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Hideki Matsui
松井 秀喜
Hideki Matsui in USA-7.jpg
Hideki Matsui, June 2007
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — No. 55
Designated hitter
Born: June 12, 1974 (1974-06-12) (age 35)
Neagari, Ishikawa, Japan
Bats: Left Throws: Right
Professional debut
NPB: May 1, 1993 for the Yomiuri Giants
MLB: March 31, 2003 for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
(through 2009)
Batting average     .292
Home runs     141
Runs batted in     597
On-base percentage     .370
On-base plus slugging     .852
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Hideki Matsui (松井 秀喜 Matsui Hideki?, born June 12, 1974) is a Japanese professional baseball designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Formerly a left fielder, he bats left-handed and throws right-handed.

After playing the first ten seasons of his career for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, he played the next seven seasons, from 2003-2009, for the New York Yankees of North America's Major League Baseball. He has been successful in both leagues, winning the Central League Most Valuable Player Award three times in Japan, as well as the World Series Most Valuable Player Award in the United States.

Contents

Early life

Hideki Matsui was born in Neagari, Ishikawa, Japan (later merged into Nomi, Ishikawa). According to an interview on YES Network's "CenterStage", Matsui originally batted right-handed as a child. However, when he started playing with his older brother and his friends, Matsui was such a good hitter that his embarrassed brother insisted that he bat left-handed or stop playing with them. Matsui soon became an overpowering left-handed batter, thereafter batting left-handed. [1]

Matsui was recruited by Seiryo High School in Kanazawa, Ishikawa, a Western Honshu baseball powerhouse. During his high school years, Matsui participated in four National High School Baseball Tournaments at Koshien Stadium (once in the spring and three times in the summer). In 1992, he drew five consecutive intentional walks in a game at Koshien and became a nationwide topic of conversation. The intentional walks were considered excessive and unsportsmanlike but the strategy worked, as Matsui's team lost. Matsui's reaction to the intentional walks was widely commented upon by the media. "Matsui's stoic, emotionless conduct during those at-bats drew great praise from tournament officals and reporters alike," author Robert Whiting wrote. At the end of the tournament, a representative of the High School Federation declared that "All students should learn from Matsui's attitude."[2]

Career in Japan

Following high school Matsui was drafted by the Yomiuri Giants in the first round. He would play all nine years of his career for the Giants. He was given the uniform number 55, which was the single-season home run record held by Sadaharu Oh.[3]

Matsui's first three seasons were unspectacular. His breakout season came in 1996, when he batted .314 with 38 home runs and 99 RBIs.[4] A three-time MVP in the Japanese Central League (1996, 2000, and 2002), Matsui led his team into four Japan Series and winning three titles (1994, 2000 and 2002). He also made nine consecutive all-star games and led the league in home runs and RBIs three times (1998, 2000, and 2002). His single season mark for home runs was 50 in 2002, his final season in Japan. In the ten seasons he played in Japan, Matsui totalled 1268 games played, 4572 AB, 1390 hits, 901 runs, 332 home runs, 889 RBIs, a .304 batting average, and a .582 slugging percentage. His streak of 1,250 consecutive games played was the second longest in Japan.[5]

His first trip to the Japan Series became well-known. Because of the MLBPA Players' Strike in 1994-95, Matsui became known to the American media, as media outlets were covering the Series, which was referred in Sports Illustrated as "the" Fall Classic.

In Japan, Matsui earned the popular nickname "Godzilla". The origin of the name is derisive in nature, in reference to Matsui's skin problems early on in his career, but has since come to represent his powerful hitting.[6][7] He even made a cameo in the film Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.

In 2001, Matsui turned down a $64 million, six-year offer from the Yomiuri Giants, the highest in NPB history.[8]

Career in the United States

New York Yankees

Matsui upset about a taken strike.

