The Hanshin Tigers officially signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka to a contract today. They also held a press conference at a hotel in Osaka to unveil their newest addition.
Please tell us what you are feeling right now.
For me, I spoke to a number of teams and I honestly had a hard time deciding. I felt the desire to win from each of the teams. After thinking about where I felt I could really focus on playing, it became clear that I had a strong attraction for the Hanshin Tigers. I started playing baseball when I was young. In high school, my goal was to play at Koshien. Now, after turning pro, I have a chance to make it my home stadium. I think I am very lucky.
I think GM [Katsuhiro] Nakamura told you about the attraction of Koshien. Did that play a role in your decision?
Play a role? I just felt happy when he told me the team could really use my help. Honestly, these last two years in the US ended with disappointing results. In terms of pushing me to another level, it made me realize how weak I was and got me into the mindset of starting over from the beginning. I would like to apply that pressure on myself next year and do the best that I can.
You said you had a hard time deciding. Do you feel relieved now?
The Hanshin Tigers have a lot of tradition. So long as I have made the decision, I plan to go crazy for them.
Were you offered a number?
They gave me the number seven. I want to do my best to put up results so that I do not tarnish the names off all the players that wore this number before me.
The first number you wore when you turned pro was seven. What does the number mean to you?
For me, next season represented a crossroads in my career as a baseball player. I think in terms of whether I do well or not, next season will be pivotal for me. Having a chance to wear the same number I wore when I first turned pro, I think that will allow me to return to my roots.
You will be returning to the NPB in the first time in three years. Do you feel yourself getting excited about it?
There is still time before the start of the season. I have plenty of things I need to do now. I would like to put a uniform on as soon as possible and get back to playing baseball.
You mentioned your two-year struggle in the Majors. How do you plan to use that experience to your advantage?
The Tigers have tradition. I think [Tomoaki] Kanemoto did a good job building the team. This will be my first year so I would like to play as if I were a rookie. I want to carry on [the tradition] and it would be nice if I can become a member of this team.
What do you think about playing in your home town of Osaka and wearing uniforms with pinstripes while playing against the Giants?
The Giants are not our only opponent. I do think they are the strongest and are always in the middle of things. It will be important to beat teams like that, otherwise winning a championship with the Hanshin Tigers will become difficult. I think in order to win a championship, it is not to focus [on the one team] and maintain a constant level of excitement for all games, regardless of opponent.
As a member of Lotte, you once mentioned that the sighs the fans made a Koshien Stadium made you happy, but now those very same sighs will be from the fans that are on your side.
It makes me feel strong. When I played games at Koshien as a member of Lotte, there were times when I wished I could join this team, even just once, and play a home game at this stadium. I hummed the theme song during the jet balloon launches. In that sense, I would like to play [at Koshien] as soon as possible.
[Shintaro] Fujinami, an Osaka Toin graduate like yourself, will be joining the team. What are your thoughts?
I have only met him in passing, but I think he has a strong center as a player. I think he is a great pitcher and I think he will come across things that surprise him once he begins to play. I too will be a first-year Hanshin Tiger, so we are the same in that regard. If there is a chance to talk, then... I would like to play with him. There is also [Takashi] Toritani and the veteran [Shinjiro] Hiyama. I would like to listen to what those players have to say as I become a part of the team.
What are you goals for 2013? And please, a word for the fans.
I am am always looking to win. Every team begins spring camp with the goal of winning a championship. I think being able to maintain that feeling over the course of a season can help a team compete for a championship. I would like to do what is necessary in order to play every day.
I know well what kind of fans Hanshin has and I would like to do well in order to receive their good cheers. I want to do my best so that I can get a hero interview as soon as possible.
Source: official announcement
Daiy Sports has posted a more from the press conference. I don't have the time to translate it right now, but here is a link to article.