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  • Writer's pictureEthan Semendinger

Meeting: Hideki Matsui

On June 9th, 2024, I got to meet my baseball hero, Hideki Matsui.

 

How Hideki Matsui Became My Favorite Player:

Can any of us really remember the exact reason why we became fans of one player over another when we were children? Maybe it was because that player was legendary. Maybe it was because they did something magical at your first game (or the first game you remember watching). Maybe it was because you liked the way their name sounded. Maybe, it was just because.


Truthfully, I don't quite know how Hideki Matsui came to be my favorite baseball player. This really counters my header, as I don't have a clear and obvious answer for you. But, I don't take that as a negative. Though I cannot point to any one exact reason as to why I came to make Hideki Matsui my number-1 player, I believe I can point to a few signs in my early childhood that would've influenced me this way.


Hideki Matsui signed with the Yankees, out of Japan, in December, 2002. The internet was still in its early stages and the combined likes of television and newsprint were the joint kings of information access. There were rumors that the Yankees were going to get this great slugger out of Japan circling around, and it was some big hype for the team after they missed the World Series for the first time in 5 years. At this same time, I had turned 4 years old and was starting to really learn the sport. It just so happened that my formative years into learning the MLB and the Yankees was right when the Yankees were bringing in a superstar from Japan.


It also helps that my Dad had a cut-out from the NY Post hanging on the door to his principal office in Montvale, advertising the signing of Hideki Matsui. He had that cut-out on his door for years, and every time I would visit his school, I would get to see my favorite player. My Dad saved that cut-out even after he left Montvale, and though he never hung it up in his new office, once he retired, he gave it to me.

Another reason as to why Hideki Matsui came to be my favorite player is because I'm a left-handed hitter. I don't know why, as I do everything else right-handed, but I naturally started to hit left-handed as a kid. (Maybe it's because my brothers are right-handed hitters and I wanted to be different?) This eventually led to my dad noticing my hitting style as a young kid- which was essentially to run towards the ball with the bat and swing- reminded him of Ichiro Suzuki. So, naturally Ichiro became one of my favorite players too.


Now, you might be thinking: how does this relate? Well, it's very simple: in my 5-year old mind, Ichiro and Hideki had to be best friends. They both played professional baseball (and as we all know, all professional baseball players are friends), they both came from Japan (and as we all know, all Japanese people are friends), and they both had fun names!


And yes, Hideki Matsui also became my favorite baseball player because he had a fun name to say. Nobody I knew had a name like him, which made him cool. (It was this same logic that also made Coco Crisp a personal favorite.)

 

Meeting Hideki Matsui:

Now that I set the tone, let me explain how I got the chance to finally meet my baseball hero.


It all started with a DM from my cousin. He saw online that the Woodbridge Brewing Company- a microbrewery and sports bar- was hosting Hideki Matsui for an autograph signing. However, on the post my cousin forwarded me, it was very clearly indicating that this was a last call to order tickets.


Well, thanks to my cousin, I quickly texted my Dad if he wanted to come along, and then immediately called to place my order.


Fast-forward to June 9th, and after a tumultuous morning, my Dad and I were on the road to Woodbridge. When we arrived, the place was PACKED! I always knew Hideki Matsui was a popular New York Yankee, but I was amazed at how many people showed up.


The company hosting the event had some memorabilia for sale at the entrance. They had some good stuff including bats, balls, and jerseys: both for the Yankees and the Yomiuri Giants. As I was waiting in-line to get my ticket, I bought a nice photograph of Matsui hitting a home run during the 2009 World Series for Matsui to sign when my number was called.

My Dad and I then sat down for a quick lunch after recognizing there was going to be a decent wait until we got called up.


As a quick aside: I ordered a flatbread and my Dad got a regular old hamburger. I was whelmed with the food, but it ultimately was just something to order to occupy the time waiting.


After lunch was done, our number was called and we stood in a short queue to meet Mr. Matsui. I handed my ticket to one of the organizers and my photograph to another before being ushered around to the table where Hideki Matsui was sitting.


I watched and waited for him as he signed my photo, looked up for a quick photo op, and then shook his hand and said "Thank you so much." And, then it was over and the next person in line was coming over.

