NEW YORK—Hideki Matsui has retired from professional baseball, saying he is no longer able to perform at the level that made him a star slugger in two countries.
The 2009 World Series MVP with the New York Yankees and a three-time Central League MVP with Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants struggled in a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Rays last season and recently made up his mind to call time on a career which lasted 20 years—the first 10 in Japan.
Despite choosing to make the announcement in New York because the city was special to him, the nearly hour-long news conference was conducted only in Japanese and was broadcast live to his home country, where it was 7 a.m. Friday. A Japanese reporter translated portions of the event for the American baseball writers in attendance.
Before he left for New York in 2003, Matsui told Japanese fans that he would give his life to play in the major leagues, the reporter said. “Today is the day he put a period to that.”
In front of more than 15 cameras and dozens of Japanese reporters, many of whom detailed every aspect of his career in the United States, the outfielder/designated hitter gave a 12-minute speech before answering questions for about 40 minutes more.
Nicknamed Godzilla, Matsui was already perhaps the most popular player of his generation in Japan when he signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Yankees.
While Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki appeared to shy away from the attention, Matsui walked right into the spotlight and embraced the scrutiny.
Cool under pressure, Matsui hit a grand slam in his first game at Yankee Stadium and matched a World Series record with six RBIs in his pinstripe finale seven years later—during the clinching Game 6 of the 2009 Series.
“I’ve had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites,” Yankees star Derek Jeter said. “Despite being shadowed by a large group of reporters, having the pressures of performing for his fans both in New York and Japan and becoming acclimated to the bright lights of New York City, he always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with.” AP