'A special moment': Suzuki caps career with full-circle sendoff

October 5th, 2022

OAKLAND -- It was only fitting for Angels catcher Kurt Suzuki’s 16-year career to finish where it started.

Suzuki, who is officially retiring after the season, played his final game on Tuesday against the A’s, the club he began his career with and played with from 2007-2012 and again for a stint in ‘13. In a nice tribute to Suzuki in the first inning of the Angels' eventual 2-1, 10-inning loss, he was removed from the game after catching one pitch from right-hander Michael Lorenzen. It allowed his teammates to meet him at the mound to celebrate the end of his career, which also came on his 39th birthday.

“It was special,” Suzuki said. “It was a pretty cool experience with the fans, obviously. This is where I started. They’re great and they’re into it. I loved the fans and will always love the fans. It was a special moment to walk off the field for the last time and catch my last pitch. It still hasn’t really hit me.”

Suzuki, who was also honored in a pregame ceremony on the field, received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Oakland Coliseum. He immediately met Lorenzen at the mound and gave him a hug before hugging all of his teammates and interim manager Phil Nevin. Max Stassi, who replaced him behind the plate, gave Suzuki his last hug before he waved to his family on the way back to the dugout. Suzuki’s wife, Renee, and their three children, Malia, Kainoah and Elijah, were at the game and also took part in the pregame celebration.

Nevin and Suzuki also couldn’t help but note the Cal State Fullerton connections as well, as Nevin, Suzuki, Lorenzen and A’s manager Mark Kotsay all played for the Titans. Suzuki was a teammate of Kotsay's when he first broke into the Majors, and even Oakland players gave Suzuki a standing ovation in their dugout.

“He certainly had a great sendoff,” Nevin said. “He’s a terrific human being who has done a lot for our game. And he’ll continue to do a lot for our game. You try to think of something special to do for him and hopefully it’s something he’ll remember.”

It ended an underrated career for Suzuki, who was an All-Star with the Twins in 2014 and won a World Series with the Nationals in 2019. He was a career .255/.314/.388 hitter with 1,421 hits, 143 homers and 730 RBIs in 1,635 games with the A’s, Nationals, Twins, Braves and Angels.

He finishes his career with 1,539 games caught, which is the 32nd most all-time. Suzuki’s 1,421 hits rank 39th among all catchers and his 730 RBIs rank 42nd all-time among backstops, just ahead of Buster Posey.

“I enjoyed every second of it and I’m happy with everything I’ve accomplished,” Suzuki said. “I’m not Albert Pujols or Yadi Molina, but to get that kind of ovation or respect means the world to me. It’s a very special moment. This is a very special place for me. It’s where it all started and where I grew up as a player. So, to finish it here was pretty cool.”

Suzuki, a Wailuku, Hawaii native who won the College World Series with Cal State Fullerton in 2004, played his final two seasons with the Angels, batting .207 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs in 122 games. He was considered a clubhouse leader and a mentor to younger players, especially for his work with the pitching staff.

“It made me emotional on the mound and I was extremely grateful to be a part of it,” said Lorenzen, who threw six scoreless innings to finish with a 4.24 ERA in 18 starts. “He’s incredible. He treats everyone with respect. He’s the man. He’s just a great leader and a great person to everyone.”

Angels superstar Mike Trout called Suzuki a great teammate and said that Suzuki earned respect around the league because of his leadership qualities, play, longevity and toughness.

“Just a true professional,” Trout said. “I got to play with him for the last couple years and I’ve rarely seen him mad. He always brought that smile and that energy. Just an unbelievable teammate. A lot of people don’t see it because they’re not in the clubhouse, but what he means to the younger guys, the other catchers, even myself. Just how he handles himself and brings that positive and energy to the ballclub, you can’t teach that. It’s emotional for him because he’s played for a long time, but I think a lot of people in this league respect him for that.”