今は思っています。

–How has your state of mind changed since your decision to retire?

Uehara: “Having made my decision, I won’t be putting on that uniform again. I believe now I need to change my mindset.”

-引退の決断のきっかけは

上原 もう今年で辞めることは最初から決めていたことなんで。3カ月が僕の中では勝負と思っていた。2月、3月、4月と練習する中で、1度も1軍に上がることなく、2軍で試合に投げさせてもらっても、抑えていないという葛藤もありましたし、8月、9月になるとチームが首位争いするという状況の中で、自分がこういう会見をするのは違うという思いがあったので、早く終わろうと思った。

–What was the impetus behind your decision to retire?

Uehara: “I had already decided that I would quit this year, and in my mind I felt three months would be make or break. February, March, April I trained, but was never called up to the top team. And when I was given opportunities to pitch on the farm, even then I couldn’t get guys out. I thought it would be best to do it earlier rather than later. In August or September, with the team embroiled in the pennant race, calling a press conference like this would be quite a different thing from this.”

-心と体のズレはあったか?

上原 手術して、体自体は良い調子というかね、全然投げられる状態ですけど。その状態の中で2軍戦で通用していなかったというのが、自分の中で気持ち的に後ろ向きになったのかなと思ってます。

–Did you feel there was a gap between your mental image and your physical condition?

Uehara: “After surgery (left knee cleaning in October), my physical condition was good and I was able to throw fine. But even in that condition, it didn’t play in the minor league games. In my mind I thought I was going backwards.

-後ろ向きになった瞬間はこれまであったか

上原 何回かありましたけど。来年があるのであれば、もうちょっと頑張ろうと、今年1年やろうという気持ちになりましたけど、来年はもうないというのは自分の中で決めてましたから、うーん、やっぱり気持ちと体がなかなか一致しませんでしたというところですね。

–Have you had that feeling before that you were going backwards?

Uehara: “A number of times. If you have a next year, then you work even harder. This year I was going to compete for a full season, but I had already told myself I didn’t have any more next years. And as one would expect, I found it very hard to keep my body and mind in sync.

-同学年の福浦との対戦もあった。あれもきっかけ?

上原 福浦と対戦できたというのは僕の中で、すごくうれしかったこと。あと西武戦で稼頭央監督の目の前で投げられたのというのは、僕の中ではいい思い出と言ったらおかしいですけど、僕の中でこれでいいのかなと思いましたね。

–Last year you pitched against (Lotte’s) Kazuya Fukuura, who’s the same age as you. Did that trigger anything?

Uehara: “I was so thrilled to be able to face him. I also pitched against Seibu in front of Kazuo Matsui. It may sound strange to say those were good memories, but those things made me really happy.”

-どんな道のりだった

上原 まぁ、ケガばっかりの、中途半端だったかなと思いますね。

–How would you describe the path you took?

Uehara: “Well, it seems like I was always injured, so I think I only went halfway.”

-雑草魂で貫いた姿に感動したファンは多い

上原 手を抜いて投げたことはないですし、今年に限っても、若い選手と一緒に練習しましたし、抜いて練習してたことは自分のなかで一切無かったんで。そういう姿を見て、励みになってくれたらすごくうれしいことですね。

–A lot of fans were inspired by your tough, gritty attitude.

Uehara: “I never cut corners when I pitched. As far as this year, I trained alongside the young players, and never took shortcuts in practice. I’m really happy if others were encouraged by that.”

-「トリプル100」の記録はどう受け止める。

上原 それに関しては、中途半端かなと。どのポジションで全うしたわけでなく。中途半端に先発、中継ぎ、抑えとやっちゃったかなと思います。

— How is your triple-100 accomplishment received? (100 wins, 100 holds, 100 saves)

Uehara: “In regards to that, it’s kind of a mediocre achievement. I didn’t really succeed at any one thing. It’s mediocrity as a starter, as a middle reliever and as a closer.”

-野球を終えたこれからどうする

上原 正直、まだ何も考えてないです。明日からどうしようかなぁという感じです。

–Going forward, what comes after baseball?

Uehara: “Honestly, I haven’t thought of anything. I have a feeling that from tomorrow I’ll ask myself what I should do.”

-チームへのメッセージを

上原 今、首位争いしている中で、こんなことになって申し訳ないなと思います。でも、本当にチームは良い感じできているので、このままみんな頑張ってほしいなと思います。

–Do you have a message for your team?

Uehara: “Right now, we’re competing for the lead, so I apologize for doing this kind of thing. But having said that, the team has a really good feel to it. I hope they can keep doing well like this.”

Ichiro from start to finish, part 4

Ichiro Suzuki announced his retirement at a press conference after midnight in Tokyo on Friday, March 22. I have translated the entire press conference from start to finish to give you a sense of how it went down. I hope you enjoy. I have included the original Japanese text. The questions have been mercilessly shortened, however.

He made two curtain calls, once after he left the game at the start of the bottom of the eighth inning, and again after the Mariners’ extra-inning win over the Athletics. What follows is the Japanese and English text of his retirement press conference early on the morning of March 22 in Tokyo.

Ichiro Suzuki tips his cap to fans at Tokyo Dome as he leaves his last big league game. on March 21 ,2019. Photo by Seito Takamizawa

――(長々と説明後に)1年目のゲームから今日を思い出しましたか?

「長い質問に対して大変失礼なんですが、ないですね」

–(After an extremely long buildup) do you have any memories from the games in your first year to today?

“I’m sorry to be rude in answer to such a long question, but no.”

――プロ野球選手になるという夢を叶えて成功してきて、今何を得たと思うか?

