All eyes were on the baseball as it traveled high in the air, soaring over the right-field fence and beyond the trees. Oohs and aahs were followed by applause.
Hideki Matsui smiled and gave a thumbs up to the kids and their parents. Ten years after he retired from baseball, “Godzilla” can still go deep. More importantly to him, however, were the two hours that preceded his brief batting practice, a baseball clinic for children he hosted Saturday morning at Blind Brook High School in Rye Brook.
“The kids, just their smiles, everybody enjoying the day, that’s really what counts for me,” the former Yankees star said through an interpreter.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Matsui ran clinics in New York and Japan multiple times a year. This was his first one since the pandemic. But he is hoping to do more now to stay active and spread his love for the sport. After the clinic, he took questions from kids and signed autographs.
“Hopefully we can start doing this and get back on a regular schedule,” said Matsui, a two-time All-Star and World Series champion with the Yankees who blasted 175 home runs during his 10-year MLB career. “I played in Japan and the US. For me, it’s a really simple concept: Through this clinic, I like to interact and just have everybody enjoy the day, enjoy the clinic, enjoy playing baseball. Hopefully, that’s something they’ll [remember] and continue to play baseball.”
These days, the 48-year-old Matsui is enjoying retirement. He’s no longer working for the Yankees, after he recently spent time as a special adviser to general manager Brian Cashman, and is devoting himself to his two children. Matsui, who still lives in the area and watches the Yankees a lot, said he thinks they can go far in October.
He also follows Japanese countryman Shohei Ohtani and is amazed at what the Angels’ two-way star has been able to do since coming to America four years ago.
“He’s an incredible player. He’s doing something that’s never really been done before, as a pitcher and a position player, and doing them at a very high level,” Matsui said. “That in itself, is already incredible. What he’s doing is extraordinary.”