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NOMI, JAPAN — In the Dec. 6, 2019 issue of Sport Collectors Digest, I wrote about Hideki Matsui’s baseball museum, which is located in the city of Nomi, Ishikawa prefecture, Japan.

It is right by the house that Hideki grew up in. The attractive museum celebrates Matsui’s pro career with displays such as a wall of baseball cards commemorating each of his 500-plus home runs in Japan and the U.S., and stores of prizes like his 2009 World Series MVP trophy with the Yankees.

Started by Hideki’s parents because fans kept stopping by their house to check things out and ask about their son, the museum also contains items from the slugger’s youth: his old ball-toss machine, school jerseys, and even 20 of the 60 home run baseballs he hit during his playing days at Seiryo High School, located in the nearby city of Kanazawa.

Hideki Matsui Baseball Museum in Nomi, Japan.

Hideki Matsui Baseball Museum in Nomi, Japan.

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Matsui returned to his old high school field on Oct. 15 to conduct a baseball clinic for area youth. The clinic was another offering of the Matsui 55 Baseball Foundation, which aims to promote the enjoyment of the game of baseball to boys and girls of any skill level.

Since the foundation’s beginning in 2015, a number of clinics have been offered in both the States and Japan, often in the Eastern U.S., where Matsui resides. For the Oct. 15 clinic, 35 kids (including my two sons) in Ishikawa prefecture from the fourth to sixth grade were selected by lottery from around 600 applicants.

“Let’s make it a good day,” Matsui said as he welcomed the kids, who were all wearing Matsui 55 T-shirts handed to them when they arrived that pleasant Saturday morning.

Former Yankees star Hideki Matsui instructs kids at his baseball clinic at his high school in Nomi, Japan.

Former Yankees star Hideki Matsui instructs kids at his baseball clinic at his high school in Nomi, Japan.

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After stretching exercises directed by one of the many staff members on hand to help, the kids were paired up for games of catch as Matsui looked on. If the San Diego Chicken had been there, it might have brought to mind the 1980s TV show “The Baseball Bunch” starring Johnny Bench.

Next the “bunch” was divided into four groups, rotating to different stations to practice fielding and hitting, the highlight of which was getting to take swings at pitches from Matsui himself. The outfielder and designated hitter hurled one pitch after another, about one minute to each child. He gave praise when solid contact was made, clapped his hands after a good final hit, and shouted “Gomen!” (Sorry!) if the pitch was a little off.

Hideki Matsui pitches to kids at his baseball clinic in Nomi, Japan.

Hideki Matsui pitches to kids at his baseball clinic in Nomi, Japan.

After that, Matsui, who last played in 2012 after seven years with the Yankees and a few seasons with the Angels, A’s, and Rays, stepped to the plate himself to take pitches from one of his assistants. A few decades prior, Hideki had gotten ahold of one during high school batting practice that sailed out of the park and bounced off the house of the Seiryo High School principal. It was around this time that Hideki was nicknamed “Godzilla.”

Following some hard liners, the 48-year-old hit one out of the park this day too and smiled at the cheering kids. He took a few more swings before he had enough and exclaimed, “I’m tired!” (Just before the start of his batting exhibition, Matsui had already told the kids the pitching had worn him out.)

But things were not over yet. After the kids had the opportunity for a question-and-answer session with Matsui, each participant got an autograph on an item of their choice and a photo with the star. My 11-year-old got a beautiful autograph on a baseball with a blue marker, while his younger brother handed Mr. Matsui an orange jersey from the Yomiuri Giants, the team Matsui hit 332 homers for in 10 years. Many other children got Matsui’s signature on a “shikishi,” square paperboards popular for autographs in Japan.

Autographs signed by Hideki Matsui at his baseball clinic in his hometown of Nomi, Japan.

Autographs signed by Hideki Matsui at his baseball clinic in his hometown of Nomi, Japan.

The event was covered by national news media in Japan, and following the clinic Matsui spoke to the press.

“I hope the children who came think it was a fun day, that it was good to come, and keep that as a good memory,” Matsui said. “It has been 30 years since I was in high school and played baseball on this field, so I was moved myself this day.”

Hideki Matsui at his baseball clinic at his old high school in Nomi, Japan.

Hideki Matsui at his baseball clinic at his old high school in Nomi, Japan.

At the conclusion of that 2019 SCD article about Matsui’s museum, I mentioned that I had entered a drawing at the museum to win an autographed ball by Hideki. That prize was not won, but I am glad these kids got something even better: not only an autograph, but a memory.

If you are a Matsui fan or know someone who might be interested in his baseball clinics, check out matsui55.org for announcements of future offerings in the States. 

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