「成功かどうかってよく分からないですよね。じゃあどこからが成功で、そうじゃないのかというのは、全く僕には判断できない。成功という言葉がだから僕は嫌いなんですけど……メジャーリーグに挑戦する、どの世界でもそうですね、新しい世界に挑戦するということは大変な勇気だと思うんですけど、でもここはあえて成功と表現しますけど、成功すると思うからやってみたい、それができないと思うから行かないという判断基準では後悔を生むだろうなと思います。やりたいならやってみればいい。できると思うから挑戦するのではなくて、やりたいと思えば挑戦すればいい。そのときにどんな結果が出ようとも後悔はないと思うんです。じゃあ自分なりの成功を勝ち取ったときに、達成感があるのかといったらそれも僕には疑問なので。基本的にはやりたいと思ったことに向かっていきたいですよね。

 で、何を得たか……まぁ、こんなものかなあという感覚ですかねぇ。それは200本もっと打ちたかったし、できると思ったし、1年目にチームは116勝して、その次の2年間も93勝して、勝つのってそんなに難しいことじゃないなってその3年は思っていたんですけど、大変なことです。勝利するのは。この感覚を得たことは大きいかもしれないですね」

–You succeeded in realizing your dream of becoming a pro baseball player. What have you gained?

“I don’t really know if I succeeded or not. Where do you measure it from? Because if you can’t do that, then I’m unable to judge. I dislike that word, “success.” Trying the major leagues, or any other world, I think requires great courage because you are taking on the challenge of a world that’s new for you. In that sense I would use the word “success,” but that’s because you go because you think you’ll succeed. If you don’t go because you think you can’t be successful, I think that will become a source of regret. Basically, I try things because I want to do them. But what have I gained? I guess that’s how I feel about it. I wanted to get about 200 hits, and I thought I could. My first year our team won 116 games, 93 the next two. So in those three years I didn’t think winning was such a difficult thing. It is in fact extremely hard. That realization might be the big thing I took away.”

――毎年神戸に自主トレに行っている。ユニホームを脱ぐことで神戸に何か恩返ししたい思いは?

「神戸は特別な街です、僕にとって。恩返しかー……、恩返しって何することなんですかね。僕は選手として続けることでしかそれができないと考えていたこともあって、できるだけ長く現役を続けたいと思っていたこともあるんですね。神戸に……恩返し……、じゃあ、あの税金を少しでも払えるように頑張ります」

–You do your offseason training in Kobe. Now that you’ve retired do you have some emotion to want to repay a debt of gratitude to the city?

“Kobe’s streets are special to me. As for repaying, I wonder what that might be. From my standpoint as a player, I thought of nothing but continuing my career and playing as long as I could. Kobe? Repay a debt of gratitude? I suppose I can do my best to pay them some taxes.”

――日米で活躍する選手は甲子園で活躍、プロで活躍、そしてメジャーに挑戦という流れがある。もっとこんな制度ならメジャーに挑戦しやすかったとか、こういうことあればいいなという提言は?

「制度に関しては僕は詳しくないんですけども、でも日本で基礎を作る、自分が将来、MLBでプレーする……。MLBで活躍するために礎を作るという考え方であれば、できるだけ早くというのは分かりますけど、日本の野球で鍛えられることってたくさんあるんですよね。だから制度だけに目を向けるのはフェアではないと思いますけどね」

――日本の野球で鍛えられたことは?

「基本的な基礎の動きって、おそらくメジャーリーグの選手より日本だったら中学生レベルの方がうまい可能性だってありますよ。それはチームとしての連係もあるじゃないですか。そんなの言わなくたってできますからね、日本の野球では。でも、こちらではなかなかそこは……。個人としてのポテンシャル、運動能力は高いですけど、そこにはかなり苦しみましたよ。苦しんで、諦めましたよ」

–(Japanese) players who go to the majors now follow a path from playing  (in the high school tournaments) at Koshien Stadium, and from there to Japanese pro ball and then the majors. Based on your own experiences if there was a different a system, that would make it easier for Japanese to go to the majors, what would that be? This is hypothetical, but could there be some kind of developmental system or is playing in Nippon Professional Baseball still the best way?

“I really don’t know in much detail about systems as such. My baseball foundations were laid in Japan for my future of playing in MLB. But in the case of building the necessary foundation in order to play in MLB, I know that the sooner you go the better, but Japanese baseball still has much to teach, so it’s really not fair to look just at the different systems.”

–What did you Japanese baseball teach you?

“One could argue that from the standpoint of fundamentals, how to play the game, Japanese junior high school-level players may be better than major leaguers because of the focus on teamwork through things like relay plays. We (Japanese) can execute those things without being told. That’s Japanese baseball, but over there, well… the players used to be athletic and have high individual potential, and I think that is still the case, but (my hope that teammates would become better fundamentally) it was so frustrating. Eventually, it became so frustrating I just put it out of my mind.”

――エンゼルスの大谷翔平選手との対戦を楽しみにしていたけど、叶わなかった。イチローさん本人は対戦したかったか?

「先ほどもお伝えしましたが、世界一の選手にならないといけない選手ですよ。そう考えてます。翔平との対戦、残念ですけど、できれば僕がピッチャーで翔平バッターがやりたかったんですよ。そこは誤解なきようにお願いします」

――大谷選手は今後どのような選手になっていくと思いますか?

「なっていくかどうか? そこは占い師に聞いてもらわないとわからないけどねぇ。まぁでも、投げることも、打つこともやるのであれば、僕は1シーズンごとに、1シーズンはピッチャー、次のシーズンは打者として、それでサイ・ヤング(賞)とホームラン王を取ったら……だってそんなこと考えることすらできないですよ。翔平はその想像をさせるじゃないですか、人に。この時点でもう明らかに人とは違う選手であると思うんですけど。その二刀流は面白いなと思うんですよね。(記者に向かって)納得いっていない感じの表情ですけど。ピッチャーとして20勝するシーズンがあって、その翌年には50本打ってMVP獲ったら、これ化け物ですよね。でも、それが想像できなくないですからね。そんな風に思っています」

–We were looking forward to facing the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, but it didn’t come to pass. Did you want to face him?

“I think I answered that already, but my thinking is he is a guy who has to be No. 1 in the world. It’s unfortunate about a matchup against each other. I wanted to pitch against Shohei if that had been possible. Please don’t misunderstand that. ”

–What kind of player do you think Shohei Ohtani will become?

