Updates on Kenji Jojima from September 29:
Today's retirement game against Ni-gun Orix at Naruohama: Jojima was the starting catcher and batted third. With runners on first and second and no out in the bottom of the 1st, he hit a RBI single to center. He was promptly replaced by a pinch-runner. As he got near home plate, his three kids presented him with flowers. Kyuji Fujikawa and the rest of the players in the dugout all walked toward Jojima and tossed him into the air seven times. Source: Nikkan Sports 9/29/2012, Daily Sports 9/29/2012
Kimiyasu Kudo attended Jojima's press conference on Friday and later presented him with flowers. Source: Nikkan Sports 9/29/2012
Sanspo has posted additional a second interview Jojima conducted directly with the media on Friday.
What was the biggest reason why you retired?
The I could not throw. It was a weapon. I loved throwing since I was a kid and I made a name for myself with it after turning pro. I think it is one of the most important things for a catcher.
You did have the option to go under the knife.
Yes, of course. The Tigers also mentioned that. But like I said before, I decided that if I earned my high salary without doing much over a two-year period, it would be time for me to take the uniform off.
When did you inform the team?
Earlier this month. I had made the decision in August, once I knew I would not be able to return as a catcher. It was not until this month after the team was eliminated from the playoffs that I told them I was going to take the uniform off. The team also asked if I would like to get behind the plate one last time at Koshien tomorrow (9/29). The manager also asked me to come. But Hiroshima is still competing for a spot in the playoffs and I do not want them to waste one out or one strike. I told them I would be fine playing my last game at Naruohama. And so my last game will be at Naruohama.
Do you want to coach?
I have not thought about it. I do not think I will do that for at least four or five years. And I will not do anything in the media (analyst, commentator) either.
What was it like playing for the Tigers over the last three years?
During my first year I could really feel the expectations from the fans. I really wanted to do more here.
You will be suiting up for tomorrow's (9/29) game.
I wonder if I still remember how to put the gear on... I am looking forward to it. A chance to get all my catching equipment out for the first time in a while. I would like my children to see that. I would also like the fans to see it as well.
UPDATE @ 6:06pm - 1,717 fans were in attendance for Jojima's Ni-gun retirement game. Source: Sponichi 9/29/2012
UPDATE 9/30 @ 2:21am - Daily Sports is carrying Jojima's last post-game interview (from Saturday's game).
What are you feeling now that your retirement game is over?
I made the decision quite a while back ago so. I am of course sad, but I appreciate each and every person that made it out to Naruohama today. To play for this long and to have the fans watch my last game makes me a happy baseball player, then on the other hand, tomorrow, I no longer have to wake up by a certain time, I can drink alcohol, and I no longer have to do weight training or go out running.
You caught a game for the first time in a while. What was the view like behind the mask?
The view made me think that this was what my career was about. I did not feel emotional, since it had not been that long ago, but it reminded that this is where I made it. I did not forget my routines as a hitter or as a catcher, it felt like business as usual.
The last batter struck out. Was that what you were going for?
Not really. I went with instinct, I looked at the swing as a catcher. But I think the batter may have been knew. Akiyama also threw a good pitch.
You hit a RBI single to center in your last at bat.
The pitcher may have tried to accommodate a little, but my first pro hit was a single to center. And it also drove in a run. And my last hit as a single to center... For eighteen years I fell away from the basics and pulled everything. Now that I am retiring, I was easily able to do it the right way.
What kind of at bat were you envisioning before you stepped into the batter's box?
Nothing really. I just wanted to swing the bat hard.
The other players tossed you up into the air.
I felt embarrassed. And everyone came even though it was a travel day. And the pitchers, they came and it made me happy because I am always so critical of them.
What did you tell the players?
Do not get hurt.
<Informal interview with reporters>
Before the game, you played some catch with Kyuji.
He came out wearing his uniform. He said, "Joe-san, let us play catch." He is not at 100%. I told him not to worry about it. But then he said he wanted to at least play catch with me. I am a happy guy. Really happy.
You threw while sitting.
The baseball player in me made me throw and I felt pain. I can not even hold a fishing pole. I am finished with baseball, but I may still have surgery.
You were throwing the ball pretty well.
They said I was pretending! That it did not really hurt... But seriously, it hurt. It brought me back to reality it hurt so much.
You stopped a ball in the dirt.
I can not move my legs to either side, that is the reality of it.
First pitch and a passed ball.
I did not think [the batter] was going to swing and miss. That got me going a little.
On catching for the first time in a long while.
A lot goes on [back there]. Talk to the umpire. While having a conversation you check where the batter is standing. And you try to figure out big the umpire's strike zone is. I have done this for eighteen years, well more like thirty. As a baseball player, or more as a catcher. Catching a game felt normal.
You finish with 1,837 hits between the NPB and MLB. Are you happy with your stats?
I wanted to get a hit in every trip to the plate. The numbers, I may have wanted to get to 2,000 if I was closer to it, but right now, at this stage of retiring because I cannot catch, I do not feel any regrets over any of my trips to the plate. The numbers are just ordinary though. I am not satisfied with them.
You were tearing up when you received the flowers...
That, that was not tears. No tears at all. That does not count. But getting my kids out there, that is unfair!
Your family had a chance to watch your last game...
As a baseball player, it is the ultimate happiness. Their presence pushed me forward and there were times when that really helped me. I need to repay them. Being the wife of a baseball player is not easy. I think I will give my wife a choice. If he wants me healthy and out of the house, I will have to find some place to go like before. And I can not always go out fishing. If she wants me to stay at home, that is fine as well. I think I will have her decide.
Was tossing you up in the air the player's idea?
I did not want them to do it, but Kyuji said he came just for that. I really did not want to delay the game. You have to think about the other team's pitcher. Getting tossed into the air made me happy and that everyone felt that way also made me happy. [They did it] even though I decided to quit without doing much of anything for this organization... What a great organization. Good players, good place, and good fans. I am lucky that I am taking the uniform off as a member of this organization. It made me think that coming to Hanshin was not the wrong thing to do.
You touched home plate before the start of the game.
It is part of my routine. I usually say something about not wanting to get hurt, but I left that out. I thought it would be ok if I got hurt since it was my last game. Then I threw the ball as hard as I could to second. I hurt myself pretty bad. I do not want to hold a baseball for a year. My elbow really hurts. It felt numb. But it hung in there. My elbow and my shoulder.
<End of interview with reporters>
Please do not look for me beginning tomorrow.