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Hideki Matsui retires: Remembering when he introduced his wife to the world

David Brown
Big League Stew

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(AP/Kyodo)

Hideki Matsui, the international baseball sensation known as "Godzilla" because he's from Japan, and big and strong like the famous oversized nuclear lizard, has retired. Matsui hit .282/.360/.462 with 175 home runs, mostly for the New York Yankees, from 2003-2012. He's probably the second-best player from Japan, after Ichiro Suzuki, to grace major league baseball. Off the field, Matsui seemed to have a sense of humor about himself and life.

By the time that spring training 2008 had come around, Matsui had made two AL All-Star teams and knocked 103 home runs over fences around the majors. But after five seasons away from his native Japan, it was time to get married. And so, Matsui sneaked away from Yankees' spring headquarters in Tampa, back to New York, to do just that in March. The New York Daily News explained:

"I met somebody who felt right. That was it," the 33-year-old outfielder said upon returning to the Bombers' spring training camp in Tampa.

Matsui refused to reveal many details about Wednesday's wedding or his new wife, only saying she is 25 and from Japan, where she formerly worked "in a reputable position at a highly respected company."

He is so secretive about his wife's identity that he held up a drawing of her, rather than a photo, at a press conference where he showed off the silver band on his left hand.

"I have decided to spend my whole life with her," said Matsui, considered the most eligible bachelor in his native Japan.

As teammates congratulated him, Yankee captain Derek Jeter and outfielder Bobby Abreu claimed they were conned into a bet by the newlywed slugger.

Yeah, there's a funny story about that, too. Reporter Tyler Kepner of the New York Times had it. Here's what Jeter said looking back, in a statement, about Matsui:

"I've said it numerous times over the years, but it's worth repeating now. 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.

"Despite being shadowed by a large group of reporters, having the pressures of performing for his fans both in New York and Japan and becoming acclimated to the bright lights of New York City, he always remained focused and committed to his job and to those of us he shared the clubhouse with."

Here's hoping Matsui ascends to Japan's Hall of Fame someday. He's got 500-plus career home runs, counting here and there, not to mention 12 All-Star appearances between the two continents. He belongs in someone's Hall of Fame for those accomplishments. And if the sketch of his wife joins his own likeness on the plaque, even better.

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