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


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.


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.


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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.”


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



–(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.”




–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.”



–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.”





–(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.”




「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.”




「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.”


「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.”



「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.”




–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?






–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.”




— 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.


「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.”



–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.”



–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.”



–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.”


「(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.”






–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.”



–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.”



–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



–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.”



–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.”



–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.”



–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.”



――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.”




「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.”


「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).”



–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.”





–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.”







–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.”




–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.