Sasaki regrets not winning title

A strong desire to be near his children led Kaz Sasaki to walk away from $9.5 million next seasin with Seattle.

Originally Published: January 20, 2004
By Mai Yoshikawa | Special to ESPN.com

TOKYO -- Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki spoke with reporters Tuesday, explaining his decision to remain in Japan next season. The following is a translated transcript of the news conference:

Question: When did you reach the decision?

Answer: I started thinking about two years ago I wanted to live with my family, and when my agent told me I may have a chance to leave the Mariners before my contract is up, I decided that continuing my playing career in Japan would be the best thing to do. It became a reality this offseason.

Question: Why did you decide to forfeit the final year of a two-year contract?

Answer: Because it looked like the Mariners were being understanding and allowing me to leave now. There are still things I feel like I left undone in America, but I discussed it with my children and they asked me to stay with them. Their feelings were more important.

Kazuhiro Sasaki
Kazuhiro Sasaki said he hasn't thought about signing with a Japanese team yet.

Question: What if other major-league teams try to claim you off waivers?

Answer: All I can do is pray to God no one will do that.

Question: Do you have anything to say to the Mariners at this point?

Answer: They've been good to me and wanted me to remain for another year. I'd like to thank my teammates, coaches, staff and everyone else for being good to me all four years I was there.

Question: Did you talk to anyone about leaving before today?

Answer: I decided all by myself. I didn't even tell Ichiro (Suzuki) or (Shigetoshi) Hasegawa.

Question: What specifics will you be looking for when signing with a Japanese team?

Answer: All I ask is that I be able to spend time with my family while I play and that's more important than money. But I'm in no position to even talk about it yet because there are many things that need to be done first.

Question: What is your best memory from the major leagues?

Answer: The 162nd game in my first year with the Mariners. That's when we won a spot in the playoffs and I was able to put on my best pitching.

Question: What have you left undone in the majors?

Answer: I had a dream, and that was to become a world champion. I regret not being able to accomplish that. But then again, more fans in Japan will be able to watch me pitch now and hopefully more children will grow up wanting to become a player like me.

Question: What can you say after how you did last season?

Answer: I can only say it's obvious I can do better. There's a part of me that wants to go back and prove my true worth, but I found something more important.

Question: Did your desire to represent Japan in the Olympics have anything to do with your decision?

Answer: Of course it would be nice to play in the Olympics, but I honestly haven't thought that far ahead and it's not for me to decide anyway.

Question: What does your family mean to you?

Answer: I am who I am because of my family. Knowing that a baseball career doesn't last too long for anyone, I wasn't so sure it was the right thing to do to give up seeing my children grow. I'm a father and I simply want to be able to think what's best for my own kids.

Question: What did your children have to say?

Answer: They asked me to stay in Japan, and that was enough. I told them I would try my best, and three days ago when I heard back from my agent, I told them it looks like it might happen. I'm sure they're happy with whatever decision I make.

Question: What are your plans for when you're done playing?

Answer: I want to make sure my child becomes a professional baseball player. I think he has talent, even though of course he'll never get to be better than me.

Question: How are you going to say goodbye to your fans in Seattle?

Answer: I want to say I'm sorry I couldn't become a world champion in front of them. They've all been warm and friendly, including the old women at the supermarket and the old men who lived in my neighborhood.

Question: What will you be doing from tomorrow on?

Answer: It will be hard to put all this behind me in a month and be ready to go by spring training. But all I can do is stay in shape physically and be prepared to go when I have to go.

Question: Are you hoping to play for the Yokohama BayStars?

Answer: Of course I have strong feelings for the BayStars, but even if I say I want to rejoin them, they may say they don't want me. I have to clear waivers and become free before I start thinking about any of that.

Mai Yoshikawa lives in Japan and covers sports for the International Department of Kyodo News based in Tokyo.

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