TOKYO — Former major league infielder Munenori Kawasaki is likely to retire after being released by his Japanese club on Monday.
In a statement released by the Softbank Hawks, the 36-year-old infielder said a series of injuries has prevented him from being the player he wanted to be.
Kawasaki spent five seasons in Major League Baseball with the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs. His post-game interviews in broken English became an internet sensation during that time.
His best season in the majors was in 2013, when he had 55 hits and drove in 24 runs for the Blue Jays. Kawasaki played 201 regular-season games for the Jays over three seasons and was part of the 2015 team that brought playoff baseball back to Toronto for the first time in 22 years.
A light-hitting infielder, Kawasaki went to the Mariners in 2012 and was briefly teammates with his idol Ichiro Suzuki.
Kawasaki became a fan favourite and YouTube sensation with a post-game interview in Toronto in 2013 that began “Thank you very much. My name is Munenori Kawasaki. I come from Japan. I am Japaneeeeese!”
Following the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 World Series championship, Kawasaki joined Daisuke Matsuzaka and Koji Uehara as the only Japanese players to have won championships in the World Baseball Classic, Japan Series and World Series.
In Japan, Kawasaki scored 653 runs, had 27 home runs and 373 RBIs with a .292 average over 1187 games.