 

My Final Thoughts:

There were so many things I wanted to say to Hideki Matsui. I wanted to tell him how he was my favorite player growing up (and to this day). I wanted to tell him that he was my baseball hero after beating the Phillies in 2009. I wanted to tell him that I was there with my Dad and my Grammy and Poppy when he hit a walk-off home run on July 20th, 2009. I wanted to tell him that seeing him come back to Yankee Stadium as a member of the Angels for the World Series ring ceremony in 2010 made me tear-up and cry (and still does). I wanted to tell him that I was there at Hideki Matsui day with my oldest brother, Ryan, and that the bobblehead from that day sits proudly on my desk. (And that I have an extra just in case anything happens to the first.)


But, all I could say was exactly what I really wanted:


Thank you.


I just hope he was able to read in-between those words and see how special a baseball player he was to me.

---

Though I only got a share a small minute of time with Hideki Matsui, I am incredibly grateful for his doing the event, and that I was able to go.


He was very nice to everybody there. He signed hundreds of items for people and took hundreds of photos. I'm sure he also had to hear hundreds of people's short stories about how much he means to them.


At the end of the event, I stook around for a little bit to recollect my ticket stub, and I started to feel bad for Hideki Matsui. The brewing company brought over a bunch of things for him to sign, as did the sports memorabilia vendor. They kept telling him to "sign this here" and "sign that there". They even had a photo telling him where to sign each space on some jerseys to have them specially inscribed with all his accolades and accomplishments.


And yet, he just sat there quietly, signing away.


I didn't see him say much, and before too long he stood up, took a few more photos, and walked away.


I know it's all part of the business, but I felt bad for him in those moments. It just felt impersonal and corporate. Before this he was met with the joys and admiration of hundreds of people, and he had to end his day with the hounding of businesspeople just looking to make an extra buck off of him.


Maybe it's because he's likely used to it, but this was what helped me admire him even more. When all the "show for the fans" was over, he continued to be nice and do what he needed until everything was taken care of.


Maybe one day I'll be able to meet him again and finally get to share all my stories.


But for now, I can gladly say I am happy that I got to meet my baseball hero.


And he was as cool, calm, and collected as he ever looked. Even when staring down the barrel at Pedro Martinez in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series.


Thank you, Hideki Matsui.


12 Comments


Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Jun 24

"And yes, Hideki Matsui also became my favorite baseball player because he had a fun name to say. Nobody I knew had a name like him, which made him cool."


Actually, someone sort of did.


As far as "Hideki", there was the tragic player who came before him, former Yankee pitcher Hideki Irabu (I say "tragic" because he committed suicide here in LA, hung himself. and he also had quite a "rap sheet" after he retired).


As far as "Matsui" there is currently Yuki Matsui, a relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres. There was also 2B-SS Kazuo Matsui, who played for the Mets, Rockies, and Astros.


Another "fun to say" name of a Japanese ballplayer was Shigetoshi Hasegawa, a…


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jeff
Jun 25
Replying to

True, although Lenn Sakata's grandparents on his mom's side of his family were born in Japan, and his great-grandparents on his dad's side of his family were born in Japan.

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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Jun 24

If you were named "Covelli Loyce Crisp," you'd probably go by "Coco," too. Better to sound like a breakfast cereal than an accounting firm.

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Alan B.
Alan B.
Jun 24

Having met certain Yankees, Giants, & Rangers, I can relate. But when my adopted father had Joe Christopher get my 10 year old self a Ron Guilty autograph (I still have the ball), oh boy - don't forget this was in Sept 1978. But meeting the wrong player can be devastating (I have), I'm sooo very happy for you.......


...but have you bought your cousin at least a beer for letting you know about Godzilla's appearance?

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fuster
Jun 24

THIS was the moment that made my wife put her reluctance aside



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fuster
Jun 24
Replying to

she was reluctant to accept players who had worn other uniforms as being authentic Yankees

and uncertain that they would comport themselves with the appropriate, dignified bearing.


Matsui rose immediately to the moment, dropped his bat and circled the bases ...... soberly and most appropriately

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etbkarate
Jun 24

Great job. He's one of my favorites as well.

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