Happy New Year and welcome to 2013. One of the bigger stories to close out the 2012 baseball news year was the retirement of former Yomiuri Giants and New York Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui at the age of 38. The Dec. 28 announcement ended the career of one of the more memorable players in Japanese baseball and MLB: No. 55, Godzilla.

Matsui gained national prominence in Japan as a high school player in the early 1990s. He was so far ahead of everyone else, and opposing teams so anticipated he might hit a home run every time he stepped up to the plate, they walked him intentionally — even with the bases loaded — during the national tournament at Koshien Stadium.

He joined the Giants at 18 in 1993, two years before Hideo Nomo would open the door for Japanese players to go to the majors, and it was predicted Matsui would go on to become one of the all-time greats in Japanese baseball over the next two decades. He wound up playing only 10 years in Tokyo, but spectacular years they were.