NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREF. – Hanshin Tigers outfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto, who once played 13,686 consecutive innings, announced on Wednesday that he would retire at the end of this season.
“I find myself feeling that I’ve reached my limit,” he said at a press conference in Hyogo Prefecture.
“On top of that, the team is in the process of getting younger. In the midst of that, I’m ashamed because I can no longer perform up to the levels I had achieved at my peak.”
“I began thinking about it about 10 days ago, but just made up my mind the day before yesterday. The first person I told was my mother. When I told my daughter, she started sobbing.”
The 44-year-old Hiroshima native, who attended Sendai’s Tohoku Fukushi University before joining the Hiroshima Carp as their fourth-round draft pick in 1992, joined the Tigers as a free agent in 2003. That season, he helped propel Hanshin to its first Central League pennant in 18 years. He was the league’s MVP in 2005, when the Tigers again won the pennant.
“I am filled with regret that I never once won a championship with the Carp,” Kanemoto said. “That I was able to play for the Tigers when they were at the peak of their strength and popularity was a blessing.”
He played in every inning of every one of his teams’ games from July 21, 1999 to April 9, 2006, the longest run in baseball history. The streak came to an end when a shoulder injury hindered his ability to throw and he took himself out of the lineup.
“The full-inning streak was a brutal to achieve,” he said when asked to look back on his career. “I feel I really gave it my all.”
Through Tuesday’s games, he was batting .258 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. He leads all active players in career runs, hits, doubles, homers, RBIs and walks. Despite those totals, Kanemoto didn’t get a starting job until 1995, when he was 27.
“In particular, (I think of) how miserable these last three years have been or what a frustrating existence I lived in my first three years as a pro and my last three years.”
“This has been my life. Since I began playing when I was 10, I have found it to be 20 to 30 percent about joy and fulfillment. The pursuit of that small fraction, the remaining 70 to 80 percent, is labor. That has been my life in baseball.”