The media learned today that forty-four-year-old Shinjiro Hiyama is planning to retire at the end of the season. He could hold a press conference later today to make it official.
According to a separate Nikkan Sports report, Hiyama wanted to continue his career for as long as possible, but not if it meant signing with another team. After the Tigers front office decided last month to begin moving toward youth, he felt it might be time to call it quits. After retirement, he plans to send time as a baseball analyst studying the finer aspects of the game.
UPDATE 9/8 @ 3:05am -
Hiyama held a press conference at a hotel in Nishinomiya, Hyogo on Saturday to formally announce his retirement. Daily Sports and the official team site have posted fairly in-depth portions of his press conference. Since they are a bit long, I will focus on the shorter versions available.
You spent the most amount of time in the organization.
It was an interesting journey. I came up through Ni-gun, got to bat clean-up, worked as chief player rep, won pennants, and got to experience what it was like to be a pinch-hitter. I feel as though I have experienced enough to cover a number of lifetimes.
What do you think of the cheers of support when you get a pinch at bat?
It makes me want to succeed at my job. Not everyone can experience those cheers. I am a lucky guy.
Are you running out of juice?
I was using situational fielding practice as a tool to gauge my levels and there were times I sat out the sessions because I did not feel right. There was no pain in my body. A part of me could not understand that and asked myself, "What do you think you are doing?"
What is your best memory?
The junior all-star game during my second year, when I invited both my parents, hit a home run, and won the MVP. When I saw my parents' faces after the game, I felt glad I turned pro.
Do you have any regrets?
Not winning a Nippon Series. As a professional baseball player, I will do my best until the very end, when all possibilities are exhausted.
Source: Sponichi 9/7/2013
The Tigers' PR department released the following statement made by team owner Shinya Sakai:
A Hanshin lifer for twenty-two years. It was a long career. Both as a central team figure and as a player off the bench, he was a valuable player that impressed the fans with his steadfast play on the field. He batted clean-up in 2003 and as chief player rep, helped bring the team together for a league pennant. In his later years, he became the go to guy off the bench and came through for the cheering fans with his ability to come through with big hits. I would like to thank him for all his work from the bottom of my heart.
Source: Nikkan Sports 9/7/2013