Matsui signed with the Yankees in December 2002. A parade was held for him in Tokyo to celebrate his signing with the Yankees and many reporters and photographers followed him to the MLB from his home in Tokyo. In his first major league at-bat, he hit an RBI single. In Matsui's first game at Yankee Stadium, the 2003 Yankee home opener, he became the first Yankee to hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium. Matsui went on to hit .287 with 16 home runs and 106 RBI. Matsui narrowly lost the Rookie of the Year Award to Angel Berroa. In the postseason of that year, he became the first Japanese player to hit a home run in a World Series (Game 2).

In his second season, Matsui finished 2004 with a .298 average with 31 home runs and 108 RBIs. In 2005, Matsui hit a career high .305 and 116 RBIs. In 2006, Matsui finished his fourth season with a .302 average with 8 home runs and 29 RBIs after missing most of the season due to a wrist injury. He was the American League All-Star Final Vote winner.

Matsui retained the "Godzilla" nickname and the song "Godzilla" by Blue Öyster Cult was played when he went up to bat.

Matsui signed a four-year deal for $52 million, surpassing Ichiro Suzuki as the highest paid Japanese player in baseball, and securing his place with the Yankees through 2009.

On May 6, 2007, Matsui recorded his 2,000th hit in combined hits in Japan and the United States during a game vs. the Mariners, which earned him a place in Japan's Golden Players Club, reserved for players who have hit 2000 hits, 200 wins or 250 saves professionally. It was originally ruled an error on Raúl Ibáñez, who lost track of the ball due to the sun, but a scoring change gave Matsui the hit. Matsui went 2 for 4 that day; the second hit (#2001) was a clean single to right field.

On August 5, 2007 Matsui became the first Japanese player in MLB history to hit 100 home runs. The home run came in the bottom of the 3rd inning off Gil Meche of the Kansas City Royals.

In 2007 he was 3rd in the AL with 10 sacrifice flies, and 9th in walks per strikeout (1.00). In the winter of 2007, it was widely reported in the New York media that the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees were in talks to send Hideki Matsui to the Giants in exchange for one or two pitchers.

On June 12, 2008, Matsui hit a grand slam on his 34th birthday, helping the Yankees to a 4-1 victory over the A's. Later that month, Matsui went on the disabled list with knee pain. He returned on August 19 against the Toronto Blue Jays and became the everyday designated hitter until undergoing knee surgery after the final game in Yankee Stadium. Through 2008, Matsui batted .294 against right-handed pitchers in his career and .295 against lefties.[9]

Matsui in the outfield.

On June 12, 2009, Matsui hit a three-run home run on his 35th birthday, giving the Yankees a 7-6 lead over the New York Mets in the 6th inning. On July 20, he hit a walk-off solo home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Yankees their fourth win in a row after the All Star break, their 9th walk-off win, and a tie for 1st place in the division with the Boston Red Sox. A month later, on August 21, Matsui hit two home runs and drove in a career-high seven runs in the Yankees' unusual 20-11 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He became the first Yankee to drive in seven runs in a game at Fenway since Lou Gehrig in 1930. Two games later, Matsui would hit two home runs for his third time in just seven games. Matsui was voted by fans as the MLB Clutch Performer of the Month Presented by Pepsi for August after his performance through the month.[10] On September 19, Matsui hit his 26th home run of the season, breaking the Yankees' record for home runs in a single season by a designated hitter which was previously held by Don Baylor.

Hideki Matsui during the 2009 World Series parade.

In the 2009 World Series, Matsui helped the Yankees defeat the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies, 4 games to 2, by hitting .615 (8 for 13) with 3 home runs and 8 RBI, including a World Series record-tying 6-RBI performance in Game 6. Since the designated hitter position was not used in the three games in Philadelphia, he only started the three games in New York; nevertheless, his performance earned him the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.[11] He became the first Japanese-born player to win the award, as well as the first player to win it as a full-time designated hitter in the Series.[12]. He also became the third player in Major League history to bat .500 or above and hit 3 home runs in the same World Series, joining only Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.[citation needed]

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

On December 16, 2009, Matsui agreed to a one year deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim worth $6.5 million.[13] He told Yomiuri Shimbun that he "loved the Yankees the best" but that he no longer felt valued and when his agent called to negotiate, "The Yankees had nothing prepared [in terms of contract conditions]." He made up his mind to sign with the Angels quickly. "I really felt their high expectations of me," he said. "They also acknowledged that I want to give fielding a shot."[14]

Playing streak

Matsui did not miss a game in his first three seasons with the Yankees, putting together a streak of 518 games played. Before that, he played in 1,250 consecutive games with Yomiuri, for a total professional baseball streak of 1,768. Matsui holds the record for longest streak of consecutive games played to start a Major League Baseball career.

