YOKOHAMA – To borrow the words of his manager, retiring star pitcher Daisuke Miura was a “professional player.”
That’s how BayStars manager Alex Ramirez described the Yokohama legend. A few hours before Miura’s final start, Ramirez mused about the career of a man who was one of his rivals, then a teammate and now one of the players under his stewardship in Yokohama.
“He was never a power pitcher, but he knew how to pitch,” Ramirez said during batting practice at Yokohama Stadium on Thursday. “He knew the difference between pitching against Nihonjin players and gaikokujin players, he knew how to pitch against both. He knew how to play the game. Those things are very important, especially since throughout his time so many good players passed by. He was able to maintain as the team ace. He went from generation to generation and he was still a very good pitcher.
“It’s very hard to find guys like him.”
Ramirez’s praise for Miura, who is putting the finishing touches on his 25th and final season, didn’t stop on the diamond.
“He’s professional in every aspect,” Ramirez said of the 43-year-old. “Not only on the field but also off the field. Miura-san has built that reputation of being in control of himself. Off the field, he’s a father, he has a family, he’s someone who gives so much to the community. Someone a lot of people respect, not only for being a good player but because he gives so much to the community, to his fans. On the field, he gives 100 percent all of the time. He respects the game and he respects the players.”
Miura had a career record of 172-183 and a 3.58 ERA before Thursday’s game. He’d already been in NPB for nine seasons when Ramirez made his Japan debut with the Yakult Swallows in 2001. The two faced each other on a number of occasions through the years, with Miura spending his entire career in Yokohama and Ramirez, who played from 2001-2013, spending the entirety of his in the Central League with the Swallows, Yomiuri Giants and BayStars.
Ramirez said Miura was always a good pitcher and used to marvel at how the Yokohama star kept himself in such good shape.
“Since Day 1 that I faced Miura-san until I retired, Miura-san never changed,” Ramirez said. “His body, it was always the same. Every year, I felt like, ‘wow, Miura-san is in his best condition this year.’ The following year, ‘wow, Miura-san is in his best condition this year.’ So every year, he managed to keep himself in very good condition. Nowadays players, they have one good season, and the next year you see them and you’re like ‘wow, you gained four pounds (1.8 kg).’ That never happened with him. He was always, always in very good condition. “
Ramirez played in Japan for 13 seasons, and for eight at various levels in North America. So he has an idea of what Miura is going through now that the end is right in front of him.
“I’m pretty sure he couldn’t sleep last night thinking about today’s game,” Ramirez said. “So many things are going through his mind right now. Once he pitches today, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a big relief. I went through that. I had my last game here (in Yokohama) and I remember after my last at-bat, I was thinking, it’s over, that’s it. Everything changed from there.
“This is the time where tough men, the toughest men out there, once you start playing and one inning passes by, second inning, third inning, you’re heart starts getting softer and softer. You can’t control it. This is the only time you can’t control those things.”