Tadahito Iguchi finished out his final at bat of his career by doing what so few professional athletes could do once their skills have declined. Bottom of the ninth, Iguchi walks up to the plate and the stadium breaks into their final cheer for him as they know that this is his at bat for a storied career. A career that saw him start off under the tutelage of hall of famer Sadaharu Oh as a member of the then Daiei Hawks (now known as Softbank), where his play and production led to him becoming a member of the Chicago White Sox. As a White Sox player, Iguchi would make a huge impact in 2005, where during a divisional series against the Red Sox, he hit a 3-run home run in game 2 that put them ahead in that game. The White Sox ended up winning the world series that year and Ozzie Guillen (then the manager of the team) told the media that Iguchi was the MVP of the team. Iguchi had gotten traded to the Phillies in 2007 where he was a part of the championship team that year, then in 2009, he would return to Japan to join the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Iguchi stated that this season would be his last season because he said that he could no longer hit homers as easily as he did before. At his final at bat, with the crowd cheering him on, he would foul off the first pitch. The second pitch was a fast ball that was wide outside and called for ball 1, third pitch went low below the knees for ball 2. As the pitcher prepared for the third pitch, the crowd’s chanting started to get louder, almost as if they sensed that this was the moment that something was going to happen. Sure enough, the next pitch was a fast ball straight through the plate and Iguchi hits it clean…for a home run!
A home run, which is essentially the best way to go out on the biggest stage. So many superstar athletes wanted to finish their careers with a flourish, but it very rarely happens. Usain Bolt limped his way out of his final track and field event, where he had been untouchable through 3 Olympics. Michael Jordan should have retired after the 1998 finals against the Jazz where he won with a final shot at the buzzer, but returned through an ill-fated stint with the Wizards. Kobe Bryant perhaps did the closest thing to an ideal career finale by scoring 60 points, but he needed 50 shots to get there. Iguchi was not a superstar on the level of Ichiro, but he finished his career better than most superstars.