In addition to being one of the game's most productive hitters over the last decade, Athletics designated hitter Hideki Matsui might also be the most scrutinized player in the big leagues, with dozens of Japanese reporters covering his every move. Matsui, who turned 37 on June 12, arrived in the Major Leagues in 2003, joining the Yankees following a storied career in his native Japan. He recently spoke with MLBPLAYERS.com with the assistance of translator Roger Kahlon.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How many interviews do you do in a year with the Japanese media?
Matsui: It seems like every time I put on my uniform, I'm doing an interview with the Japanese media. There are 162 games a year, so I would say at least 162 interviews a year. That doesn't even count Spring Training.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What is a typical day when it comes to interviews with the Japanese and American media?
Matsui: Generally speaking, I don't have any mandatory interviews with the Japanese media before games. Whoever wants to come and talk to me before games is welcome. I always do interviews with Japanese media after the games. As far as the American media goes, I'm usually only interviewed when I'm part of the story.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is your routine with the media here the same as when you were in Japan?
Matsui: For the most part, it is pretty much the same.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you ever surprised by the media coverage surrounding you?
Matsui: I'm not too surprised in that I think a lot of people back home want to know what's going on. So, they are just providing what people want.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is the coverage you receive comparable to Ichiro in your opinion?
Matsui: I know that he has a lot of media following him, but I'm not sure about the exact number. So, I couldn't really say yes or no.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How important is your interpreter, Roger, to your ability to communicate on a daily basis?
Matsui: I think he plays a very important role in my day-to-day life here. I'm not always able to communicate 100 percent of the time, so it is vital that he is here so I can say what I need to say. He is important for me to completely understand what someone is saying to me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you see a big difference between the media in New York and the media you have most recently dealt with in Anaheim and in Oakland?
Matsui: The main difference I noticed right away was the amount of media that followed the teams. There are many more members of the press in New York than in the other places. As for how they cover the game and players, I'm not too sure of the difference.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you think that when you sign with teams they understand the amount of Japanese media coverage that follows you?
Matsui: Yes, they understand that right from the start. I make sure to communicate to my new team just what exactly the media coverage will be like on a day-to-day basis. I really don't have any control over the media, but I want the team to understand the sheer number of media that they will have to deal with. Thankfully, all the organizations I have been with have been very understanding and cooperative with the Japanese media.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you believe that another Japanese athlete could come over here, play a different pro sport and still get the same coverage you or Ichiro do, or do you attribute the mass coverage to the popularity of baseball in Japan?
Matsui: That's hard to say. Baseball is very popular in Japan, but I think another athlete could come over here and garner a large contingent of Japanese media if he is relevant to the people back home. It's just hard to guess at that because there really haven't been other Japanese athletes making the transition to other major sports here.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Have there been any teammates who have embraced your culture and tried to learn your native language?
Matsui: On every team I have played on there have been several players who have gone out of their way to learn some Japanese. Many have learned greetings and common phrases. It really has meant a great deal to me.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.