Matsui receives top honor in Japan

Former Yankees outfielder and designated hitter Hideki Matsui joined some elite company in his home land Sunday when he received the People’s Honor Award from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Tokyo Dome. Matsui was honored alongside former Yomiuri Giants manager Shigeo Nagashima for the award that is given to those who have made significant achievements in their careers and are beloved by the public.

“I played for excellent teams, with excellent teammates, for excellent managers in front of excellent fans,” Matsui said. “I did my best to lift up, even a little bit, the game of baseball that is so beloved by the people of Japan.”

Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh, the first recipient of the award when it was created in 1977 by the late Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, attended the ceremony. Others previously honored included the acclaimed film director Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon and Seven Samurai) and the Japanese women’s national soccer team that won the World Cup in 2011.

Matusi, who earned the nickname “Godzilla” for his home run prowess in Japan, played for 10 seasons in the major leagues, the first seven with the Yankees for whom he starred on the 2009 championship team and was Most Valuable Player of the World Series for batting .615 with three home runs and eight RBI in 13 at-bats. Matsui hit .292 with 140 home runs and had four 100-plus RBI seasons with the Yankees before playing one season each for the Angels, Athletics and Rays.

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