Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Murton reflects on Akiyama's pursuit of single-season hit record

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

On Oct. 5, 2010, Matt Murton made NPB history with a single into center on a wet night at Jingu Stadium that propelled him past Ichiro Suzuki and established a new NPB record for hits in an single season.

Almost five full years later, Murton was back at Jingu Stadium — and so was the rain — musing about his feelings on possibly losing the mark to the Seibu Lions’ Shogo Akiyama, who tied the record of 214 with a blistering 5-for-5 performance against the Orix Buffaloes on Wednesday night at Osaka Dome.

Akiyama was scheduled to face the Orix Buffaloes later Thursday night in the Lions’ final game of the season.

“He is in Osaka right now, which is where my home team was at in the first year I got here,” Murton said on Thursday, after the Hanshin Tigers’ game against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows was rained out and about two hours before the start time of the Lions’ contest.

“Not only that, I’m currently here, supposed to be competing at Jingu Stadium, which is where I broke the record. So for me, it kind of ties it all together, and kind of goes full circle over the last six years to be back in the stadium where it was able to happen, and for him to be in the city of Osaka with a chance to (break) that … To me, that just tells me that what is meant to be will be. That’s the way I look at it.”

Murton, who is in his sixth year in Japan, said he hadn’t had many chances to watch Akiyama play but went back and watched a few videos of the Lions outfielder’s past performances after learning he’d tied the mark.

“Yesterday, he really swung the bat well,” Murton said. “He stayed through the ball a long time. I saw him last night, he hit a line drive down the left-field line, over the third baseman’s head. Later in the game he pulled a line drive in over the first baseman’s head for a hit. He even stayed in the middle of the field on some offspeed pitches. So he uses the whole field, and I think that’s what you have to do.

“What impresses me most about him is his ability to stay through the ball a long time and his ability to use the entire field to get hits.”

Murton seemed at ease with his place in the record book possibly being usurped.

“It’s really not about me,” Murton said. “It’s about him. He’s had an incredible year. That year was very special for me. If anything, it’s just reminded of the feelings I had during that time period. I kind of have an idea of what he’s going through. When you’re a player, and you get to this point, all you want is to be able to do your best and be able to accomplish what’s right there before you.

“It’s not about what I did in 2010, it’s more about what he’s accomplishing right now. I think that it’s great for him because this is a career year for him, kind of jumping on the map. He’s been a solid player, but this year to really jump out there has been awesome. Hopefully he’ll be able to sustain that the next few years.”

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