“What will he be? I think that’s something only a fortune teller can explain. If one was capable of pitching and hitting, what I would like to do is pitch one season and bat the next. In that way one could win the Cy Young Award one year and win the home run title the next. That’s because it’s something I can’t even consider. After all, Shohei is the kind of player who invites that kind of impression. He’s already proved he’s a player who is different from others. I think that playing two ways is pretty cool. You don’t look like that answer is going to satisfy you.”

“OK. Let’s say he wins 20 games in one year as a pitcher, and hits 50 home runs the next and is MVP. That’s a monster, but it’s not something you can exclude as a possibility. That’s kind of how I look at him.”

――現役野球選手じゃない自分は嫌だとインタビューで言っていた。

「僕は嫌だって言わないと思うけどね。僕、野球選手じゃない僕を想像するの嫌だとたぶん言っていないと思いますよ」

――改めて野球選手ではない自分を想像してどうか?

「いやだから、違う野球選手に多分なってますよ。あれ? この話さっきしましたよね。お腹減ってきて集中力が切れてきちゃって、さっき何話したのかもちょっと記憶に……。草野球の話しましたよね? そっちでいずれ……それは楽しくやっていると思うんですけど。そうするときっと草野球を極めたいと思うんでしょうね。真剣に草野球をやるという野球選手になるんじゃないですか、結局。聞いてます?」

「お腹減ってきたもうー。結構やっていないですか、これ。今時間どれくらい? 1時間? 20分? あらー。今日はとことんお付き合いしようかなと思ったんですけどね。お腹減ってきちゃった」

–It is said you agreed with the sentiment that you would hate the idea of yourself as a retired player.

“I don’t think I would say, ‘I hate that.’ I don’t believe I said I dislike the idea of myself as someone who isn’t a player.”

–So can you imagine yourself as something other than a baseball player?

“Since you don’t like that (answer), do you mean seeing myself playing a different kind of baseball? I already talked about that. I’m kind of hungry and my concentration is fading. My recollection of what I said before is…Did I talk about “kusayakyu” (backlot baseball)? In any case, I think that would be fun. I would be the kind of player who masters kusayakyu. In that case, I’d be really serious at it. Are you listening?”
“I am so hungry. Is this not enough? How long have we been going at this? An hour? 1 hour, 20 minutes? Oh my. I was kind of hoping to be out with people until late, and now I’m starving.”

――プロ野球人生振り返って、誇れることは?

「これ、先ほどお話しましたよね。小林君もちょっと集中力切れてるんじゃないの? 完全にその話したよね。ほらそれで1問減ってしまうんだから」

–When you look back on your career, what are you proud of (from Mr. Kobayashi of the Daily Sports)?

“Hold on. I think I answered that already. Mr. Kobayashi is your concentration also wavering? I absolutely definitely answered that, so that’s one less question for me.”

――イチロー選手の小学生時代の卒業文集に「僕の夢は一流の野球選手になることです」と書いていたが、その当時の自分にどんな言葉をかけたいですか?

「お前、契約金1億(円)ももらえないよって。ですね。いやー夢は大きくと言いますけどね、なかなか難しいですよ。ドラ1の1億って掲げていましたけど、全然、遠く及ばなかったですから。いやー、ある意味では挫折ですよね、それは」

「こんな終わり方でいいのかな? なんかきゅっとしたいよね、最後は」

–When you were in elementary school, you wrote in your graduation essay ‘My dream is to be a top-level baseball player.’ What would you like to say to that boy that was you?

“Listen kid. You’re not going to get a 100 million yen ($900,000) signing bonus. Yes, that’s right. No, we say to have big dreams, but they are also hard. I also wrote that I wanted to be a No. 1 draft pick with a bonus of 100 million, but that proved beyond my grasp. So in a sense, is that not frustration, too? Is that a good place to end this? I really want to polish this off properly, so OK one last question.”

――前のマリナーズ時代、何度か「自分は孤独を感じながらプレーしている」と話していた。ヤンキース、マーリンズとプレーする役割が変わってきて、去年ああいう状態があって今年引退。その孤独感はずっと感じてプレーしていたのか。それとも前の孤独感とは違うものがあったのか。

「現在それ(孤独感)全くないです。今日の段階で、それは全くないです。それとは少し違うかもしれないですけど、アメリカに来て、メジャーリーグに来て……外国人になったこと。アメリカでは僕は外国人ですから。このことは……外国人になったことで、人の心を慮ったり、人の痛みを想像したり、今までなかった自分が現れたんですよね。この体験というのは、本を読んだり、情報を取ることはできたとしても、体験しないと自分の中からは生まれないので。孤独を感じて苦しんだことは多々ありました。ありましたけど、その体験は未来の自分にとって大きな支えになるんだろうと、今は思います。だから、辛いこと、しんどいことから逃げたいと思うのは当然のことなんですけど、でもエネルギーのある元気なときにそれに立ち向かっていく、そのことはすごく人として重要なことなのではないかなと感じています」

「締まったね、最後。いやー長い時間ありがとうございました。眠いでしょ、皆さんも。ねぇ。じゃあ、そろそろ帰りますか、ね」

–During your first time with the Mariners, you said a number of times that ‘I feel lonely when I play.’ But with the Yankees and Marlins, your role changed. Then you had that situation last year, and now you’ve retired. Did you continue to play with that feeling of loneliness? Or did the nature of the loneliness you felt change?

“I don’t feel that anymore. At this stage, not at all. This might be a little different (from what you meant), but when I arrived in America, when I came to the majors, I became a foreigner, because I was in America and that made me a foreigner there. Through this thing of becoming a foreigner I began to consider other people, began to imagine things like the pain of others.”

Ichiro from start to finish, part 3

Ichiro Suzuki announced his retirement at a press conference after midnight in Tokyo on Friday, March 22. I have translated the entire press conference from start to finish to give you a sense of how it went down. I hope you enjoy. I have included the original Japanese text. The questions have been mercilessly shortened, however.

He made two curtain calls, once after he left the game at the start of the bottom of the eighth inning, and again after the Mariners’ extra-inning win over the Athletics. What follows is the Japanese and English text of his retirement press conference early on the morning of March 22 in Tokyo.

