FUKUOKA – Softbank Hawks catcher Kenji Jojima said Thursday he has yet to decide whether to pursue a career in the major leagues or remain with the Pacific League club.
“I’m standing at a crossroads and it’s something you don’t have very often in your life,” Jojima said after a meeting with Softbank manager Sadaharu Oh on the day when the filing period for free agency opened.
“(Oh) told me to think it over and I’ll do so,” he said, indicating the possibility that he will wait until the last minute before making up his mind. Nov. 7 is the deadline for declaring free agency.
Jojima met the requirements to become a free agent during the regular season this year, opening the way for him to become the first Japanese catcher to play in the major leagues.
The 29-year-old has made clear he will look for a free agent deal this offseason and choose whether to negotiate a deal with major league teams or re-sign with the Hawks.
After the 2004 season, the six-time Golden Glove winner re-signed with the Hawks in a one-year deal after rejecting a club offer for a three-year contract, prompting many to suspect that he was aiming for a major league switch as a free agent this fall.
The 29-year-old hit .309 with 24 homers and 57 RBIs in 116 games this year. His season came to an abrupt end with a broken shin suffered during a game on Sept. 22.
Oh said he has mixed feelings about the agonizing choice Jojima is facing after playing under the manager for 11 years.
“I said to him that there’s no need to be hurry. I understand his feelings and it makes me feel some pain, though personally I want him to stay with us,” Oh said.
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