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Tigers outfielder Hiyama announces plan to retire

Kyodo

Hanshin Tigers outfielder Shinjiro Hiyama, a 22-year veteran who ranks second in the Central League in career pinch hits, said Saturday this will be his final season.

The 44-year-old, who entered play on Saturday with a career .260 batting average over 1,945 games, has been used almost primarily as a pinch hitter since 2006.

“Every year I’ve confronted the thought of whether I should retire, and now I feel a sense of relief,” Hiyama told a news conference.

He has eight hits and nine RBIs in 37 at-bats this season, but started the year 0-for-9.

“Not getting a hit from Opening Day may have been a reason for this,” Hiyama said. “This year, I think I have really suffered from summer fatigue.”

“I’m full of gratitude for everyone. It’s not everyone who can experience being awash in cheers the way I am when I pinch hit. I think I am a very happy man.

A left-handed hitter, he came out of Toyo University in the fourth round of the 1991 draft, the same round that produced the stellar trio of Ichiro Suzuki, Norihiro Nakamura and Tomoaki Kanemoto.