Chiba Lotte Marines’ relief pitcher Jay Jackson was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession on July 10.

Jackson, 32, was released from the team at his own request.

Following the arrest, Naoki Matsumoto, the director of the Marines, apologized to fans at a news conference held at the team’s home ZOZO Marine Stadium in Chiba.

“I thought we were doing a proper background check when acquiring a foreign player,” Matsumoto said. “But with this incident, I have to admit that the team and I have been soft. I truly apologize to baseball fans and everybody in the baseball industry.”

Hiroshima prefectural police investigated Jackson based on a tip and raided his home on July 7.

Police found a few containers with liquid marijuana in his home then. They arrested Jackson shortly after midnight in a parking lot in Hiroshima’s Minami Ward on July 10.

Police said Jackson told investigators, “I don’t want to say anything.”

Jackson, born in Greenville, South Carolina, as Randy Jackson Jr., pitched for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp from 2016 to 2018. Fondly nicknamed “Smiley J,” the right-handed hurler helped the team win the Central League championship title for three consecutive seasons.

After pitching one season for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019, Jackson joined the Marines in December 2019.

Since the June season opener, Jackson has been the team’s main set-up man. As of July 7, he has pitched in seven games while compiling three holds, one save and a 3.86 ERA.

Matsumoto said that Jackson asked the Marines to void his contract on July 8. The team accepted the request.

Shortly before the arrest, Jackson’s Twitter account was updated with a post asking for donations to “Help Smiley J Out” through GoFundMe.

The posted statement said Jackson had run into personal problems in Japan and he needed help to cover his extremely costly legal fees after being released from the team. The campaign on GoFundMe has been taken down.

It is rare for an active professional baseball player in Japan to be arrested on a drug-related charge, although several prominent players have been charged with stimulant use and possession after retirement.

In 1988, Richard Davis, an American who played for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, was arrested for possessing marijuana. The team deemed him as “unqualified” and Davis left Japan.

Matsumoto said the Marines will start conducting urine testing of all members of the team including the manager, coaches and staff from July 10.

During a spring training camp in February, the Marines held a seminar on drug abuse for all players, both Japanese and foreign nationals.

From now on, the team will hold an additional seminar exclusively for foreign players, Matsumoto said.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13532871