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Ichiro Suzuki surprised Daisuke Matsuzaka in an emotional moment at his retirement ceremony in Japan.
After over two decades of professional baseball, star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is leaving the mound for good.
Matsuzaka’s career began with the Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball in 1999. In 2006, he was posted for MLB, and the Boston Red Sox outbid all other suitors. He pitched for them from 2007-2012, then joined the New York Mets (who had courted him during his posting) from 2013-2014. Matsuzaka returned to Japan in 2015 and spent the remaining years of his career with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Chunichi Dragons, and finally, came full circle to retire with the Lions, back where it all began.
The star pitcher compiled an astounding resumé over the years. With Nippon, he was Rookie of the Year, a three-time win leader, four-time strikeout leader, two-time ERA leader, seven-time All-Star, and seven-time Gold Glove winner. He also pitched for two Japan Series champion teams in 2004 and 2017. In MLB, the pitcher known as Dice-K was part of the 2007 Red Sox championship team.
Daisuke Matsuzaka gets retirement ceremony he deserves
Matsuzaka also represented Japan on their national team, which won two World Baseball Classics; he was the MVP of both.
A career of his caliber deserved a sendoff of epic proportions at Seibu Lions fan appreciation day. Matsuzaka gave a speech to the crowd and then stood at home plate to watch a video from fellow Japanese legend, Ichiro Suzuki.
Except, it wasn’t just a video.
After Suzuki said, “It’s hard to find words. For that reason, this is the only thing I can do. Please excuse me, Daisuke,” he joined him on the field in person, clad in a suit, with an enormous bouquet of flowers.
Matsuzaka was overcome with emotion and told Kyodo News,
“I hadn’t imagined this. It was crazy. At first I was able to hold up and then the tears came and I was done for.
I was surprised and just overjoyed that at the end Ichiro-san came to see me. I’m happy I was able to come so far.”
In their storied careers, Dice-K and Ichiro have been rivals and teammates. The pair joined forces to win two World Baseball Classics together, proudly representing Japan. But their relationship spans decades, going all the way back to the pitcher’s rookie season in 1999. Suzuki, a seasoned pro in the NPB by that point, struck out three times and walked once in his first game against the 18-year-old Matsuzaka.
In April 2007, Matsuzaka made his first start at Fenway Park as a member of the Red Sox. The leadoff man was the batter he’d said he was most eager to face in MLB: Suzuki, then a member of the Seattle Mariners. He went 0-for-5, and in the fifth inning, Matsuzaka struck him out swinging.
The impact Suzuki and Matsuzaka had on the game of baseball, both in Japan and the United States, cannot be understated. When Suzuki left for the United States in 2001, he inspired Matsuzaka and countless others to follow, including 2021 (unanimous) AL MVP Shohei Ohtani.
Matsuzaka and Suzuki may both be retired now, but the ripple effect of their careers will continue for years to come.