Ichiro Suzuki tips his cap to fans at Tokyo Dome as he leaves his last big league game. on March 21 ,2019. Photo by Seito Takamizawa

――ユニークなTシャツを着ていたが、何か心情を表していたのか? 全く関係なくただ好きで着ているのか?

「そこは……もう言うと急に野暮ったくなるから、言わない方がいいんだよね。それはだから見る側の解釈だから。そう捉えれば、そう捉えることもできるし、全然関係ない可能性もあるし。それでいいんじゃないですか?」

――好きに楽しんでいただきたいと?

「だってそういうものでしょ。いちいちそれ説明すると本当に野暮ったいもんね」

――言わないほうが粋だと?

「まぁ粋って自分で言えないけどね。言うと無粋であることは間違いないでしょうね」

–In camp you wear some unique T-shirts. Was that to express some feelings, or are you just wearing them for fun without any special meaning?

“Well, if I said, then it would come out sounding pretty crude, so it’s better if I don’t. I think it’s up to the interpretation of the viewer. If you think you get the meaning, then you can take something from it, although you might get nothing at all from it. Maybe it’s best if I leave it that way.”

–So it’s up to us to enjoy it as we like?

“That’s the kind of thing it is. If I sit here and explain them one by one, it’s going to get crude.”

–So not saying it is the tasteful way?

“I’m refined so I wouldn’t say it. If you do say it, you’ll come across as boorish.”

――イチローさんを支えてきた弓子夫人への思いは?

「いやぁ、頑張ってくれましたね。一番頑張ってくれたと思います。僕はアメリカで結局3089本のヒットを打ったわけですけど、妻はですね、およそ……僕はゲームの前にホームの時はおにぎりを食べるんですね。妻が握ってくれたおにぎりを球場に持っていって食べるのですけど、その数がですねぇ、2800個くらいだったんですよ。だから3000いきたかったみたいですね。そこは3000個握らせてあげたかったなと思います。妻もそうですけど、まぁとにかく頑張ってくれました。僕はゆっくりする気はないですけど、妻にはゆっくりしてもらいたいと思ってます。

 それと一弓(いっきゅう)ですね。一弓というのはご存じない方もいるかもしれないですけど、我が家の愛犬ですね。柴犬なんですけど。現在17歳と7か月。今年で18歳になろうかという芝犬なんですけど。さすがにおじいちゃんになってきて、毎日フラフラなんですが、懸命に生きているんですよね。その姿を見ていたら、それはオレ頑張らなきゃなって。これはジョークとかではなくて、本当に思いました。あの懸命に生きる姿。(一弓は)2001年に生まれて、2002年にシアトルの我が家に来たんですけど、まさか最後まで一緒に、僕が現役を終えるときまで一緒に過ごせるとは思っていなかったので、これは大変感慨深いですね。一弓の姿というのは。本当に妻と一弓には感謝の思いしかないですね」

— What are your thoughts for Yumiko, who has had your back all this time?

“She really gave her all. I think she did the most. I had 3,089 hits in the the U.S.. But my wife is, well, before home games I ate rice balls that she made and I took to the stadium. She got to about 2,800, and it seems she wanted to get to 3,000. She really did great. I am not one to take it easy, but I want her to.”

“Then there’s Ikkyu. Some of you may not know, but Ikkyu is our dog, a Shiba. Currently he’s 17 years old and 7 months old, 18 this year. He’s like a grandfather, wobbling around every day, but is still hanging in there. When I see him, I think I can’t let up. That may sound like a joke, but I really feel that way. He’s trying so hard to stay alive. He was born in 2001 and came to our home in Seattle in 2002. I would never have believed that he would be with us until I retired. I have strong emotions for him. Indeed, when I think of my wife and of Ikkyu, my heart is filled with gratitude toward them.

――打席内での感覚の変化は今年はあったのか?

「いる? それここで。いる? 裏で話そう、後で。裏で」

–Has there been any change this year in the sensation when at bat?

“Do you need that here? Let’s talk, later. Somewhere private.”

――これまで数多くの決断と戦ってきたが、今までで一番考えぬいて決断したものは?

「これ順番つけられないですね。それぞれが一番だと思います。ただ、アメリカでプレーするために当時、今とは違う形のポスティングシステムだったんですけど、自分の思いだけでは当然それは叶わないで、当然球団からの了承がないと行けないんですね。その時に、誰をこちら側……こちら側っていう敵味方みたいでおかしいんですけど、球団にいる誰かを口説かないといけないというか、説得しないといけないというか。そのときに一番に浮かんだのが仰木監督ですね。その何年か前からアメリカでプレーしたいという思いを伝えていたこともあったんですけど、仰木監督だったらおいしいご飯でお酒を飲ませたら……飲ませたらってこれはあえて言っていますけど、これはうまくいくんじゃないかと思ったら、まんまとうまくいって。これがなかったら、何も始まらなかったので。口説く相手に仰木監督を選んだのは大きかったなと思いますね。また、『ダメだ。ダメだ』とおっしゃっていたものがお酒でこんなに変わってくれるんだと思って、お酒の力をまざまざと見ましたし。でもやっぱり、しゃれた人だったなと思いますね。だから仰木監督から学んだもの、計り知れないと思います」

–You have tackled many decisions so far, such as going to America in 2000, joining Japan for the 2006 WBC, 2007 signing an extension with the Mariners, and now retiring, but which one was the hardest to think through?

“I cannot rank them. I think different ones could be No. 1 in some way. However, to play in the U.S., although it was a different form of posting system back then, I could not get up and go on my own. I could not go without the team’s consent. At that time, I needed someone on my side… It is strange to say it like there were sides, friends and foes, but if no one within the team argued my case, they wouldn’t have understood and I wouldn’t have been able to go. The one who most comes to mind from that time was our manager, Ogi. I had been telling him I wanted to play in the U.S. for several years. In regards to manager Ogi, I took him out for good food and drink, when he drank I was able to say that, and if I think about it, that was what worked well. If it hadn’t been for that, nothing would have happened. I think the big thing was choosing manager Ogi as the person to persuade. He said over and over again, ‘It’s no good, no good.’ But that changed over alcohol. That clearly demonstrated how powerful a thing alcohol can be. He’s the one who taught me that, and for that reason I think the things manager Ogi taught me cannot be measured.”

