Saturday, October 24, 2009
#667) KAZ MATSUI
Kaz Matsui was signed by the New York Mets as a much heralded free agent from Japan on December 10, 2003. A standout shortstop with the Seibu Lions who came to the team after batting .305 with 33 home runs, 84 RBI, and scoring 104 runs in 140 games for Seibu the previous season. A media conference in New York City greeted Kaz after the signing. Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented Matsui his Mets jersey and Kaz said in English, "Hello everybody, my name is Kaz Matsui. I love New York."
In fact Matsui was given the shortstop job in New York and the incumbent Jose Reyes was moved to second base. Kaz made his major league debut on April 6, 2004 in a game against the Braves in Atlanta. He led off the game and hit a
home run in his first major league at-bat, and followed that with a pair of doubles as the Mets won 7-2 on opening day.
The switch-hitting, Matsui was able to sustain a reasonable success at the plate, but surprisingly would often look shaky in the field. In 2005 he was switched to second base with Jose Reyes again becoming the team's shortstop. Unfortunately that season began Kaz's string of injuries that would plague him throughout his Mets career. He would first lose his starting job and finally be traded to the Colorado Rockies for Eli Marrero on June 9, 2006.
Matsui did continue his string of lead off home runs on season opening days with the Mets. Repeating the feat in both 2005 and 2006 to become the only man in Major League Baseball history to record a home run in his first plate appearance of his first three seasons. It even took an inside-the-park home run in 2006 to finish the streak.
Many Mets fans seem to not share my opinion, but Kaz Matsui is one of my favorite players. He always played hard and brought an excitement to the game. Expectations were just too high for him to succeed in New York. Kaz signed his card in the set for my friend Tom during Spring Training 2009 when he visited Houston Astros camp in Kissimmee, Florida.