Daisuke Matsuzaka closed his 23-year professional baseball career on Saturday in a ceremony that included a surprise appearance by Ichiro Suzuki.
Matsuzaka, who faced a single hitter this season for the Saitama Seibu Lions, issuing a free ticket in an appearance in October, told fans at Seibu’s MetLife Dome that he was happy to leave the sport on his terms.
“I’m glad I was able to keep playing baseball until eventually I couldn’t pitch normally anymore,” Matsuzaka said, according to Kyodo News.
A video of Suzuki was played, ending with the surprise appearance of the former Seattle Mariners outfielder surprising Matsuzaka on the field and giving him a bouquet of flowers.
“I didn’t imagine it. It was crazy,” Matsuzaka said, according to Kyodo News. “At first I could hold on, and then the tears came and I was finished.
“I was surprised and very happy that, in the end, Ichiro-san came to see me. I am happy that I was able to come this far.”
Suzuki and Matsuzaka faced each other in both Japan and the Major Leagues during their careers. They were also teammates with the Japanese national team that won the World Baseball Classic titles in 2006 and 2009.
The 41-year-old Matsuzaka was 56-43 with a 4.45 ERA in 132 career MLB starts with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets from 2007 to 2014. He won a World Series title in his rookie season. with the Red Sox in 2007.
He started and ended his career with the Lions, pitching for them from 1999 to 2006 and the last two seasons. He also played for Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and Chunichi Dragons after returning to Japan in 2015.