――昨日の試合は第1回WBCで日本が優勝した日と同じだったが、それは運命的なものがあったりするのか?

「まぁ聞かされればそう思うこともできるという程度ですかね。僕はそのことは知らなかったですけど」

–The date of yesterday’s game coincided with the date in Japan when you won the first WBC. Was that fate?

“When I hear that, I think it must be to some degree. I didn’t know that.”

――最も我慢したものは何だった?

「難しい質問だなあ……。僕、我慢できない人なんですよ。我慢が苦手で楽なこと、楽なことを重ねているっていう感じなんですね。自分ができること、やりたいことを重ねているので、我慢の感覚はないんですけど、とにかく体を動かしたくてしょうがないので、体をこんなに動かしちゃだめだっていって、体を動かすことを我慢することはたくさんありました。それ以外はなるべくストレスがないような、自分にとってですね、ストレスがないように考えて行動してきたつもりなので。家では妻が料理をいろいろ考えて作ってくれますけど、これロードに出るとなんでもいいわけですよね。無茶苦茶ですよ、ロードの食生活なんて。だから我慢できないから、結局そういうことになってしまうんですけど、そんな感じなんですね。今、聞かれたような趣旨の我慢は思い当たらないですね。おかしなこと言ってます、僕?」

–In your career, what was the thing you were able to endure the most?

“What a tough question. Actually, I’m not very patient. I’m not good at putting up with things, and tend to indulge in things I enjoy. Things I’m able to do, or want to do, I plug away at those things and I don’t feel it’s something I need to endure. But having said that, I really like exercising a lot, but sometimes working out so much is a problem, so I often have to stop. Nothing else stresses me out as much as that, because I’ve come this far thinking about avoiding stress. At home, my wife puts a lot of thought into cooking, and then when I’m on the road, anything is OK. What there is to eat on the road is actually pretty awful.”

――台湾ではイチローさんのファンがいっぱいいまして、何か台湾の人に伝えたいことは何かないか?

「(元中日の)チェンが元気か知りたいですね。(マーリンズで)チームメートでしたから。チェンは元気にやってますかね? それが聞けて何よりです。今のところ(台湾に行く)予定はないけど、でも以前に行ったことがあるんですよ、一度。すごく優しい印象でしたね。心が優しくて、いいなあと思いました」

–You have so many fans in Taiwan. Is there something you would like to tell them?

“I’d like to know how Chen Wei-yin is doing. We were teammates (with the Marlins). Is he doing well? I would love to hear that. At the present, I don’t have a plan to visit Taiwan, but I’ve been there before once. I felt the people were nice, very kind hearted.”

――菊池(雄星)投手が同じマリナーズに入って、去年は大谷(翔平)選手がエンゼルスに入った。後輩たちに託すことは?

「雄星のデビューの日に僕は引退を迎えたのは、何かいいなあと思っていて……もう『ちゃんとやれよ』という思いですね。短い時間でしたけど、すごくいい子で。いろんな選手を見てきたんですけど、左ピッチャーの先発って変わっている子が多いんですよ。本当に。天才肌が多いという言い方もできるんですかね。アメリカでもまぁ多いです。だから、こんなにいい子いるのかなっていう感じですよ、ここまで。今日まで。

 でも、キャンプ地から日本に飛行機で移動してくるわけですけど、チームはドレスコードですね、服装のルールが黒のセットアップ、ジャージのセットアップでOK。長旅なので、できるだけ楽にという配慮ですけど、『雄星、俺たちどうする?』って。『アリゾナ発つときはいいんだけれども、日本着いたときにさすがにジャージはダメだろ』って2人で話していたんですね。

『そうですよね、イチローさん、どうするんですか?』って。僕は『中はTシャツだけどセットアップでジャケット着ているようにしようかな』って。『じゃあ僕もそうします』と雄星が言うんです。で、キャンプ地を発つときのバスの中で、みんな、僕もそうでしたけど、黒のジャージのセットアップでみんなバスに乗り込んできて。雄星と席が近かったので『雄星やっぱ、だめだよな、これっ』て。『やっぱり日本に着いたときに、メジャーリーガーがこれはダメだろ』ってバスの中で言っていたんですよね。『いや、そうですよね』って。そうしたらまさか羽田に着いたときに黒のジャージでしたからね。いや、コイツ大物だな、と思って。ぶったまげました。それは本人にまだ真相は聞いてないんですけど、何があったのかわからないですけど、左ピッチャーはやっぱ変わったヤツ多いなと思ったんですね。でも、スケール感は出てました。頑張ってほしいです。

 翔平はもうちゃんとケガを治してスケールの、物理的にも大きいわけですし。アメリカの選手に全くサイズ的にも劣らない。あのサイズであの機敏な動きができるというのはいないですからね、それだけで。いやもう世界一の選手にならなきゃいけないですよ、うん」

–Yusei Kikuchi has joined the Mariners, and last year Shohei Ohtani joined the Angels. Is there a message you would like to impart to the guys who are following in your footsteps?

““I thought it might be good if I went into my retirement the same day Yusei made his debut. I wanted him to do a real good job. Although we were together only briefly, he’s a real good kid. I’ve seen a lot of players in my time, but I have to say, that there are a lot of weirdos among left-handed starting pitchers. I’m not kidding. I think you could also say that there are a lot of geniuses among them. Anyway, there’re a lot of them in America. That’s why I was thinking what a good kid he is.”

 “That being said, when we traveled to Japan from camp it was by plane and thus there was a dress code. You can wear either a black jacket setup or a black sweater setup. On a long trip, you take comfort into consideration. I said, ‘Yusei, what should we do?’ We agreed that when we left Arizona anything would be OK, but the sweater won’t do when we land in Japan.”

 “He said, ‘Ichiro-san, what’s best?’ I said, ‘I think I’ll go with a jacket and a T-shirt.’ So he said he’d probably do the same. When the team boarded the bus in Arizona, everyone was wearing the same black sweater setup. When Yusei approached my seat on the bus, I said, ‘Just as I expected, Yusei. You can’t wear that. You have to realize that what you’re wearing won’t do as a major leaguer arriving in Japan.’ He said, ‘Oh no. I suppose not.’”

