Baseball / Japanese Baseball

BayStars mainstay Miura to retire after 25th season

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

One day after the Yokohama BayStars celebrated their first-ever Climax Series berth, pitcher Daisuke Miura, one of franchise’s most beloved figures, announced he was bringing his 25-year professional career to an end at the conclusion of this season.

Dubbed Hama no Bancho (Boss of Yokohama) and known for his signature regent hairstyle, Miura, the oldest player in NPB at age 42, had resolved to leave the diamond when he could no longer post victories for the team and said now is the time.

“Retirement had been crossing my mind over the last few years,” Miura said during a packed news conference held in the large ballroom of a Yokohama hotel. “While I’ve wanted to win more, I’ve decided that I’d quit if I could no longer start and deliver wins for the team.”

This season, the right-handed hurler was promoted to the top team in July and started two games, but is winless. He’s currently tied with former Seibu Lions lefty Kimiyasu Kudo and ex-Chunichi Dragons southpaw Masahiro Yamamoto for an NPB record with at least one win in 23 consecutive seasons.

“My family has told me that I could do this a little longer, but everybody has to leave the game one day and I thought it’s time for me,” said Miura, who is 172-183 with a 3.58 ERA in his career.

Yokohama general manager Shigeru Takada said the pitcher told him, club president Jun Ikeda and skipper Alex Ramirez about his impending retirement after last Friday’s game against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

“We just had to accept it,” Takada said. “Our team is going to lose our big, big piece of its core. It hurts us for sure, but we hope he continues to give us his support.”

Miura is reportedly scheduled to make the final start of his pro career Saturday at Yokohama Stadium against the Yomiuri Giants, when he’ll try to take sole possession of the record for consecutive seasons with at least one win.

Asked what type of performance he wants to have in his final outing, Miura simply replied by saying, “I just want to win. That’s all I want.”

Miura’s 25-year career is tied for the sixth longest in NPB history, and he’s certainly experienced many unforgettable moments.

Yet among them, Miura said that the 1998 season when the team won the Japan Series for the first time in 38 years is one of the things that stands out the most.

“I didn’t expect winning the championship would feel that delightful,” Miura, who started in Game 3 of that year’s Japan Series against the Seibu Lions (he took the loss), said with a smile. “We’d gone through tough times before, but everything was rewarded with that.”

Though he’s the third-winningest pitcher in club history, behind Masaji Hiramatsu (201) and Noboru Akiyama (194), Miura has not generally been one of NPB’s most heralded hurlers. He’s had a pair of 12-win seasons (1998 and 2005) and those were the best he’s put up. He’s been more of a player who is embraced by the fans because of his spirit and what he means to them.

After the 2008 season, Miura, who led the Central League with a 2.52 ERA in 2005, exercised his free agency option and was enthusiastically pursued by the Tigers, the team he has more wins (46) against than any other.

The Nara Prefecture native was torn between going to the Kansai club and staying in Yokohama, but ended up remaining in his BayStars jersey, saying that he wanted to win the championship by defeating stronger teams.

Miura hasn’t achieved that goal, but with the BayStars having qualified for the CL Climax Series with a 3-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp on Monday, he’ll have one final chance to win another Japan Series with Yokohama.

Nevertheless, he said he’s now extremely happy to see the team’s younger players develop while the club has drawn more fans to Yokohama Stadium, which used be littered with empty seats during darker times.

“Like yesterday’s game, the left stands were all red (with Carp fans) and the first-base side was all blue (with BayStars fans), and the stadium was full. That’s the best circumstance for us professional baseball players,” said Miura, who player for Team Japan and earned a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. “When I became a free agent, then returned to Yokohama, I wanted to make this team better. So it’s really great for us to see Yokohama has changed.”

Miura added he’s also glad to see his younger teammates are showing accountability and that each player understands his own responsibility on the team.

“I was watching from the bench yesterday, and our young guys looked so reliable and it made me feel so happy,” Miura said.

As for his future, Miura, who also serves as a pitching coach, said it’s up in the air, but that he wanted to remain involved in baseball. He didn’t rule out the possibility of becoming a manager for the team one day, yet added that he would need to study the game more.

While he’s made his career on the mound, Miura is also in the record books for his efforts in the batter’s box.

He had a single during a game against the Dragons in July, giving him a least one hit in 24 consecutive professional seasons as a pitcher, a mark that was recognized as a Guinness world record afterward (and tied for fourth place when position players are included).

The BayStars announced that Miura’s jersey number, 18, will become the newly created “Yokohama Number,” and would function as a retired number until someone who genuinely lives up to Miura’s legacy comes along.