Yakult Swallows outfielder Aaron Guiel ended his 19-year career in professional baseball, the team announced Sept. 21.
Guiel, a 38-year-old Canadian, joined the Swallows in 2007 after previous stints with the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees in Major League Baseball. His best seasons in Japan were in 2007, when he hit 35 home runs, and 2009, when he went deep 27 times, both team highs.
Guiel, who had one of the best throwing arms in Japanese baseball and was one of his team's most popular players, has been plagued by back injuries that limited his playing time in recent years. A left-handed hitter, Guiel underwent back surgery last offseason and played in just 11 games with the Swallows' top team this year.
"Bittersweet," said Guiel, when asked how it felt to hang up the cleats. "I still feel I can play and there's some fight left in me, but with my back situation this is the best thing. After 19 years, it's time to move on."
Guiel has represented Canada in the World Baseball Classic, the World Cup and the Pan American Games. He will join his wife and three kids in Vancouver before deciding on his next move, which could entail scouting or coaching in MLB or NPB.
Guiel said he was honored to end his career as a member of the Swallows.
"The Swallows brought me over here, and that changed my life and my career, so I think it's only fitting to retire in a Swallows uniform," he said. "Playing with this team has defined me and my career, so it feels appropriate."