Kenji Johjima, the first Japanese player to catch in the major leagues, will retire at the end of this season, sources close to the matter said Friday.
The 36-year-old catcher, who has suffered all year with injury and is in the third year of a four-year contract with the Hanshin Tigers, was quoted as saying, “I’m not a player worth ¥400 million a year.”
A native of Nagasaki Prefecture, Johjima turned pro out of high school as the No. 1 pick of the Daiei Hawks and contributed to the team’s rise from the weak link of the Pacific League to a powerhouse and was named the PL’s MVP in 2003. He moved to the majors in 2006 as a free agent and played four seasons for the Seattle Mariners before returning to Japan in 2010 with the Hanshin.
Johjima has been unable to catch this season due to left knee and right elbow injuries, playing just 24 first-team games for the Tigers, primarily as a pinch hitter.
In 14 seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball, Johjima has played in 1,323 games with a career batting average of .296, 244 home runs and 808 RBIs. He played 462 games in the big leagues, batting .268 with 48 homers and 198 RBIs. He missed the 2006 World Baseball Classic due to a broken leg, but was a key contributor to Japan’s second championship in 2009.
Johjima won six PL Best IX Awards and eight Golden Gloves, his last coming with Hanshin in 2010 before injuries began to derail his career.