Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Former Met Kazuo Matsui to retire at the end of 2018 season

Kyodo

Kazuo Matsui, the first Japanese infielder to be signed by a major league team, will draw the curtain on a career that has spanned 25 years at the end of this season, the Saitama Seibu Lions announced Wednesday.

The 42-year-old, a seven-time All-Star and four-time Golden Glove winner as a star shortstop for the Lions, made the jump overseas in 2004 and had stints with the New York Mets, Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros.

After seven seasons in the majors, Matsui returned to Japan in 2011 and played for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, where he was converted to the outfield. In the 2017 offseason, he turned down a coaching position with Rakuten in order to continue playing.

He rejoined Seibu this season as a player-coach after starting his professional career with the Pacific League club in 1995.

But with a lack of playing time, Nippon Professional Baseball’s oldest active position player appeared in just 23 games, hitting .129 with two RBIs. He was removed from the active roster on Sept. 15.

Matsui first joined the Lions as their third-round draft pick from Osaka high school powerhouse PL Gakuen, and won many accolades and awards during his illustrious career. He was the PL single-season hits leader twice, led the league in stolen bases three times and was PL MVP once, in 1998.

After nine seasons with the Lions, he was an infielder for the Mets from 2004 to 2006. He hit his first major-league home run leading off on Opening Day.

In 2006 he was traded to the Rockies, and had a three-year tenure with the Astros from 2008 to 2010.

After Rakuten brought him back to Japan, he also represented Japan in the 2013 World Baseball Classic during his seven seasons in Sendai.

Over his NPB career, he batted .291 with 2,088 hits, including 201 homers, 837 RBIs and 363 stolen bases in 1,906 games.