• Kyodo

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Hideki Matsui left Japan for the United States ahead of spring training on Monday, setting out for a fresh challenge in Yankees pinstripes with determination and confidence.

“My strong desire to play in the major leagues has not changed the last three months. I made this decision myself and I think I can hang tough as long as I keep this strong feeling,” Matsui told reporters shortly before his departure for New York from Narita airport.

“I wasn’t able to sleep well last night because of a delay in my preparations for this trip and I saw the sunrise. So in that sense I think I made a good start,” Matsui said.

Matsui is scheduled to spend several days in New York before moving to Tampa, Fla., where he joins the Yankees’ camp on Feb. 18.

He made clear his intentions to pursue a career in the major leagues on Nov. 1 after the three-time Central League Most Valuable Player led the Yomiuri Giants to the league and Japan Series titles.

On Jan. 14, the 28-year-old slugging outfielder officially signed a three-year, $21 million contract and was introduced as a Yankee in a jam-packed press conference in New York.

“I feel a little sad to play baseball away from Japan. But I’m more thrilled to follow the direction that I chose myself for a brand-new place in my career,” Matsui said.

“Everything will be new to me so I know I’ll face difficulties. I’ll do my best to get over them one by one and move on.”

Asked about what kind of approach he takes in spring training, Matsui said, “Basically, the primary goal is to get used to the new environment and make myself ready both physically and mentally so that I can play a solid game.

“I won’t try anything new. I’ll get myself fit into the training methods in the majors,” he said.

The Yankees will face the Toronto Blue Jays on the road in their regular season opener on March 31.

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