So the big sports headline in Japan today is Matsui getting hitched at some point in the US with a 25 year old Japanese woman. The two reportedly were introduce by a common friend back in 2006. Shortly thereafter, they exchanged e-mail and phone calls and the relationship culminated in 2007 with the woman attending a number of Yankee games.
There is an event here that Matsui attends during the offseason and each time he's asked whether or not he has any plans to be married. He was asked this very question again this past offseason and he answered as he always had with "Not real plans right now."
A news show interviewed Matsui's manager / translator (actually, I'm not really sure who he is except that he work pretty close to him) and even he didn't know about Matsui's marriage plans.
The other big story actually hit the airwaves last night. Kuwata has reportedly announced his retirement from baseball. The Pirates were planning on sending him down to the minors and Kuwata didn't feel that spending any amount of time in the minors was something he wanted to do at his age.
While Kuwata isn't nearly as popular in Japan as "current" players like Ichiro, Matsuzaka and Matsui, he is a well-known figure. With the Giants he went 173-141 with a 3.55 ERA. He also racked up 10 or more wins 10 times in his career, threw 200+ innings 5 times, won the US equivalent of the Gold Glove 8 times, and made 8 All Star appearances.
Kuwata was one of my favorites growing up so I was really pulling for him to make the Pirates this year. His interview last night really made me tear up. You can tell just how much he loves the game of baseball by the way he talks about it. And I think it's his love and respect the game that made him retire. And while I'm sure there was some pride involved with him not wanting to spend any time in the minors, I think that there was something more to it. Spending two season competing for a roster spot on the parent club and also spending some time in the minors last season, Kuwata was able to see just how competitive baseball is in the US and how roster spots come at a premium. At 39, his long term value is nil and there are plenty of other younger players with more potential that could make better use of his spot. I think this reality also had a lot to do with his decision.
There is one thing that bothers me... I saw another interview with him a few days earlier where he was talking about his goals for the current season. Three were mentioned. 1) Making the team, 2) getting a win, 3) getting a hit. He spent most of the interview talking about the third goal, but did sort of mention in passing that making the team right out of ST wasn't that important because things are constantly changing and that he'd still have a chance to make the parent club. So I was a little confused when I heard about his plans to retire. But I guess when the reality of him being sent down really sunk in...
...and so ends Kuwata's career. It would have been nice to see him retire after throwing one more pitch at the major league level, but I guess it just was not meant to be. Here's to hoping that he decides to take a coaching job in Japan. I think there's a lot he can teach to the younger players.