“Anyway, when we arrived at Haneda Airport, (instead of the black jacket setup) he was wearing the (casual) black sweater setup.’ All I could think of was that this guy is the real thing. I haven’t really gotten a good sense of him yet, but it reminded me that so many left-handed pitchers are weird. You get a sense he is a big figure. I hope he gives it all he has.”

“Shohei has already finished his treatment, and physically he’s on such a large scale. In terms of size, he’s not inferior to American players in any way. But because he can move like a player that size shouldn’t be able to, he has to be the best player in the world.”

――イチローさんが愛を貫いてきた野球。その魅力とは?

「団体競技なんですけど、個人競技だというところですかね。野球が面白いところだと思います。チームが勝てばそれでいいかというと、全然そんなことないですよね。個人としても結果を残さないと生きていくことはできないですよね。本来はチームとして勝っていれば、チームとしてのクオリティが高いはずなので、それでいいんじゃないかという考えもできるかもしれないですけど、決してそうではない。その厳しさが面白いところかなと。面白いというか、魅力であることは間違いないですね。あと、同じ瞬間がないということ。必ず、必ずどの瞬間も違うということ。これは飽きがこないですよね」

–You’ve invested your love in baseball. What is its appeal?

“It’s a team competition, but it’s also an individual sport. That’s why baseball is interesting. One could say that if your team wins, then that’s all that matters, but it’s not the case at all. If you don’t produce as an individual, you can’t survive. Also, if one team wins, one might say in general that team is better, and it’s OK to think so, but it’s not really true. I think maybe that difficulty is what makes it interesting. It’s attractive without a doubt. No two moments are the same. Every moment is different.”

――イチロー選手がいない野球をどう楽しんだらいいか?

「2001年に僕がアメリカに来てから、この2019年の現在の野球は全く別の違う野球になりました。まぁ、頭を使わなくてもできてしまう野球になりつつあるような……。選手も現場にいる人たちはみんな感じていることだと思うんですけど、これがどうやって変化していくのか。次の5年、10年。しばらくはこの流れは止まらないと思うんですけど。本来は野球というのは……ダメだ、これ言うとなんか問題になりそうだな。問題になりそうだな。頭を使わなきゃできない競技なんですよ、本来は。でもそうじゃなくなってきているのがどうも気持ち悪くて。ベースボール、野球の発祥はアメリカですから。その野球がそうなってきているということに危機感を持っている人って結構いると思うんですよね。だから、日本の野球がアメリカの野球に追従する必要なんてまったくなくて、やっぱり日本の野球は頭を使う面白い野球であってほしいなと思います。アメリカのこの流れは止まらないので、せめて日本の野球は決して変わってはいけないこと、大切にしなくてはいけないものを大切にしてほしいなと思います」

–How should we enjoy baseball without Ichiro?

“The baseball played in America in 2019 has completely changed since I arrived in 2001,” he said. “It’s now in the process of becoming a game where you can now get by without using your head. A lot of active players see this, too, and wonder how this might change. I don’t see this trend stopping over the next five years, or 10 years or for the foreseeable future. Fundamentals mean nothing. Perhaps saying that might cause trouble. That (saying this) definitely looks like it will be a problem.”

“On a fundamental level, baseball is a game that requires thinking. That it’s losing that makes me sick. America is baseball’s birthplace, and I believe a lot of people have a sense of urgency over what the game is becoming. So I think there is no need for Japan’s game to follow America’s. The Japanese game should be a thinking, interesting brand of ball. As long as this trend in America does not stop, I hope Japanese ball doesn’t change and that we remember to cherish it.”

Ichiro from start to finish, part 2

Ichiro Suzuki announced his retirement at a press conference after midnight in Tokyo on Friday, March 22. I have translated the entire press conference from start to finish to give you a sense of how it went down. I hope you enjoy. I have included the original Japanese text. The questions have been mercilessly shortened, however.

He made two curtain calls, once after he left the game at the start of the bottom of the eighth inning, and again after the Mariners’ extra-inning win over the Athletics. What follows is the Japanese and English text of his retirement press conference early on the morning of March 22 in Tokyo.

Ichiro Suzuki tips his cap to fans at Tokyo Dome as he leaves his last big league game. on March 21 ,2019. Photo by Seito Takamizawa

――涙がなく、むしろ笑顔が多いように見えるのは、この開幕シリーズが楽しかったということか?

「これも純粋に楽しいということではないんですよね。やっぱり、誰かの思いを背負うということはそれなりに重いことなので、そうやって1打席1打席立つことは簡単ではないんですね。だから、すごく疲れました。やはり1本ヒットを打ちたかったし。応えたいって当然ですよね、それは。僕に感情がないって思っている人はいるみたいですけど、あるんですよ。意外とあるんですよ。だから、結果残して最後を迎えたら一番いいなと思っていたんですけど、それは叶わずで。それでもあんな風に(ファンが)球場に残ってくれて。まぁ、そうしないですけど、死んでもいいという気持ちはこういうことなんだろうなと。死なないですけど。そういう表現をするときってこういうときだろうなって思います」

–Because we could only see smiles rather than tears, isn’t it the case that you enjoyed this series?

“Even this was not purely joyful. After all, you’re carrying the weight of other people’s thoughts on your shoulders, so it was not a simple thing just to go up and bat each time. For that reason, it was extremely exhausting. I so wanted to get at least one hit. That’s a natural response.”

“It seems there are people who think I have no feelings, but I do. More than many people might imagine. So as I approached the very last (plate appearance) , I felt getting a hit would be the greatest, but it didn’t happen. Despite that, the fans stuck around for me. Don’t worry I’m not going to do it, but I thought at that instant what it means when someone says, ‘I could now die a happy man.’ I think that expression was made for a situation like that.”

――常々、最低50歳まで現役ということをいってきたが、日本に戻ってもう1度プロ野球でプレーするという選択肢はなかったのか?

