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Hideki Matsui (Hideki Matsui) was born on June 12, 1974 in Ishikawa, Japan. He made his Major League debut on March 31, 2003 for the New York Yankees. In 2003, his rookie year, he hit .287 with 16 home runs and 106 RBI. Matsui played for the New York Yankees for his entire 4 year career.
Most people believe that Hideki Matsui's best season was 2005, when he slugged 23 home runs, hit for a .305 average and knocked in 116 runs.
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's stance is somewhat eccentric because he does not move his bat.
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 Japan 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. Based in Tokyo, the Giants are Japan's most famous and, by far, most successful baseball franchise. Coincidentally, Yomiuri is often referred to by fans and detractors alike as the "New York Yankees of Japan."
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, Matsui became known to the American media, as media outlets (including those in Minnesota, who was there covering two players with Minnesota ties, Philadelphia, and Washington) 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, however, is unflattering, as it is in reference as much to his coarse and pockmarked facial complexion as it 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 was also very memorable. In the 2003 Yankee home opener, 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. Some writers admitted they voted Berroa first because Matsui had previous experience in Japan.
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.
Through 2006, his career batting average against lefties and righties was the same (.297).
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 Raul Ibanez, 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.
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 consecutive games played streak 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. 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.
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.
- Signed as a non-drafted free agent by New York Yankees (December 19, 2002).
- On November 4, 2009, Matsui tied Bobby Richardson's record for the most RBI's in one World Series game (6). It was in game 6, when the Yankees beat the Phillies on November 4, 2009 to win the World Series for the 27th time.
- He became the first designated hitter to win the World Series MVP award.
- 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.
- Matsui personally donated $500,000 towards charity relief for victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.
- Matsui's name came up in a couple of movies: in the 2007 film "Knocked Up", one of the characters is excited that he drafted Matsui in a fantasy draft, and in the movie "Click", Adam Sandler's character uses the universal remote to add a picture of Matsui hitting a home run in the view of him. There was another scene where Sandler's character and his boss are meeting with Japanese businessmen at a restaurant. The businessmen are discussing whether Matsui or Ichiro is better. The boss (David Hasselhoff), thinking they are dishes at the restaurant says "if you like them both so much, why not order both?"