Many years ago, when the digital scoreboard was in the shape of a baseball diamond, the New York Yankees watched a legend step up to the plate for the first time.
About 17 years ago, the New York Yankees were holding a 3-1 lead over the Minnesota Twins when Japanese-born Hideki Matsui stepped up the plan for the second time wearing pinstripes. At 29-years-old, Matsui had one at-bat to his name, but it was that moment that sparked an illustrious career, highlighted by home runs and incredible plays.
April 8, 2003: Hideki Matsui introduces himself to Yankee Stadium. pic.twitter.com/LVRyKuxkOH
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 8, 2020
On that day, at that moment, Matsui launched a classic inside changeup over the right-field fence, rounding the bases for the first time. The young outfielder played ten years at the Major League level, never dipping below a .274 batting average with the Yankees. His two All-Star appearances in the first two seasons of his MLB career seem almost to transcend the nature of his career. He was an All-Star just twice over ten years, which is mind-blowing, considering how instrumental he was to the Yankees’ team.
A look back at Matsui’s history:
Having been born on June 6, 1974, Matsui was Japan’s perfect prospect. He began playing baseball at the age of three, following in his father’s footsteps. After years of playing recreationally, he joined his first-team at the age of 10. Having applied all of his focus to the sport, Matsui began to climb the ranks. He was always an incredibly quiet yet hyper-focused athlete, prioritizing improvement, and elevation.
Interestingly, Hideki played at the hot corner as a child, showing off his quick hands and sure-fire glove. He was a natural, as every youth-baseball coach would likely have said.
Considering to be a slugger, Matsui’s style of hitting was unique, pulling the ball in a left stance, a bit similar to Ichiro Suzuki. The Japanese stud found sluggers to be the most intriguing type of hitters, and he managed to replicate their success, posting a career-high 31 homers in 2004. While that might not seem like a lot, baseball back then was a bit different, featuring less juiced baseballs and a more instinctual approach.
Modern times see teams like the Yankees focus on hitting long-balls and slugging, virtually guaranteeing run-production. Nonetheless, Matsui’s career was extraordinary, and he should earn a plack in center field one day.