Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui retires
NEW YORK (AFP) –
Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui, the Most Valuable Player of the 2009 World Series, has announced his retirement.
Matsui, 38, played professional baseball for 20 years — starring in Japan for a decade before embarking on a 10-year career in the US Major Leagues.
He was quick to make his mark with the venerable New York Yankees, becoming the first player in club history to hit a grand slam in his Yankees debut — against Minnesota on April 8, 2003.
“I want to thank all my fans, in the past 20 years — 10 years in Japan and 10 years in the US — who have supported me,” Matsui said at a New York press conference to announce his decision, on Thursday.
“I was supported by many fans and wonderful coaches and teammates.”
Matsui played for three different clubs over the last three seasons, spending 2010 with the Angels, 2011 with Oakland and last season with Tampa Bay.
“Hideki is proof that baseball is an international attraction that brings people from all over the world together in their passion for the game. He was the type of player and person you want young fans of this game to emulate,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
“He played with pride, discipline and of course talent, and flourished when the lights were at their brightest.
“People naturally gravitated towards him, and that’s a direct reflection of his character. He was a true professional in every sense of the word and it feels good knowing he was able to raise the championship trophy as a member of the Yankees.”
Matsui, whose slugging power earned him the nickname “Godzilla,” was a three-time MVP and nine-time All-Star in Japan’s Central League, totalling 332 home runs in Japan as he established himself as a dominant hitter with the Yomiuri Giants from 1993-2002.
He hit 175 Major League home runs, including 140 in his seven seasons with the Yankees.
He thrilled Japanese baseball fans — and Yankees faithful — with his performance in the 2009 World Series, hitting .615 with three home runs and eight RBI in a six-game victory over the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies.
He delivered a massive performance in the deciding game six at Yankee Stadium with six RBI in a 7-3 triumph.
The left-handed slugger hit just two homers and seven RBI in 34 games for the Rays last season. They released him in August, with Rays manager Joe Maddon saying at the time Matsui was “a Hall of Fame-caliber player.”
“These past two years, I wasn’t able to yield very good results, and from around five years ago, both of my knees hadn’t been doing too well,” Matsui said. “Even after going through surgery, my physical condition wasn’t at its best.”
Yankees superstar Derek Jeter called Matsui one of his favorite teammates.
“The way he went about his business day in and day out was impressive,” Jeter said. “I have a lot of respect for Hideki. He was someone we counted on a great deal, and he’s a big reason why we became World Champions in 2009.”