Saitama Seibu Lions OF and technical coach Kazuo Matsui announced his intention to retire as a player on Wednesday afternoon. Matsui, who will turn 43 at the end of October, will finish 2018 with his 24th and final year playing baseball.
Matsui signed with the Lions as a player/coach last winter which reunited with the team he started with, his first time in 15 years. He only appeared in 23 games hitting .129 with only four base hits and none of them being extra base hits. He also appeared as a pinch runner before being deactivated on September 15.
His career began with the Lions straight out of high school as a third round draft pick out of PL Gakuen in 1994. Matsui saw three pennants , but missed out on a Japan Series championship as he joined the New York Mets in 2004.
Matsui hit a home run in his first career at bat and had some glory in New York before he was traded to the Colorado Rockies. In 2007, he was part of a team that clinched the postseason by winning a Game 163 against the San Diego Padres. Matsui hit a decisive grand slam against the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS of that year as the Rockies went on to lose to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
Injuries derailed his major league career and he saw a decline in playing time in his final three stateside years with the Houston Astros.
Matsui returned to Japan in 2011 with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He was part of the 2013 Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles who won the Japan Series with Masahiro Tanaka, Casey McGehee and Andruw Jones. He even made the all star game in 2015 and amassed 2,703 combined hits between NPB and MLB while reaching the 2,000 hit mark in Japan in 2015.
While it's easy to think he may return as a coach, Jim Allen of Kyodo News mentioned how it was a tough position.
Sankei Sports is reporting that Kazuo Matsui will end his playing career this year. Although Seibu brought him back this season as a player coach, he admitted this summer to Kyodo News that the coaching role is a difficult role that has not been easy for him. https://t.co/Qk7DDACBHa— Jim Allen (@JballAllen) September 25, 2018
Matsui will likely get one last ride after being a longtime Lion from the 90s and early 00s, the best position player to come from this franchise in the Major Leagues. A retirement ceremony and at-bat will occur against the Softbank Hawks on the final homestand.
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