Fresh off retirement, Tadahito Iguchi will throw out the first pitch for the White Sox before the close of their home schedule tonight, giving those around the South Side an ability to honor his long, productive career.
The 42-year-old Iguchi played the last of his 2,408 major league (lowercase) games on Sunday — 493 for the White Sox, Phillies and Padres, and 1,915 in Nippon Professional Baseball. The Chiba Lotte Marines honored him with a pregame ceremony and by having all players wear the number 6, and Iguchi thanked them with a homer. Not just a homer, but a game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
And because the Internet is glorious, we can watch it a high-quality version of it.
It was just his second homer of the year, partially because it was his first game with the Marines since late August. His game had been on its last legs, reflected by an uncharacteristic .244/.340/.350 line, and it seems as though he tried not to inconvenience the Marines too much:
Sunday’s game was Iguchi’s first top-team game since he played in an Aug. 27 contest against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. After that, he was on the farm team to prepare for his retirement game.
He also declined to take the field at second base one more time, as the game was too close for a vanity appearance:
Iguchi, a three-time Golden Glove award winner in Japan, did not have a chance to put on his glove and take the field.
Asked if he wanted to do it, Iguchi said: “I could not have done it in that (close) game situation. I didn’t take the field at all this year, and we have a legit second baseman in Daichi Suzuki, who’s played there all year. I could not have taken the spot from him. I value my team winning more than anything else and I’m just glad I was able to contribute today.”
After the game, Iguchi was honored with a postgame ceremony, which included a congratulatory video from the White Sox. They gathered A-listers like Jerry Reinsdorf, Kenny Williams, Ozzie Guillen and Paul Konerko to say a few words, which is no small gesture. Geoff Blum made an appearance as well.
Japanese baseball legend Sadaharu Oh — Iguchi’s first pro manager with the Fukuoka Hawks — also spoke via video, and he played up Iguchi’s stateside jaunt, too.
“Iguchi, you came to the Hawks in 1997 and we played together,” Oh said in a video message. “We were weak earlier, but you really did your best and greatly contributed to us winning the Japan Series titles in 1999 and 2003.
“Iguchi, who loves to play baseball, took on the challenge of the major leagues and spent four years there, and I think that it genuinely benefited your baseball career afterwards. You have a promising future, but I think that these four years will help you out.”
I’d written before about Iguchi’s brief but charmed MLB career, and in his postgame address, he seemed to agree that he couldn’t have asked for more.
"The things I aspired to do when I turned pro, get 2,000 hits, play in the majors and keep playing until I was 40, I achieved those and enjoyed so many experiences that many players cannot," he told the fans after the Marines beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 4-3 in 12 innings.
"It's really been quite a life in the game. The dream that I had as a small child of becoming a pro ball player now comes to an end. As of now, I am off in the pursuit of my next dream. I desire to return my gratitude to you all by working to develop and advance the game."
His first move could be managing the Marines, but based on what I can tell from the English-language Japanese news sources, he hasn’t yet decided.