More than a decade ago, Hideki Matsui was the guy everyone was talking about in New York. Now, Matsui is retired and a special guest instructor at Yankees spring training. This means he’s had the privilege of watching the Yankees’ newest and biggest free agent acquisition, pitcher Masahiro Tanaka up close and personal.
Matsui became a star for the Yomiuri Giants, hitting 332 home runs over 10 seasons before signing with the Yankees, with whom he spent seven seasons. It’s because of the similarity of their situations, and the connection with Tanaka, he said, that has him rooting for the 25-year-old. “As a former member of the Yankees and also somebody that’s been part of Japanese baseball, and certainly part of me as a fan, I’m really hoping that he’s going to play well and perform well,” said Matsui. “So there’s a part of me that’s definitely cheering for him.”
Matsui said the best decision he made during his transition to the majors in 2003, was ensuring the hordes of media did not interrupt his teammates’ workdays. As a former outfielder, Matsui said he does not have much advice for Tanaka. “But I think what I can say is he has to just kind of go through it and feel for himself what adjustments he needs to make to adapt to the environment,” Matsui said. “It’s something that he just has to go through.”
Matsui sure won’t be the only one cheering for Tanaka. From the fans, to the media, and especially the Yankees, everyone is hooked on Tanaka, and curious about what he can/will bring to the team. On Saturday, we should get a sample size of that, as Tanaka is scheduled to make his Yankee debut.