If there was one thing Scott Mathieson enjoyed about the offseason, it was the family time.
Forced to deal with the demands of being a professional athlete for the most of the year, Mathieson made sure to get the most out of his time at home over the winter with his family, especially 17-month-old son Lane.
“For me every morning started around five o’clock,” Mathieson said. “I’d have breakfast, head to the gym, and my goal was to get home around 8:30, because my son wakes up at 8:30. I tried to be able to make breakfast and be there when my son woke up every morning.”
He’s back in Japan with his baseball family, the Yomiuri Giants, now and looking forward to getting going this year.
“I feel really good,” Mathieson said. “My arm has felt great. Baseball-wise I’m kind of glad to be back in Tokyo, kind of get settled back into a routine and get ready for the season. And Tokyo kind of feels like home to me now. I’ve spent more time here in the last two years than anywhere else.”
Japan suits a player with a young family like Mathieson. He and his wife Jennifer enjoy life in Japan and because of the country’s size, travel is far less strenuous than in MLB.
“It’s the best part for me,” Mathieson said. “A big reason I like Japan is the travel is so easy here. I spend a lot more time with my family and I get to spend a lot more time with my son. I really enjoy getting to hang out with him and watching him grow and get bigger every day.”
Every day also brings Mathieson a little closer to being able to share his career with Lane.
“The goal has always been being able to play long enough to where he can remember watching me play,” Mathieson said.
“That’s probably still a couple of more years (away). When I was in the States, seeing guys bring their kids on the field, being able after games to play catch with them and stuff, I hope I can play long enough to be able to do that with my son.”
Mathieson could’ve been back playing in North America this season. The 30-year-old Canadian was in good form in 2012, his first in Japan, but took it to another level last season.
Mathieson, among the hardest throwers in Japan, was an integral part of an excellent Yomiuri bullpen, making 63 appearances and tying Orix Buffaloes reliever Tatsuya Sato for the most holds in Japan with 40. Mathieson also ended the season with 77 strikeouts and a 1.03 ERA in 61 innings.
The former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher had the attention of MLB scouts, but ultimately signed up for another year with Yomiuri.
“Coming back here was definitely what I wanted to do,” Mathieson said. “But when I had several major league teams making me major league offers . . . it’s always tough to turn that down. Because I grew up dreaming of playing in the Major Leagues.
“I love where I’m at now, but I never grew up dreaming about playing in Japan. So that’s tough, to essentially turn down what you grew up dreaming to do. But I feel comfortable being with the Giants. I really like the guys here, my wife loves it over here, so we’re quite happy. It was an easy decision with all that being said.”
He’ll return to what should again be a very good bullpen alongside closer Kentaro Nishimura, who saved 42 games in 2013, and Tetsuya Yamaguchi, whose 38 holds in 2013 were second most in NPB, among others.
“I think we have a very strong bullpen, plus (Yuya) Kubo is back now,” Mathieson said. “We have a lot of guys. Our bullpen, I think, is very strong. Our starters are also obviously strong. I don’t see other teams with us.”
On paper, the Giants might be the favorites to win a third straight CL title and maybe also advance to the Japan Series, where they lost to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Game 7 of last year.
“It was frustrating, definitely,” Mathieson said of the Japan Series defeat. “I don’t think they were a better team than us. They had a couple of players who were hot, and we weren’t. It was frustrating. In my mind, we were better than them. That was the frustrating thing to me.”
Mathieson is ready to right that wrong if the opportunity presents itself.
He’s felt good this spring, but the real test will be the results he gets as the season draws closer.
“The hitters will tell me where I’m at,” Mathieson said. “I feel good. Hopefully it translates to the mound.”