Catching up with Godzilla

BAY AREA NEWCOMERS — Oakland A’s designated hitter Hideki Matsui (L) with Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Hiroshi Inomata, before the Sept. 3 game against the Seattle Mariners. photo by Noriko Shiota/Nichi Bei Weekly

It’s taken a while for Oakland A’s designated hitter Hideki “Godzilla” Matsui to cause terror on the basepaths. In his debut season with the Athletics, the former World Series MVP with the New York Yankees hasn’t shown much of his previous penchant for the long ball, which saw him blast 50 homeruns in his last season with the Yomiuri Giants in Japan prior to his trek overseas in 2003.

But he turned a corner around the All-Star break, coinciding with the team’s managerial change from Bob Geren to Bob Melvin. Before the break, Matsui was batting a dismal .209. But since then, he’s been on a relative tear at .333 — leading the team in batting average since the break.

He rebounded from hitting a mere .197 in May to batting a remarkable .369 in July — earning him American League Player of the Week honors on July 25 — and through Sept. 7 has improved to .261 overall with 11 homeruns and a team second-best 68 RBIs.

The 37-year-old native of Kanazawa, Japan, now in his eighth major league season, spent a few minutes with the Nichi Bei Weekly after the Sept. 3 game against the Seattle Mariners. Speaking through an interpreter, he shared some insights on this season.


On the season thus far:
“It’s been a very refreshing season so far. Obviously, we haven’t been able to win as much as we had hoped, but it’s been refreshing otherwise.”

On being in the Bay Area:

“This area is very beautiful. I like the atmosphere, the people here as well…”

On visiting Japantown:

“I really haven’t had an opportunity to go there much. I know it’s there.”

On playing better after the coaching change from Bob Geren to Bob Melvin:

“I think just having the opportunity to play every day and making the adjustments on a daily basis eventually led to better results.”

On the role of Japanese American catcher Kurt Suzuki helping to get him acclimated to the team:

“His presence has been really great because we have been able to share a lot of topics related to Japan.  When camp started, me not knowing that many people here, Kurt was very friendly and we were able to spend time and talk about a lot of things, which is great.”

On goals for the rest of the season, heading into the last month:

“I really don’t have any specific goals other than the general goal that I have for the season, really to play out every game, prepare for the game, and do whatever it takes to win the ballgame. That goal hasn’t changed and it won’t change until the end of the season.”

On whether he wants to come back to Oakland next season:

“At this point, I don’t really have any thoughts about that. I’d like to just focus on the season, and then once the season’s over, we’ll see what happens. On the other hand, I really like my teammates here, so that certainly is one factor that would come into my decision.”



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