Why Hideki Matsui lives in New York?

  • TEXT
  • Takuji Ishikawa
  • Tsukuru Asada(MILD) 

  • I’ve been retired from the Yankees now for seven years. And I’ve been living in New York for sixteen years, a long time when you think about it. I go back to Japan on average two or three times a year, I think.I gave up my house in Tokyo some years ago, so when I go back it feels more like a business trip than going home. Having said that, it does feel a bit odd staying in a hotel. I suppose because I still think of Tokyo as my city, the one I knew and lived in for many years.

  • I follow a fixed routine. When I was playing, I had day games and night games, with lots of traveling time. But now, my life is all about getting up with the kids every morning.
  • On days when I’m not working, I eat breakfast with my kids in the morning, and I might spend the morning reading or emailing. In the afternoon, my son comes home, so we play together. My older son is 6, and the younger one is 2. Do they play ball? Well, it’s not that they don’t, but they don’t show much interest in baseball. Of course, I’d be delighted if they got to like it, because it would be easy for me to get involved. But I don’t want to push them. My bat and glove are lying around, but right now neither of my kids seems interested, unfortunately.
  • So that’s life right now, revolving around the kids. I don’t do much exercise. I never go to the gym. My weight’s the same as when I was playing. But my muscle tone and strength has gone downhill, so inside might be considerably different. When I start to get really fat, I should probably do some training.
  • When I was playing professionally, I had to keep in good physical condition every day. My lifestyle has changed quite a lot, but when I retired from the game, I started to get aches and pains here and there, and I felt I’d done as much as I could do, so I didn’t really feel any sadness or regret. Plus, it was easy for me to make the transition because my older son was born around the same time I retired.
  • The reason I continue to live in New York...actually I don’t have a concrete reason. I retired and wondered what to do next. At that time, I still had a house in Tokyo, so it’s not like I didn’t have the option to come back or not, but here I am. I did talk it over with my wife, but we didn’t come to any decision. I’m still here because we just felt like being here a little longer.
  • I’m still doing baseball-related work for the Yankees, which I’m grateful for. I’m a special advisor to the Yankees GM. I’m not sure why they approached me – maybe because it was just easy because I was living in New York. When players retire, they all disappear; back to their home country, or somewhere else. There was nobody left in New York.
  • My job is to provide guidance to young Minor League players, primarily batting instruction. I’ve also been asked to give feedback on pitchers, so I report on pitchers from a batter’s perspective. The ballpark is really far away – two hours one way from Manhattan by car. I drive there myself and come home the same day. I do like driving, but a four-hour round trip is a bit long. I’m there half the month, but only during baseball season, from April through September.

  • Compared to the past, players nowadays place a great deal of importance on data and video. In my time, I think we valued our gut feelings and senses a little more. Mr. Nagashima used to coach by sound. He’d make me do a practice swing, he’d listen, and for every swing he’d say something like “Good swing,” or “That wasn’t any good.” I was skeptical because I couldn’t tell myself by listening to the sound. But I couldn’t question him; I was only 19 or 20. So I just kept swinging away. But I did come to recognize the difference in sound under his daily coaching.
  • That was a real help: it meant I can judge for myself whether a swing is good or bad. That’s how I built up my batting skills. Because I was born the year that Mr. Nagashima retired, I never saw him play in the flesh. I’ve only seen it on video, but Mr. Nagashima’s game-winning home run in the match attended by Emperor Hirohito is especially impressive. The speed of his swing is just so fast. When he coached too, he put special emphasis on the speed and sharpness of the swing.
  • I don’t talk about any of this with the young players today. In the first place, American baseball doesn’t place importance on swing practice. So when I give advice, I prioritize the things the players here care about. They often want to hear practical stuff, like my mental approach when I went up to the plate against a certain type of pitcher, things like that.
  • That’s why I often attend Minor League games. I sit behind the manager and the coach, watching the benchwork, and I find the strategizing and so on very interesting. My intention isn’t to study, but as someone who loves baseball, it’s great to sit and watch on the same bench with no responsibility.

  • Of course, I do think to myself “Why can’t he hit?” or “Why did he swing at that pitch?”. Just like watching from the crowd. But of course, because I look at the game through the eyes of a hitter, I understand why players swing when they do. I think about what approach I’d take going up to the plate if I was facing a certain pitcher. I can see why they do it with a completely different approach when I watch how they swing. I think to myself, “He’s not really well prepared,” stuff like that. I can’t hear the sound of the swing, though.
  • Would I like to manage a team one day? That’s a very sports journalist-like question. To be honest, right now I’m not interested. But I really don’t know if I will find a passion for it or not. Unless you have that passion, you can’t positively act on something.
  • I do love New York, but if you ask me to choose, of course, I’d choose Japan. I’ve got so many friends there, and without doubt, it’s an easy and comfortable place to live. Even when I stay in a hotel, the service in Japan is better by far.
  • The thing is, when I’m in New York, I can just go take a walk like normal people do. I don’t have to worry about people looking at me. I take my son to Central Park, or walk along the Hudson. That’s what’s most important to me right now. I really feel life is easier when you’re under the radar. So, I think I’ll stay in New York for a while longer. I want to enjoy the quiet life I have now.