Yomiuri Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe made his retirement official on Wednesday, saying he felt ready to step away from the game after he ticked enough boxes this season, his 19th in Nippon Professional Baseball.
As the former captain of the Tokyo-based Central League club, the last box Abe wanted to tick off before calling it quits was to see the Giants clinch the league pennant under Hayato Sakamoto’s captaincy.
“We won (the league championship) and I reached the milestone 400th (home run). Seeing Sakamoto become the CL-winning captain took the weight off my shoulders. That’s when I decided,” said Abe, who wore an orange tie and black suit to his retirement press conference.
The 40-year-old won eight league championships in 19 seasons, all with Yomiuri. He served as the team captain from 2007- 2014.
This season, though he was listed as a catcher, he was used primarily as a pinch-hitter. In August, he transitioned back into a starting role at first base and helped the Giants capture their first league pennant in five years.
In 92 games, Abe hit .299 with six homers, including his 400th career home run in June, and 26 RBIs. He will continue to play through the postseason.
A first-round pick in the 2000 autumn draft out of Chuo University, Abe was handed the starting catcher job in his rookie season and has emerged as one of the top catchers in NPB history.
Abe received high praise from Yomiuri skipper Tatsunori Hara, who rejoined the team as manager for the third time this season and won his 1,000th game.
“I saw him as a rookie all the way up to the end of his career. When I think of him, I think of his strong body and competitive nature. He was an outstanding player,” Hara said.
“I’ve won 1,000 games (as manager) and he knows all of them. He’s the player who contributed most to those 1,000 wins. What an impressive career,” he said.
In 2012, Abe led the league in batting average, RBI and on-base percentage, and was named the CL MVP. In 2017 he reached the 2,000-hit plateau. He was also a national team member at the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and 2013 and the Olympics in 2000 and 2008.
Over his 19-year career, he batted .284 with 2,131 hits, 405 homers and 1,284 RBIs in 2,279 games. He won nine CL Best Nine Awards and two Golden Glove Awards at catcher.