Yomiuri Giants first baseman Justin Smoak is returning to the United States because his family was unable to join him in Japan and will be put on waivers, the Central League club said Thursday.
In a comment released by the team in Japanese, Smoak, a first-year import, said his situation was hard and that he made the decision in order to be with his family.
"His love of family outweighed everything else," said Atsuhiro Otsuka, the club's assistant representative to NPB.
Otsuka, who revealed he learned of Smoak's intent on Tuesday, said the team negotiated with NPB to allow his family to enter the country during the pandemic, but that "with the coronavirus situation it is pretty difficult."
Smoak played in 34 games for the Giants' first team and was batting .272 with a .336 on-base percentage and a .482 slugging average. He had seven home runs and 14 RBIs.
After a major league career in which the switch-hitter belted 196 home runs, the 34-year-old Smoak signed a two-year contract with the Giants in January. In his statement, Smoak offered an apology to his teammates who have been playing so hard and to all the fans.
Like many other first-year foreign players, Smoak missed spring training when Japan blocked non-residents from entering the country at the end of January. Those players were finally able to arrive after the government, in March, created an entry exemption for pro athletes and coaches.
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