(Reuters) - Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui was afforded an emotional farewell to Major League Baseball on Sunday, ending his glittering career as a New York Yankee after re-signing with his old team for less than two hours.
Matsui’s final game in the majors was for the Tampa Bay Rays last year but the Yankees signed him to a one-day contract so he could end his career at the team where he enjoyed his greatest success.
“I’d like to thank the Yankees organization, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me this opportunity,” Matsui said through a translator. “I officially announced my retirement last year, but to be able to come back in this manner. At the time, I never really imagined having this type of opportunity.
“To become a member of the Yankees and retire as a Yankee, I’m just so humbled and honored.”
After moving to the United States following a decade with the Yomiuri Giants, Matsui spent seven seasons with the Yankees between 2003 and 2009, batting .292 with 140 home runs and 597 runs batted in.
A two-time All-Star, his crowning moment was in 2009 when he helped the Yankees win the World Series and he was named as the Most Valuable Player.
“Hideki represents everything the Yankees aspire to be,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. “I’m wearing a ring on this finger, this particular ring - the 2009 ring - thanks to Hideki Matsui’s efforts. That’s one of the reasons we gravitated to him.”
Matsui, now 39, was accompanied by members of his family for Sunday’s special ceremony at Yankee Stadium.
Less than two hours after re-signing with the pinstripes, he signed his voluntary retirement papers behind home plate, as the crowd and current players stood in applause.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter presented Matsui with a framed number 55 jersey then Matsui threw the first ceremonial pitch before the scheduled game against the Rays.
“He came here, he was supposed to be this ‘Godzilla’ that hits home runs, but he was a situational hitter,” Jeter said.
“Matsui moved runners when he had to move them, he got big hits, he drove guys in, he wanted to play every day.
“I enjoyed getting to know him throughout the years. He’s always been one of my favorite team mates, and he always will be.”
Matsui left the Yankees after the 2009 season and spent one season each with Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and finally the Rays before calling it a day. He finished his career with a .282 batting average, 175 home runs and 760 RBIs.
Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Gene Cherry