Joy Standridge posted on social media Oct. 6 that her husband, Jason Standridge, “pitched his last game last night — maybe forever.” The Chiba Lotte right-hander started the Marines’ final game of the 2016 season at home, and he won, beating the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, 7-1.
The victory evened Standridge’s record for the year at 8-8, and he lowered his ERA to a respectable 3.56, ninth best among Pacific League hurlers with the minimum 143 innings pitched. He most likely would have played in the PL Climax Series Final Stage had the third-place Marines defeated the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the first stage, but Lotte lost and his season was over.
The 37-year-old Standridge is the dean of foreign players in Japan, having played nine of the last 10 years in country. He’s played in both leagues and for three teams — the Hawks (twice), the Hanshin Tigers and this one season for Chiba.
But, will he be back for a 10th go-around in Japanese baseball with the Marines or a fourth team?
His career record in Japan is 71-62, with a 3.20 ERA, and he did some of his best pitching this season in the latter part of the year. On Sept. 21, he was the winner in a game over the Eagles at QVC Marine Field after throwing 6-1/3 innings of superb shutout ball. Lotte won that one, 2-0. Then there was the aforementioned victory in the final regular-season game on Oct. 5.
Outings such as those prove Standridge still has what it takes to get opposing hitters out and toss winning baseball.
He originally came to Japan in 2007 at age 28 when the Hawks signed him in midseason after he had had brief stints in the majors with Tampa Bay, Texas, Cincinnati and Kansas City. In half a year, appearing in 17 games, he compiled a brilliant 7-1 record with SoftBank.
However, tendinitis in his throwing elbow limited his 2008 campaign to just three appearances, and the Hawks released him at season’s end. He thought then his career might have come to an end.
Things were not much better in 2009. Standridge found himself playing independent ball in the U.S. Atlantic League for the Somerset Patriots in New Jersey. He admits he did not even pitch very well there during the regular season but threw a complete-game victory in the championship game, and that gave him the confidence he could still pitch with success at a high level.
He got a second crack at Japanese baseball in 2010 when Hanshin took a chance and signed him. Since then, he’s put in seven productive seasons in the Central and Pacific Leagues.
Prior to leaving Japan on Oct. 15 for home in Alabama, Standridge expressed hopes to return for that 10th campaign here and said, “I’m 50-50 about returning, but the team hasn’t given me any indication yet either way. I’m sure I will know something within the next few weeks.”
Should the Marines choose not to re-sign him, another Japanese club might be wise to invite Standridge on board. Not only would they be getting a quality pitcher with a lot of experience living and playing in Japan, but also, as a 10-year veteran, he would not count against a team’s restriction to register a maximum of four foreign players at a time on its first-team roster. He would be considered as a Japanese.
Whether or not he comes back, his career and life in Japan will forever be remembered by him and his family, not only for his pitching, but also for another very special and precious reason.
Three years ago, Jason and Joy adopted a Japanese baby girl. They named her Cayne and added her to their family which also included son Cash, now 8. Cayne turned 3 this past June 30, and they have another biological baby girl, Harlow, who just turned a year old in August.
A devout Christian, Jason says it was God’s plan all along for him and his family to go to Japan to play ball and to adopt Cayne.
“That would not have happened if we never went to Japan,” Standridge said about the adoption. “I would not trade that feeling for anything; to have her to hold, and I know she was born to be our little girl.
“When you think of how powerful it is … she was born in another country, but she is our girl. It is such a cool story. When she grows up, we will tell her, ‘Mom and dad were sent to Japan to play baseball, but also to pick you up.’ “
Joy and the children often attended Jason’s games, and Cash sometimes joined his dad on the field following a victory in a post-game hero interview. Highlights of Standridge’s career in Japan include being named the Central League MVP pitcher in consecutive months while with Hanshin in 2010 and winning the Japan Series with the Hawks in 2014 and 2015.
Jason mentioned he has been fortunate to play in Japan for such a long time and to pitch for three class organizations. “Softbank, Hanshin and the Marines have all treated me well,” he said.
Should he not come back and retirement is in the cards, Standridge says he is not interested in coaching professional or college baseball but would consider coaching high school baseball.
Even if he never throws another pitch anywhere as a professional baseball player, the career of Jason Standridge in Japan will go down as one of the most memorable for a foreign player. He keeps a treasure trove of memories and a Japanese daughter.
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: Wayne@JapanBall.com