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Maui’s Suzuki to retire

2001 Baldwin grad calls it a career after 16 seasons

Los Angeles Angels’ Kurt Suzuki swings at a pitch from the Baltimore Orioles during the ninth inning on July 9. Suzuki said he plans to retire at the end of the season following a 16-year career. AP file photo

Kurt Suzuki, a 2001 Baldwin High School graduate, announced this week that he will retire at the end of the current Major League Baseball season.

Suzuki, currently a backup catcher for the California Angels, will leave MLB as 32nd all-time in games caught — he currently has 1,537 games behind the plate. It is unlikely he will catch Eddie Lombardi, who is currently 31st on the MLB games caught list at 1,544.

Suzuki is also 32nd all-time in innings caught, with 12,951 2/3.

Among Hawaii-born major leaguers, Suzuki is the all-time leader in hits (1,420), games (1,632), doubles (295), home runs (143) and RBIs (729).

In what will now become his final season, he is hitting .179 with four home runs and 14 RBIs.

Suzuki

Suzuki, 38, announced Tuesday that he plans to retire at season’s end, bringing his 16-year MLB career to a close.

“Obviously it’s not an easy decision,” Suzuki said to MLB.com. “There’s always going to be a time where you’re going to have to call it quits, and I just feel like it’s the right time.”

He will be missed by the Angels organization.

Nevin told The Orange County Register. “He’s been a great teammate here for a couple of years. He’s not going to be away from baseball, I can tell you that.

“He’s going to be a big part of it, whether he’s doing the same thing I’m doing or in the front office. He’s too good for this game.”

Suzuki, who was born and raised in Wailuku, was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the second round of the 2004 draft out of Cal State Fullerton, where he led the Titans to an NCAA title.

He made his MLB debut with the A’s in 2007 and spent a combined seven seasons with Oakland.

Before signing with the Angels in 2021, Suzuki spent time with Minnesota, where he earned his lone All-Star nod in 2014.

Perhaps the defining moment of Suzuki’s career came in 2019 when he was the starting catcher for the Washington Nationals when they won the World Series.

He spent 2017 and 2018 with the Atlanta Braves.

In addition to his world championship season in 2019, he played in the National League Division Series in 2012 with Washington and the 2018 NLDS with the Braves.

According to baseball-refer ence.com, he has made more than $49 million in his career.

He has never forgotten his Maui roots, annually putting on a players clinic in January at Maehara Stadium — he pays the way from Lanai and Molokai for dozens of youngsters.

In 2019, future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols showed up at Suzuki’s clinic.

Suzuki also championed the life of Trucker Dukes, a 3-year-old Maui boy who died from cancer in 2017. Several MLB players followed Suzuki’s lead in honoring Dukes.

Suzuki said told The Maui News in 2021 and 2022 that he has been leaning towards retirement for some time and would not have come back to play if not for the opportunity of playing for the Angels, thus being able to stay close to his family.

He was coaching his son Kai’s youth team before the Angels called prior to the 2022 season.

Suzuki met his wife Renee at Cal State Fullerton — they have three children: Kai, 8, daughter Malia, 11, and youngest son Eli, 6.

“(My family) stuck by me, grinded it out through all these years with me as well. So to be able to become that full-time dad and full-time husband is going to be nice,” Suzuki said to MLB.com.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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