Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hideki Matsui retires after stellar 20-year baseball career

Major League veteran Hideki Matsui of Japan announced on Dec. 28 that he was hanging up his glove after 20 years of professional baseball. The 38-year-old has suffered through several injuries over the past few years and decided it was time to say goodbye. He leaves the game as one of the best

Japanese-born players ever and takes home an MVP award from the 2009 World Series when he was a member of the New York Yankees. The slugger was affectionately known as Godzilla in his homeland for the way he attacked the ball at the plate.

However, Matsui’s skills were slowly starting to fade over the past couple of seasons and he no longer struck fear into opposing pitchers. Matsui was already a 10-year veteran of Japanese baseball when he moved across the Pacific Ocean to New York back in 2003. He left the Yomiuri Giants behind and signed a $21 million three-year contract with the Yankees. Matsui enjoyed seven seasons with the Yankees, helping them to the World Series title in 2009 with six RBIs in the sixth and deciding game against the Philadelphia Phillies. He was named an all star on two occasions with New York and his debut at Yankee Stadium in 2003 will never be forgotten as he blasted a grand slam.

Matsui went 8 for 13 in the 2009 World Series and belted three home runs. Those numbers were good enough to see him become the first player born in Japan to be honored with a World Series MVP award.

After leaving the Yankees, Matsui played with the Los Angeles Angels for a year and then a season each with the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays. He was released in August by Tampa Bay and was a free agent. He hammered 175 home runs during his 10-year MLB career and added 760 RBI’s to go along with a .282 batting average. He had already hit 332 home runs in Japan with the Giants, giving him 507 for his career.

By becoming a member of the storied Yankees, Matsui was still a huge attraction in Japan years after leaving and many youngsters hoped to follow in his footsteps. His success in MLB meant he would never return to Japanese baseball while in his prime. Matsui said if he ever went back to play in Japan the fans would expect him to pick up where he left off 10 years ago, but he simply isn’t the same player now that he was back then.

After the announcement of his retirement was made public, tributes from many former teammates such as Derek Jeter started to pour in. It was such a big deal in Japan that his retirement press conference was broadcast live at 7am on Japanese television. Joe Torre, who managed Matsui for his first five years with the Yankees, said he was already a superstar when he landed in New York and the fans took to his skills and unselfish personality immediately. He added that he was proud to have been Matsui’s manager.

Ian Glover

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