Nobuhiko Matsunaka (41) held a press conference at YafuOku Dome earlier today to announce that he submitted a request to be released so that he can continue playing. He imagined finishing his career with the Hawks, but his desire to keep playing was stronger. He decided to part ways with the team because he did not want any regrets by retiring too soon. He wants to investigate all his options, no matter how small they might be. Matsunaka wants to play until he has nothing left in him and until he is fully satisfied.
When asked if he might play for a league other than the NPB, he said he was not sure because he just made the decision a day or two ago and that it was something he had to think about moving forward.
A couple of quotes from the press conference:
Beginning in the off-season, I felt strongly about doing my best, about making it at Ichi-gun under Kimiyasu Kudo. But I didn't do well when I played in exhibition games and I started the year at Ni-gun. The team had a tremendous year and won a pennant. It was the first time in my nineteen-year career that I was not with the team the moment they clinched and that was really hard for me. When I was called up and I stood in the dugout, I felt there was no place for me here. That there was nothing more I could teach. That's how I felt.
They called me up and I got seven or eight trips to the plate. There were times over the last few years where it felt like I wasn't seeing the ball, but this year, I could see the ball. I don't think continuing to play is just about a healthy body, but I honestly feel great. And I have the desire. I decided that as long as there is a part of me that wants to hit, that wants to figure out better ways to hit, that I would rather play until I have nothing left than retire and think about what might have been.
A lot of people have cheered for me and gave me power the last nineteen years. I wanted to give as many people a chance to see me play in a Hawks uniform, so I thought making the announcement as soon as possible would be best. I feel really bad because I should have waited until the end [of the season].
On a side note, Jiji Press accidentally published a report about Matsunaka retiring.
Source: official tweet, Sponichi 9/29/2015, ZakZak 9/29/2015, Sports Hochi 9/29/2015, Nikkan Sports 9/29/2015, Sanspo 9/29/2015, NHK 9/29/2015, Sanspo 9/29/2015, Tokyo Sports 9/29/2015, Tokyo Sports 9/29/2015
[UPDATE 10/2 @ 9:16pm]
Matsunaka played in his last game in a Softbank uniform on October 1 against Rakuten. He made the starting line-up at designated hitter and batted seventh. He went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. He was taken off the active roster on October 2.
Source: Nikkan Sports 10/2/2015