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Former big league outfielder Kosuke Fukudome returned to the Chunichi Dragons, his first pro team, the Central League club announced Saturday.

The 43-year-old left-handed hitter joined the Dragons in 1999 out of the corporate leagues.

Fukudome, the CL’s 2006 MVP, spent five seasons in the big leagues, mostly with the Chicago Cubs, who signed him as a free agent in 2008. He returned to Japan in 2013 with the CL’s Hanshin Tigers.

He has 2,407 hits in Nippon Professional Baseball and the majors combined, but struggled this past season with Hanshin, batting .154 with one home run and 12 RBIs in 43 games. The Tigers made him a free agent by not offering him a contract for 2021.

“I want to do all I can to make the most of this opportunity,” Fukudome said.

Chunichi finished this season third in the CL for the first time in eight seasons, but moved to acquire Fukudome to give the club more depth with a left-handed bat off the bench.

Fukudome joined Chunichi in 1999 as the Dragons’ top draft pick. In 1995, seven teams named the power-hitting high schooler as their first-round draft pick. He chose to play corporate league ball, however, rather than turn pro with the Pacific League’s Kintetsu Buffaloes, who won his negotiating rights.

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