「なかったですね」

–You had said you would play at least until you are 50. Was coming back to play pro ball in Japan an option for you?

“No. it wasn’t.”

――どうしてか?

「それはここで言えないなぁ。ただねぇ50まで、いや最低50までって本当に思ってたし。でもそれは叶わずで。有言不実行の男になってしまったわけですけど、でも、その表現をしてこなかったら、ここまでできなかったかなという思いもあります。だから、言葉にすること。難しいかもしれないけど、言葉にして表現することというのは、目標に近づく一つの方法ではないかなと思っています」

–Why not?

“I don’t really want to get into that here. However, the ‘playing until 50,’ or until 50 at the least was really my intent. It didn’t come to pass and as a result I’ve been someone who can’t back up his words with actions, but had I not said it, I don’t think I would have made it this far. It may be difficult, but putting something into words is one way to get yourself closer to achieving your target.”

――これまで膨大な時間を野球に費やしてきたが、これからその時間とどう付き合っていくか?

「ちょっと今はわからないですねぇ。でも多分、明日もトレーニングはしてますよ。それは変わらないですよ、僕じっとしていられないから。それは動き回ってるでしょうね。だから、ゆっくりしたいとか全然ないんですよ。全然ないです。だから動き回ってます」

–You’ve spent most of your life playing ball. What are you going to do now?

“I don’t know right at this moment, but maybe I’ll be working out again tomorrow. That’s something that won’t change because I’m someone who can’t stay still, so I’ll be moving around. So I’m not going to be taking it easy. I’m going to stay in motion.”

――イチロー選手の生きざまで、ファンの方に伝えられたことや、伝わっていたらうれしいなと思うことはあるか?

「生きざまというのは僕にはよくわからないですけど、生き方というふうに考えるならば……先ほどもお話しましたけども、人より頑張ることなんてとてもできないんですよね。あくまでも、はかりは自分の中にある。それで自分なりにはかりを使いながら、自分の限界を見ながら、ちょっと越えていくということを繰り返していく。そうすると、いつの日からかこんな自分になっているんだ、という状態になって。だから少しずつの積み重ねが、それでしか自分を越えていけないと思うんですよね。一気に高みに行こうとすると、今の自分の状態とギャップがありすぎて、それは続けられないと僕は考えているので、地道に進むしかない。進むだけではないですね。後退もしながら、ある時は後退しかしない時期もあると思うので。でも、自分がやると決めたことを信じてやっていく。でもそれは正解とは限らないですよね。間違ったことを続けてしまっていることもあるんですけど、でもそうやって遠回りすることでしか、本当の自分に出会えないというか、そんな気がしているので。自分なりに重ねてきたことを、今日のゲーム後のファンの方の気持ちですよね、それを見たときに、ひょっとしたらそんなところを見ていただいていたのかなと。それは嬉しかったです。そうだとしたらすごく嬉しいし、そうじゃなくても嬉しいです、あれは」

――Would you like to tell fans about your philosophy of life

“I don’t know much about a philosophy of life, but when I think of it as the way I go through life … As I said earlier, I can’t work harder than everyone else. Right until the end, you are only measured against yourself. As you do that, as you see your limits, you try over and over to surpass yourself a tiny bit. That’s how I eventually become who I am. One can only do this in small increments, but that is the way to surpass yourself. If you try and change in leaps and bounds, that gap between where you are (and your target) becomes to large and I think unsustainable, so the only way is the steady way.”

“But progress is not the only result. There are setbacks, too. And it’s not like every path I choose is the right one, but I believe in myself and my decisions. Sometimes I get on the wrong track and keep at it. However, when I do find I’ve taken a detour, I feel like without it, I would not have come face to face with the real me.”

“The emotion of the fans after today’s game resulted from that body of work done in my own way. I thought that possibly, they were seeing that (work). That (thought) made me happy. If it were true, I’d be exceedingly happy, but even if it weren’t I’d still be happy.”

――シンプルな質問ですけど。現役選手を終えたら、監督になったり指導者になったり、あるいは全く違うタレントになったりすることはあるけど……、

「あまりシンプルではないですね」

――イチロー選手は何になるのか?

「何になるんだろうねぇ。そもそも、カタカナのイチローってどうなんですかね? いや、元カタカナの一朗みたいになるんですかね。あれ、どうなんだろう? どうなんだろうね、あれ。元イチローって変だね。イチローだし僕って思うもんねぇ。音はイチローだから。書くときにどうなるんだろうねぇ。どうしよっか。何になるか……。監督は絶対に無理ですよ。これは絶対が付きますよ。人望がない。本当に。人望がないですよ、僕。うん」

–This is a simple question, but now that your playing career is over, are you going to become a manager or a coach or perhaps take a completely different course and be a media celebrity?

“That’s not a very simple question.”

–So what is the player Ichiro going to become?

“I wonder what I’ll become.”

“In the first place what am I going to do with ‘katakana (phonetic script) Ichiro?’ I could become the player who formerly used katakana for the name ‘Ichiro.’ How would that be? I wonder. ‘The player formerly known as Ichiro’ would be weird, wouldn’t it? I think of myself as Ichiro, because that’s how it’s pronounced. How will I write it I wonder? I wonder what I’m going to do. Being a manager is impossible. You can add ‘absolutely’ to that. I’m not popular enough, truly. I lack the popularity for that. Yes. That’s It.”

――そうでもないと思うが。

「いやぁ、無理ですね。それくらいの判断能力は備えているので。ただ、どうでしょうねぇ。プロの選手とかプロの世界というよりも、アマチュアとプロの壁がどうしても日本の場合は特殊な形で存在しているので、今日をもって、どうなんですかね、そういうルールって。どうなんだろうか。今まではややこしいじゃないですか。例えば、極端に言えば、自分に子どもがいたとして、高校生であるとすると、教えられなかったりというルールですよね。確か。違います? そうだよね。だから、そういうのって変な感じじゃないですか。だから、今日をもって元イチローになるので、それが小さな子どもなのか、中学生なのか、高校生なのか、大学生なのか分からないですけど、そこには興味がありますね」

–I don’t think that’s really true.

