Hideki Matsui stepped into the batter’s box for old times’ sake and, with former New York Yankees teammate Derek Jeter watching, capped a special day by sending a ball over the fence and into the right-field seats at Tokyo Dome. One more home run for Godzilla on a day full of them for Tohoku.
The two retired Yankees greats spent the day at Tokyo Dome for a good cause, teaming up for the Tomodachi Charity Baseball Game, an event held in conjunction with the Support Our Kids Project, to help raise awareness and support for children from the Tohoku region who are still suffering from the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which devastated the region on March 11, 2011. Proceeds from the event were to go toward helping efforts for children in Tohoku.
“If this event gave them (disaster victims) some strength I’d be happy about that,” Matsui said. “In terms of supporting them, people tend to forget about the disasters as the days go by and we’re trying not to let that happen. This was a big event for that purpose and Jeter was a big help.”
Bringing Jeter onboard helped add even more star power to the cause. The former Yankee captain is popular in Japan and there were numerous Japanese fans donning pinstriped No. 2 jerseys at Tokyo Dome during the event.
“Hideki asked me to come be a part of this,” Jeter said. “I came because, not only is Hideki a good friend of mine, but more importantly I get an opportunity to help out the kids here in Japan. I’ve told him time again and time again, anytime he needs me, if I’m available, I’ll come. I know it’s a long way, but any opportunity that I have to try to help out, not only help out a friend, but help out kids, I’m all for it.”
Jeter and Matsui began their day at the Big Egg by throwing out the first pitch before a spring training game between the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Yomiuri Giants. Later in the afternoon they took part in a short baseball clinic for children from the affected areas. Jeter dished out a few fielding tips and both showed off their batting forms.
Team Matsui then won the night’s charity game 2-0. Matsui was leading a team of Japanese junior high students from schools in the Tohoku region, while Jeter’s team consisted of U.S. students based in Japan.
“It was great to be able to interact with kids from the affected areas,” Matsui said.
Matsui’s team then won the batting challenge between the two teams by a score of 8-6. Then the Japanese superstar, who hit 332 home runs during a 10-year career with the Yomiuri Giants and 175 more with the Yankees, Angels, Athletic and Rays in the majors, announced he was going to hit. He gave the fans what they wanted on his third swing and was congratulated by Jeter, who said he was all too happy to have played a role in the day’s activities.
“It was a wonderful few days here for me to get the opportunity to see Japan,” Jeter said. “Hideki brought me around. I got a chance to go to his hometown, I got a chance to go see sumo wrestling and then to top it off here today at the charity event. I’m grateful that Hideki invited me, and I had a chance to come here, and it was all for a great cause.”
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