NEW YORK -- Fewer than 10 Japanese-born players are currently in the Major Leagues. So when a Japanese baseball legend provides insight on the next generation of talent coming out of Asia, you listen.
After hosting a baseball clinic on Sunday for youth players at Columbia University's Robertson Field at Satow Stadium, Hideki Matsui gave his thoughts on young star Shohei Ohtani and how involved the former outfielder, now special advisor to the Yankees, wants to be in the rookie's baseball career.
Matsui has only watched Ohtani play on television, but he's looking forward to the opportunity to meet the phenom. Ohtani's MLB status is in a bit of limbo now as a new posting system is worked out (the old posting agreement expired on Oct. 31), but the expectation is that 23-year-old two-way sensation will be on a Major League roster come Spring Training.
"As far as I've seen, he's a good pitcher and he's a good hitter as well," Matsui said through a translator. "He's done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I'm looking forward to how he's going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S."
The 43-year-old retired Yankee is still heavily involved in baseball, working as a special advisor to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Matsui's current role involves helping players in the Minor Leagues get prepared for the Majors, and he's seen many unique talents over the course of his career. Even so, Matsui admits Ohtani possesses skills that are both new to him and American baseball.
"As far as I know, I've never really seen a player that performs well as a pitcher and a hitter. To be honest with you, I really don't know what may come out of it, but I wish him well," Matsui said through a translator.
Ohtani is a lanky 6-foot-3 left-handed hitter and righty on the mound. Only 23 years old, he posted a .332/.403/.540 slash line over 231 plate appearances this past season for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. In 2016, Ohtani went 10-4 in 20 starts with a 1.86 ERA and four complete games.
When Matsui was asked if he thinks Ohtani should both hit and pitch in the Major Leagues -- something that is only an outlandish proposition in the American League -- Godzilla was all for it. The Yankees are rumored to be targeting Ohtani, so Matsui could very well one day be involved in his career.
"If that's something he wants to do and the team wants it, then why not? If he's allowed to come here and the Yankees are interested, then I expect to be involved in that process as maybe trying to convince him or recruit him to the Yankees," Matsui said through a translator.