Chiba Lotte Marines infielder Tadahito Iguchi announced Tuesday he is drawing the curtain on his 21-year career at the end of the season.
“I had decided last year. I want to show what my baseball career has been about in the remaining limited number of trips to the plate,” the 42-year-old Iguchi, NPB’s oldest active position player, told a news conference at Zozo Marine Stadium.
“I’ve always been thinking when would be the right time to quit. … I want the fans and those who supported me to come and watch me as much as they can.”
Iguchi joined the Chicago White Sox in 2005 as a free agent from the Daiei (now SoftBank) Hawks and played in 135 games in his first year, when the White Sox became World Series champions.
The Tokyo native also had stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres during his four seasons in the United States.
The top draft pick for the Hawks in 1997, Iguchi led the Pacific League in stolen bases in 2001 and 2003, winning the Best Nine and Golden Glove awards three times each.
“He was the focal point of the Hawks’ strong batting order that won two Japan Series (in 2003 and 2011),” SoftBank chairman and all-time home run king Sadaharu Oh said of the player he coached as manager.
“He was outstanding both in Japan and the United States. He’s one keen baseball player.”
Current Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo, who played with Iguchi for Daiei, said Iguchi has a lot to offer to the game even after he hangs up his spikes.
“I thought an amazing player was joining us who could run, hit and field. He was a man for big chances,” Kudo said of Iguchi, who has 15 grand slams to date, including one in his debut pro game.
“He has the experience of playing in many places like the majors, so hopefully he can pass that on to the young players.”
Iguchi returned to Japan in 2009 with the Marines, where he collected his 2,000th career hit in MLB and NPB combined in 2013 — a feat accomplished by only seven players. Iguchi, who now has 2,243, said his love for the game had brought him this far.
“I think I liked baseball more than the people around me,” Iguchi said. “I still have more than 70 games to play and I have a strong desire to give them all I have.”
In the past two seasons, Iguchi was limited to 87 and 79 games, respectively. This year, he is batting .257 with one home run and eight RBIs in 35 games.
Over his NPB career, Iguchi has hit .271 with 250 homers and 1,010 RBIs in 1,885 games. In 493 games in the majors, he had a .268 average with 44 homers and 205 RBIs.
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