Yusei Kikuchi had waited for this for far too long to not savor every last second. For seven years, the Seibu Lions left-hander had chased the shadow of his younger self, the high school phenom poised to skip right over NPB and head to the major leagues.

He endured through scandal (an incident with a past coach he wasn't to blame for), through injury and through seasons where he could never consistently find his center. For whatever reason, everything clicked this year, and Kikuchi muscled his way into the ranks of the elite.

So after his finest season as a professional, 16 wins, 217 strikeouts and a 1.97 ERA, and pitching a shutout in his first career postseason start, coming out just wasn't an option. He was seeing this through to the end.