16-year veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki retires where he started

CELEBRATING A CAREER — Los Angeles Angels catcher Kurt Suzuki with family and relatives — including wife Renee and sons Kai Noah and Elijah, who gathered at his last game against the Oakland Athletics Oct. 4 at Oakland Coliseum. photos by Scott Nakajima Photography

OAKLAND, Calif. — Concluding a 16-year major league career, Japanese American catcher Kurt Suzuki of the Los Angeles Angels caught his final pitch where his big league career started — at the Oakland Coliseum.

Two weeks before the end of the season, the former All Star and 2019 World Series champion announced his retirement. He caught the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning — and the final pitch of his career — on Oct. 4 against the Oakland Athletics before walking off the field to a standing ovation.

Shortly after announcing his retirement, Suzuki told Bally Sports West, the broadcast partner of the Los Angeles Angels, “I poured my heart and soul into this game for 16 seasons in the big leagues and three years in the minor leagues, and it’s not an easy decision. My wife and my three kids deserve to

have for me to be a full-time dad and husband now, and I’m excited for the next chapter in my life.”
Prior to the Angels’ final season series in Oakland, Angels interim manager Phil Nevin seemed to indicate that the team was preparing to recognize Suzuki’s retirement where he started his major league career. “[Oakland] is where he started. This is a special place for him,” Nevin told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ll try to make this as special as we can for him.”

Suzuki was drafted in the second round by the Oakland A’s in 2004. He made his major league debut on June 12, 2007 when he came in as a pinch hitter against the Houston Astros. He grounded out in his first at-bat, and got his major league hit the next day. Suzuki would collect 1,420 more hits in his 16 seasons in the big leagues.

In his final game, which also happened to be his 39th birthday, Suzuki was in the starting lineup. He caught one pitch from Angels right-hander Michael Lorenzen in the first inning. After he caught the pitch, time was called and Suzuki was pulled from the game so that he could be acknowledged on the field by players and the attending fans. Teammates gathered on the infield and came out of the dugout to give Suzuki a warm, standing ovation.

Kurt Suzuki exits the game after the first pitch to the applause of Oakland A’s leadoff hitter Tony Kemp.
photos by Scott Nakajima Photography

After hugging his teammates and waving to the crowd, Suzuki walked off the field for the last time as a major league catcher.

“It felt great,” Suzuki told the Nichi Bei Weekly. “I’ve had some great memories here. It’s where it all started, got drafted here, got developed here. Can’t say anything more than being able to finish my career here. It was awesome.”

Suzuki played seven seasons for the Oakland A’s (2007-2012, 2013) in addition to the Washington Nationals, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, and his final two seasons with the Angels. He was an All Star with the Twins in 2014, and won the World Series with the Nationals in 2019.

Hailing from Wailuku, Hawai‘i, Suzuki holds several records for Major Leaguers who were born in Hawai‘i, including games played (1,635), hits (1,421), home runs (143), RBI (730), and doubles (295). Suzuki also ranks 32nd most all-time for games caught (1,539), and 39th among all catchers for hits (1,421).

Before his professional career, Suzuki led the Cal State Fullerton Titans to a national championship in the College World Series during his senior season in 2004. That year, he batted .413 with 16 home runs and 87 RBI, and won the Johnny Bench Award recognizing the nation’s top college catcher, as well as nabbing the inaugural Brooks Wallace Award honoring the nation’s most outstanding collegiate baseball player. Suzuki was inducted into the Cal State Fullerton Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017.

When asked to name the biggest highlight of his long career, Suzuki unequivocally answered, “Definitely winning the World Series. That’s what everybody plays for.”

Kenji G. Taguma and Scott Nakajima contributed to this story.

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