Monday, November 28, 2016

Kishi thanks the Lions, fans in final farewell

The Saitama Seibu Lions hosted Thanks Festa on 11/23 at Seibu Dome as a final goodbye to the 2016 NPB season. All other NPB teams do the same, as in Japan, they do their equivalent of fanfest after the season rather than before it.

Despite leaving for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in free agency, Takayuki Kishi was in a Lions uniform for the final time and attended the event. He was introduced like every other player at the start of the event and was greeted with cheers by the fans.

Throughout the league, this has been a common procedure even though players aren't required to attend this event. Like Kishi, outgoing players Yoshio Itoi of the Orix Buffaloes and Daikan Yoh (Yang) were in attendance at their respective fanfests. Last year, Ryota Wakiya was a participant after it was already known that he filed to be a free agent and wasn't likely to return.

For Kishi, he was given a chance to speak to the fans one last time before leaving. He admitted he wasn't comfortable participating, but felt it was part of his duty to be present.

"I was worried about if I should join the thank festa today, but I decided to say thank you here as I don't like to leave without saying anything all the fans who have supported me," Kishi said in a speech.

Kishi was given a medal to commemorate reaching 1,500 career innings pitched. In 1,521 innings, all with the Lions, he had a career 3.05 ERA and 1,243 strikeouts over the course of the last 10 seasons. He was the final Kibouwaku draft pick, where the Lions would forego the first three rounds of the 2006 draft in order to obtain his rights.

He will be most remembered in 2008, where he took the Japan Series by storm. He would win Game 4 and later take a must-win Game 6 in long relief en route to the last Seibu Lions Japan Series championship. Kishi was named the 2008 Japan Series MVP as a result. He also threw a no-hitter in 2014, which is the last one to occur in NPB.

As Kishi turns 32 next week, he will get to return home to be with the Eagles as he is a Sendai native. Earlier this month, he signed a four year contract worth an estimated $4 million in annual salary.

Fans who listened gave him applause, but everyone knows he will enter another chapter in his baseball career.

"I have managed to play for these 10 years thanks to all your warm support, which I really appreciate and am so grateful for," Kishi said. "I will continue doing my best with this grateful feeling. Again, thank you all."


Special thanks to @shiba_scope and Mizuho Miyazaki for translation help. 

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