NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Norichika Aoki says he is only thinking about victory for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, upon returning to the Central League ballclub after seven years in the major leagues.
“I love this team for welcoming back warmly even though I ended up leaving them,” Aoki told a news conference while donning a No. 23 Swallows uniform on Tuesday. “I’m not thinking of anything else except winning for Yakult.”
The 36-year-old outfielder, who played for Yakult from 2004 to 2011, became a free agent after he was released by the New York Mets last October. He said he made the decision to return to NPBin part due to a stagnant free market in the majors.
“I decided this was a time when I wouldn’t cause any trouble for Yakult,” Aoki said.
He will join the team on Wednesday, six days after the Swallows started their spring training.
Aoki says that he sees the team making an effort to improve last season’s performance, when it finished at the bottom of the six-team league.
“I’m surprised,” he added. “I feel like the team is trying to change, and I want the team to go in a good direction.”