Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Who is Hideki Matsui?

Hideki Matsui, born June 12, 1974, in Neagari, Ishikawa, Japan) is a designated hitter for the New York Yankees. He bats left-handed and throws left-handed.
Hideki Matsui was born in Neagari, Ishikawa, Japan (later merged into Nomi, Ishikawa). He started playing baseball when he was in elementary school. 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 batter that his embarrassed brother insisted that he bat left-handed or stop playing with them. Matsui soon enough became an overpowering left-handed batter, and stayed on that side of the plate from then on.

Matsui participated in four National High School Baseball Tournaments at Koshien Stadium, once in the spring and three times in summer, during his high school years. In 1992, he drew five consecutive intentional walks in a game at Koshien and became a nationwide topic in Japan at that time (partly because intentionally walking batters was very uncommon in Japanese amateur baseball at that time), even though the strategy worked and his team lost. Matsui graduated from Seiryo High School in Kanazawa, Ishikawa.

Career in Japan.

Following high school Matsui was drafted by the Yomiuri Giants in the first round.

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 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 in his hitting power. He even made a cameo in the film Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla.

Career in the United States.

Matsui signed a three-year contract with the New York Yankees on January 14, 2003.

A parade was held for him in Tokyo to celebrate his signing with the Yankees and many reporters and photographers followed him to MLB from his home in Tokyo. In his first ML at bat he hit an RBI single. His first game at Yankee Stadium, the 2003 Yankee home opener, was memorable as Matsui 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 missed 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 $52,000,000, 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 strong 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.

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 become 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.

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. 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.

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 streak for 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). 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 AB back, and proceeded to go 4 for 4 with a walk, with 2 runs scored as well.

SABR also recognizes the streak as being 518.

In the first year of his playing streak, Matsui also set the Major League record for rookies (and all-time record for the Yankees) with 163 games played in a season. Although only 162 full games were played, the September 18 game against the Baltimore Orioles was called after five innings due to Hurricane Isabel. The game was tied at that point, and was replayed at a later date. Player stats from both games were counted.

Personal Life.

Matsui personally donated $500,000 USD towards charity relief for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. 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 is 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 resides in the West Side of Manhattan in New York City at Trump Place.

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