Happy birthday to two-time All-Star Hideki Matsui, who helped the @Yankees win the 2009 World Series when he received MVP honors for the series. A fantastic hitter, Matsui compiled 507 home runs between his time in MLB and the Japan League. pic.twitter.com/3U8nM6l4LO
— MLBPAA (@MLBPAA) June 12, 2019
Matsui began his career in Japan, where he was a dominant power hitter.
As he aged, he elected to travel to the United States and play in the MLB.
This followed the lead of star Ichiro Suzuki, who did the same just a few years prior.
In the majors, Matsui put together a solid career in a short amount of time.
Here is a look into his career story, and what he is up to now.
Matsui began his professional baseball career in 1993, when he was just 19 years old.
He joined the Yomiuri Giants of the Japan Central League, struggling in his first season.
However, he was quickly able to find his way in Japan, as the next season he hit .294 with 20 home runs.
In 1996, his power numbers exploded.
Matsui hit 38 home runs in 130 games, 16 more than he had the year before.
On top of this, he posted a stellar .314 batting average.
This started a string of seasons that saw the smooth swinging lefty become one of Japan’s premier hitters.
Over the next six seasons, Matsui hit at least 34 home runs with a batting average above .290.
This was punctuated by his 2002 season where he hit 50 home runs, had 107 RBI and a .334 average.
In his 10 seasons in Japan, Matsui totaled 334 home runs with a career .304 batting average.
He also won three MVP awards, was named to nine All-Star games and won three championships.
Because of his performances, he earned the nickname of “Godzilla.”
Japan embraced him as one of their most beloved players and icons.
When he decided that he wanted to try his hand in the MLB, there wasn’t a lack of interest.
Eventually, he found his way onto the New York Yankees.
— WBC Baseball (@WBCBaseball) December 19, 2015
Godzilla in the Bronx
In December of 2002, Matsui signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Yankees.
During his very first game in the Bronx, he slugged a grand slam against the Twins.
April 8, 2003: Hideki Matsui introduces himself to Yankee Stadium. pic.twitter.com/LVRyKuxkOH
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 8, 2020
He manned left field for the Yankees in his rookie season and put up solid numbers.
In a league leading 163 games, he hit 16 home runs with 106 RBI and a .287 batting average.
He was also an All-Star and the runner-up for the Rookie of the Year award.
His next season was even better, upping his power totals to 31 home runs.
Matsui continued this type of production with the team over his seven seasons with them.
However, a devastating wrist injury in May 2006 shelved him for most of the year.
This would ultimately force him to stay in a stricter DH role.
Throughout his time in the Bronx, he was a consistent 20 home run and .290 hitter.
He was a major part of the franchise over this time, which became even clearer during the 2009 season.
Matsui Becomes a Champion
A championship was noticeably absent during his time the Yankees through 2008, an unusual sight for a team that had won four in five years in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In 2009, the Yankees were bolstered by some major free agent signings.
The resurgence of Matsui also helped.
In 142 games as the team’s DH, he hit 28 home runs with a .274 average.
However, the most important performance of his career would come deep in October.
The Yankees made it to the World Series and faced off against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Matsui was immaculate in the series, dominating every step of the way.
— RE2PECT (@RE2PECT2JETER) March 27, 2020
In 13 at-bats, he hit three home runs, had eight RBI and had an amazing .615 batting average.
He was named as the World Series MVP because of this performance.
In the offseason, the aging Matsui left the Yankees and signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
He played three more seasons in the MLB, one with Oakland and Tampa Bay following his stint in L.A.
Though it was a short career, Matsui retired as a beloved figure in the sport.
In 10 years, he posted 1,253 hits, 175 home runs and a .282 batting average.
Matsui Since Retirement
Since retiring, Matsui has remained relatively quiet and to himself.
He has spent time as a Yankees minor league roving hitting instructor, jumping between different levels.
Matsui has also helped raise money for children affected by the 2011 Tsunami that devastated parts of Japan.
In 2018, he was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame as the youngest inductee in history.
— National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum ⚾ (@baseballhall) November 9, 2018
While Matsui didn’t spend all of his time in the MLB, he still has an impressive career in baseball.
Throughout his 20 years, he totaled 2,643 hits, 507 home runs and a .293 career average.
If the MLB ever decides to include Japanese league statistics into Major League statistics, look for Matsui to make it into the Hall of Fame.