On May 11, 2006, in his 519th game with the Yankees, Matsui fractured his left wrist on an unsuccessful sliding catch in the top of the first inning against the Boston Red Sox. Matsui, despite the injury, threw the ball back to the infield before gripping his wounded wrist in obvious pain. The game did not count toward Matsui's streak, as a player must field for at least half an inning or take an at-bat to be credited with a game played (MLB rule 10.24).[15] Matsui underwent surgery on May 12, 2006, the next day. He returned to the Yankees starting lineup on September 12 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and had an RBI-single in his first at-bat back, and proceeded to go 4 for 4 with a walk, with 2 runs scored as well.

Personal life

Matsui personally donated $500,000 USD towards charity relief for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.[16] Matsui announced to the press on March 27, 2008 that he had married in a private ceremony in New York. His bride's name has not been announced, but it is reported that she was 25 years old and had been formerly working in a "reputable position at a highly respected company". They met in Japan after the 2006 off-season. Matsui still relies on his translator, Roger Kahlon, despite having played in the United States for seven seasons.[17] Matsui resides in the West Side of Manhattan in New York City at Trump Place.

See also

References

  1. ^ Whiting, Robert (2004). The Samurai Way of Baseball. New York: Warner Books. p. 233. 
  2. ^ Whiting 2004: 234
  3. ^ Whiting 2004: 235
  4. ^ Whiting 2004: 235
  5. ^ Whiting 2004: 230
  6. ^ Jim Allen, "Matsui just keeps on causing chaos" from "The Hot Corner" in the Daily Yomiuri, November 21, 2002
  7. ^ Whiting 2004: 233
  8. ^ Whiting 2004:231
  9. ^ Chuck, Bill. 100 random things about the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees, The Boston Globe. Published April 2, 2009. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  10. ^ Matsui takes August clutch honors
  11. ^ Curry, Jack (November 5, 2009), "Matsui Leaves a Lasting World Series Memory", The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/05/sports/baseball/05matsui.html, retrieved November 5, 2009 
  12. ^ Associated Press (November 5, 2009), "Matsui Becomes 1st Japanese-Born World Series MVP", The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/11/05/sports/AP-BBO-World-Series-MVP.html, retrieved November 5, 2009 
  13. ^ Kepner, Tyler (December 14, 2009), "Left Waiting by Yankees, Matsui Jumps to Angels", The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/sports/baseball/15matsui.html?_r=1&ref=sports, retrieved December 15, 2009 
  14. ^ The Yomiuri Shimbun (January 1, 2010). "Angel in the outfield / Matsui welcomes new challenge in Los Angeles". http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/sports/20100101TDY20302.htm. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Unofficial List of Records Set or Tied in 2006" from Baseball Records Committee in Society for American Baseball Research, December 2006
  16. ^ "Hideki Matsui" in Inside the Yankees, 2007
  17. ^ Kepner, Tyler (March 27, 2008). "Matsui Gets Married, and Not Just to Beat Jeter". nytimes.com Bats Blog. http://bats.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/27/matsui-gets-married-and-tries-to-take-jeter-for-a-ride/. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Tom O'Malley
Shigeki Noguchi
Roberto Petagine
Central League MVP
1996
2000
2002
Succeeded by
Atsuya Furuta
Roberto Petagine
Kei Igawa
Preceded by
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Japan national football team
Japan Professional Sports Grand Prize
2000
2003
Succeeded by
Ichiro Suzuki
Asashōryū Akinori
Preceded by
Alex Rodriguez
American League Player of the Month
July 2007
Succeeded by
Magglio Ordóñez
Preceded by
Cole Hamels
World Series MVP
2009
Succeeded by
incumbent







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