Akinobu Okada is claiming that the Hanshin Tigers have been talking to Kenji Johjima for a couple years now, knowing that he'd be making a return to Japan at some point in the near future.
"These negotiations didn't just start you know. They've been talking since before! I heard about it a couple years ago. I was with Hanshin at the time so," said Okada.
Okada also apparently seems to know where Johjima wants to go.
On your four years with the Mariners...
The manager, coaches, and above all, the warm fans... I really wanted to thank the fans personally.
On not having any chances for the postseason...
I had a dream of working my butt off and getting to the playoffs... I felt strongly about making the playoffs.
It was a decision you made after you returned to Japan after the last game of the season...
I was just truthful with myself, living in the now. I talked to my family about it and told them how I felt. My wife respected by decision.
How will you apply your 4 years of experience in Japan?
I want people to be able say that I've grown since the last time I played in Japan. I was really filled with anxiety the first two years. Being able to prove that the Japanese way works over these last 4 years is also one of my better memories. I'd like to think that I'll continue to grow each day, that's the way I want to live each day of my life.
Johjima on Koshien Stadium (Hanshin Tigers):
I never got to play at the Koshien in high school. And I've only played a handful of games there after I turned pro. To be honest, and I'm not really sure, but my impression of the stadium is that there are a lot of passionate fans there.