I was browsing through Robert Whiting’s enjoyable book about the current generation of Japanese baseball players, “The Samurai Way of Baseball” recently and thoroughly enjoyed the chapter on Hideki Matsui. Whiting details Matsui’s career in Japan and explains why his conservative and humble manner is so appealing to Japanese fans. Matsui is described as a traditional but unpretentious guy.
Trailed constantly by a scrum of Japanese reporters eager to record any Matsui moment for the devoted and insatiable Japanese media machine, Matsui invariably wore a smile–unlike the prickly Ichiro. “I asked for this life,” he would say. “Nobody forced it on me and I have a duty to the people who put me here.” He refused to charge admission at the Hideki Matsui House of Baseball back home–a practice which stood in marked contrast to the Ichiro Museum in Nagoya, which a ticket costs $8. It just wouldn’t be fair, he explained.
Some cyincs called Matsui simpleminded, a workhorse wihtout the brainpower to comprehend what all the attention really meant or the sophistication to mimic Ichiro’s studied cool. But Matsui, who in fact had been an attentive student with high marks in math (one who actually sat in the first row of the classes he attended), would shrug and say, in his coarse baritone, “I’m just an ordinary guy.” He liked to have an occasional beer. He loked to shoot the breeze with the security guards and maintenance personnel, and he liked to trade tapes form his extensive library of adult videos with reporters. (His reply, when asked about his eccentric hobby, was a droll “Doesn’t everybody do this?”)
Then, here is this bit from Matsui’s first year with the Yanks:
Matsui lived alone in a Manhattan high rise. He did his own laundry and socialized mostly with his assistant Isao Hiroka, a few Japanese writers, visitors from Japan, and occasionally his teammates, if the serveices of an interpreter were available (Matsui’s English having not yet arrived at the conversational level). Like most ballplayers, he eschewed the museums and art galleries and other such NYC attractions, preferring to spend his free time eating a Japanese restaurants and going for long reflective drives along the Hudson River in his new SUV. At night, he might visit the sedate, refined Manhattan hostess clubs for Japanese ex-pats–such establishments a noted feature of the exclusive Japanese community in New York. One Tokyo tabloid, worried about Matsui’s sex life, interviewed a top porno actress in Japan who volunteered to fly to the States and service Matsui whenever required, just in case, blonde, Western women were not to his liking.
Two years later, I wonder how Matsui’s adjusting?