“No. It’s beyond me. I think I have the decision making ability. But how should I say it? In Japan there is a peculiar situation, in that a wall exists between amateurs and pros. Even now, how is it, that rule? I wonder. Isn’t it still complicated? To take an extreme example, if I have a child in high school, there had been a rule that I couldn’t teach him. Am I wrong? That’s why it feels weird. Today as the former Ichiro, if it were small kids, or junior high school or high school or maybe even college students I would be interested (in managing).”

――以前にも引退の2文字が浮かんで悩んだ時期はあったのか?

「引退というよりは、クビになるんじゃないか、はいつもありましたね。ニューヨークに行ってからはもう毎日そんな感じです。マイアミもそうでしたけど。ニューヨークというのはみなさんご存知かどうか知らないですけど、特殊な場所です、マイアミもまた違った意味で特殊な場所です。だから毎日そんなメンタリティーで過ごしていたんですね。クビになるときはまさにその時(引退)だろうと思っていたので、そんなのしょっちゅうありました」

–Was there a time when the word “retirement” troubled you?

“More than the word ‘retirement,’ it has been getting released. That’s how it’s always been. Since I moved to New York, I’ve felt that every day. It was the same in Miami. I do not know if everyone here knows New York. It’s a special place. Miami is also special although in a different way, so I lived with that every day, that I could be fired and at that time it would mean (retirement), so it was constantly on my mind.”

――その中で今回、引退を決意した理由は?

「マリナーズ以外に行く気持ちはなかったというのは大きいですよね。去年シアトルに戻していただいて、本当にうれしかったし……先ほど、キャンプ前のオファーがある前の話をしましたけど、そのあと5月にゲームに出られなくなる。あの時もその(引退の)タイミングでもおかしくないですよね。でも、この春に向けて、まだ可能性があると伝えられていたので、そこに自分なりに頑張ってこられたということだと思うんですけど……質問なんでしたっけ?」

――今回引退を決めた理由は?

「そうか。もう答えちゃったね」

–Why did you decide to retire now?

“I didn’t want to go anywhere except to the Mariners, so that was big. I was really happy to return to Seattle last year. I already mentioned how it was before that offer came during spring training, but then May came and I was unable to play anymore. It wouldn’t have been unusual if I had retired at that time. But I was told that there was still a possibility for this spring, so I had the chance to work hard and was able to come here. I’m sorry what was the question?”

–What is your reason for retiring now?

“I see. I think I’ve already answered that.”

――8回にベンチに戻る際に菊池選手が号泣していた。

「いや、号泣中の号泣でしょ、あいつ。びっくりしましたよ。それ見て、こっちはちょっと笑けましたけどね」

――抱擁の時にどんな会話を交わしたのか?

「それはプライベートなんで。雄星がそれをお伝えるするのは構わないですけど、それは僕がお伝えるすることではないですね」

――秘密ということで。

「それはそうでしょう。だって2人の会話だから。しかも、僕から声をかけているので、それをここで僕が『こんなこと僕が言いました』って、バカですよね。絶対に信頼されないもんね、そんな人間は。それはダメです」

–When you returned to the dugout during the eighth inning, Kikuchi was sobbing.

“That was sobbing to end all sobbing. That really surprised me. I couldn’t help but laugh a little.”

–What did you say when you gave him a hug?

“That’s private. I don’t mind if Yusei tells you. I’m not going to.”

–Because it’s a secret?

“Of course it is. It’s private conversation between two people. Furthermore, it would be asinine if I were to tell him something (in private) and then come here and say ‘This is what I told him.’ No one would trust somebody like that. You can’t do that.”

――アメリカのファンにメッセージを。

「アメリカのファンの方々は最初はまぁ厳しかったですよ。最初の2001年のキャンプなんかは『日本に帰れ』としょっちゅう言われましたよ。だけど、結果を残した後のその敬意というのは……これを評価するのかどうかわからないですよ。手のひらを返すという言い方もできてしまうので。ただその、言葉ではなくて行動で示したときの敬意の示し方というのはその迫力があるなという印象ですよね。だから、なかなか入れてもらえないんですけど、入れてもらった後、認めてもらった後はすごく近くなるというな印象で、ガッチリ関係ができあがる。まぁ、シアトルのファンとはそれができたような、僕の勝手な印象ですけど。

 ニューヨークというのは厳しいところでしたね。でも、やればそれこそどこよりも、どのエリアの人よりも熱い思いがある。マイアミというはラテンの文化が強い印象で、圧はそれほどないんですけれど、でも結果を残さなかったら絶対に人が来てくれないという、そんな場所でした。それぞれに特色があって、まぁ面白かったし、それぞれの場所で関係が築けたような。特徴がそれぞれありましたけど、アメリカは広いなぁというか。ファンの人たちの特徴を見るだけで、アメリカはすごく広いなという印象ですけど。でもやっぱり、最後にシアトルのユニホームを着て、もうセーフコ・フィールドでは名前がなくってしまいましたけど……姿をお見せできなくて、それは申し訳ない思いがあります」

–Do you have any thoughts about the fans in America or a message for them?

“The American fans were really harsh at first. During my first spring training in 2001 they often said, ‘Go back to Japan’, but there is respect once you produce. I don’t know if I should grade them on this or not. I guess you can say that they can change their opinion of you very quickly.”

“My take is that they respond with a powerful demonstration of respect to your deeds as opposed to what you say. So they don’t let you in easily, but once they do, you get the feeling that they are very close to you, making for a strong relationship. I think maybe I was able to achieve that in Seattle, though that’s just my impression.”

“Some things about New York are hard. But, if you do make a connection, you feel they are more passionate than anywhere else. Miami has a strong vibe of Latin culture and you don’t much pressure, but if you don’t produce, they won’t let you in either. Every place has its own character, it was really interesting, and I was able to build relationships in those different places. Because every place has some special feel to it, you get the feeling how big America is. Just seeing at the characteristics of the fans impresses you with America’s size. At the end I wore a Seattle uniform, but feel I owe an apology to those fans for not wearing it at it’s not Safeco Field anymore…”

Read Part 1 of the press conference HERE.