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Saturday, December 29, 2012

THE HONOR OF HAVING MATSUI'S RETIREMENT IN NEW YORK

Hideki Matsui was a Japanese superstar before he ever step foot in the Bronx, yet, on his day of retirement from baseball, his press conference, he chose New York, the place where he played for the New York Yankees for 7 years and won a World Championship in 2009.  Think about that...

I didn't, until I read Bergen Record's Pete Caldera's piece in today's paper, titled Former Yankee Hideki Matsui retires from baseball in New York, not Japan. That's why I love Pete Caldera, he makes you think. Caldera writes: "Matsui’s affection for New York swayed him to choose Manhattan over Tokyo for the announcement, which was broadcast live to Japan."
Matsui was truly great in Japan and if he wanted to, he could have had continued stardom there, but clearly he wanted to push himself harder, bigger and where else than with the New York Yankees.  As Caldera writes, "Hideki Matsui’s stardom potential was crystallized in a comment from manager Shigeo Nagashima: 'Go on and become a player like Joe DiMaggio.' Though he didn’t have a precise picture, the Yankees were in Matsui’s mind from that day forward."

And so it was, Godzilla hit New York by storm and it was a huge signing at the time. But the one thing you knew about Hideki from the moment he cranked out his first home run in pinstripes, a grand slam, was that he was about "team" and not about himself.  He wanted to succeed as an individual, this was true and is for every ballplayer, but when your team is in a fight, you group together and win.  Matsui knew that all too well and showed it to us every game.
He played hard, his work ethic was amazing and he did it with 2 faces; a determined one when he was locked in and a smile as if to say "This is my job and I never worked a day in my life."  Everyone who knew him said he was a great teammate.  That's why I love Derek Jeter's quote about him, he said: "I’ve had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites.  The way he went about his business day in and day out was impressive. " That's coming from the Captain... that means something.

But I keep going back to Matsui choosing New York over Japan.  Sure, his press conference was broadcast live in Tokyo, but it just symbolizes so much.  For 1, he built a life in the Bronx and the fans, me included, fell in love with this guy.  We embraced him here, because he wasn't a selfish player, much like Jeet, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams and Don Mattingly before him...Matsui got it.  He knew what it meant to be a Yankee and he pushed to be a Yankee and succeed right before our eyes.  That doesn't happen too often. Some players come to New York and don't get it. Matsui got it.

I'm sad thinking that Matsui has retired. It's yet another Yankee great hanging it up, but we will always have the memories of Matsui in New York. He did great things while he was here and we will never forget what he did for us in the 2009 World Series... he carried us to the finish line as if the say "My time's almost up here... let me do what I came here for." 

And he did. I tip my cap to Hideki. A true class act, and a true Yankee for life. Thank you Godzilla.

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