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Kokubo to retire at end of season

Kyodo

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks first baseman Hiroki Kokubo, who attained his 2,000th career hit in June and his 400th career home run last season, said Tuesday he will retire at the end of the 2012 season after a significant drop in power.

The 40-year-old Kokubo made the announcement at a news conference at Yahoo Dome, saying he will bring an end to his 19-year career in Japanese baseball.

“There was no decisive moment, but I gradually determined to do this. The ball has stopped flying for me, even in batting practice. Herein lies my conflict,” Kokubo explained as his reason for calling it quits.

He spoke with Softbank club president Sadaharu Oh and manager Koji Akiyama before Tuesday’s game against the Chiba Lotte Marines.

“I told them that I will retire at the end of the season,” Kokubo said, adding he thought it best to let his teammates know during the season, rather than wait.

“I felt it would be wrong of me to keep quiet about it and just play with my teammates,” he said.