When Hideki Matsui signed a one-day minor league contract in order to end his career with the New York Yankees, a very special man came home. Matsui exemplifies all of the great attributes- respect, professionalism, dedication and honor that combine to make the Yankees organization the pinnacle of American sports.
“I think this moment will be a moment I never forget,” Matsui said with the assistance of an interpreter. “To be able to retire as a member of the team which I aspired to and looked up to, I think there’s nothing more fulfilling.”
Derek Jeter presented Matsui with his framed number 55 jersey in a special ceremony Sunday. It was more than appropriate that The Captain returned on the day the Yankees chose to honor the 2009 World Series MVP. Jeter expressed the highest admiration and respect for the man and how he played the game.
“He came here and was supposed to be this Godzilla that hit home runs, but he was a situational hitter, Jeter noted. “Matsui moved runners when he had to move them, he got big hits, he drove guys in, he wanted to play every day. The biggest thing-he never made excuses. Never heard him talk about any injuries, which I appreciate…I enjoyed getting to know him throughout the years. He’s always been one of my favorite teammates and always will be.”
In all, Matsui hit 140 home runs while with the Yankees. He batted .292 with 597 RBI. He made the All Star Team twice, in 2003 and in 2004. During his career in Japan, he hit 332 home runs, giving him a combined total of 507 for his career.
Yankees fans will perhaps remember him most for his performance in the 2009 World Series. He hit .615 with three homers and 8 RBI, as the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies four games to two. In game six, he tied former Yankees’ second baseman Bobby Richardson’s single game World Series record with six RBI in one game. With the performance he became the first Japanese born player to win the World Series MVP.
“I’ve always aspired to be a member of the New York Yankees, Matsui said. And to have been able to do that for seven years, every day for me was just an absolute joy.”
And it was a joy and a privilege to have him.