Hideki Matsui retires from baseball

EXITING THE GAME ­— Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui announced his retirement from baseball during a press conference in New York on Dec. 27.   Kyodo News photo

EXITING THE GAME ­— Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui announced his retirement from baseball during a press conference in New York on Dec. 27. Kyodo News photo

NEW YORK (Kyodo) — Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui announced his retirement from baseball Dec. 27, putting an end to his illustrious career on both sides of the Pacific.

“Today, I am bringing my 20-year baseball career to an end. I want to thank the fans who supported me and everyone in the press,” Matsui said at a press conference in New York. “This season, I was given the chance to play, but my results were not good enough. That is the biggest reason (for my retirement).”

The 38-year-old slugger, a two-time All-Star and former World Series MVP with the New York Yankees, had been a free agent since his release from the Tampa Bay Rays in August.

Matsui began his professional career with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Central League in 1993 and came to the majors in 2003. He batted .292 with 140 home runs over seven seasons in Yankee pinstripes, earning trips to the All-Star Game in 2003 and 2004.

“When I played for the Giants, I learned so much from meeting (former manager) Shigeo Nagashima and receiving his instruction day in and day out,” Matsui said. “It became the foundation of everything that happened later in my baseball career. I can’t possibly thank him enough.”

“That I was able to wear the beloved Yankees uniform and play on the team for seven years was truly a great experience. I felt honored and blessed every day to be a Yankee.”

In his final year in New York, Matsui helped lead his team to the 2009 World Series with a .349 postseason batting average, and went 8-for-13 with three home runs in the final series as the Yankees downed the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.

“Hideki Matsui, in many ways, embodied what this organization stands for,” Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement released by the club. “He was dedicated to his craft, embraced his responsibilities to his team and fans, and elevated his play when he was needed the most. He did all these things with a humility that was distinctly his own, which is why he was such a big part of our success and why he will always be a cherished member of the Yankees family.”

Also in the club’s statement, shortstop Derek Jeter was quoted as saying: “I’ve had a lot of teammates over the years with the Yankees, but I will always consider Hideki one of my favorites … He always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with. I have a lot of respect for Hideki. He was someone we counted on a great deal and he’s a big reason why we became World Champions in 2009.”

Following his World Series MVP performance, Matsui moved west and played on one-year contracts with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics. He appeared in 34 major-league games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, batting .147 with two home runs and seven RBIs.

He hit .282 with 175 homers and 760 RBIs in his major-league career.

In Japan, Matsui had a .304 career average, 332 homers and 889 RBIs with the Giants. He was named the Central League Most Valuable Player in 1996, 2000 and 2002, while leading the league in homers and RBIs three times each and batting average once.

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