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Matsui comes home again03/27/2004 12:05 PM ET
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
TOKYO -- It has been a year and a half since Hideki Matsui played baseball at the Tokyo Dome, but the Yankees' All-Star outfielder and former three-time Central League MVP said that it felt like he never left.
Matsui and the Yankees worked out at the "Big Egg" -- the Dome's nickname -- on Saturday, preparing for their exhibition games against the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers, as well as their two season-opening games against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
"It brought back memories," Matsui said through an interpreter. "I played there for 10 years, but it felt like I just played there yesterday."
For fans, it must have felt like they hadn't seen "Godzilla" in 10 years, as they showered him with cheers and ovations all afternoon. Many of those 30,000-plus fans were children, attending "Kids Day" at the Dome.
"It was certainly heartwarming, having all of those children screaming out there. It made me happy," Matsui said. "I've never experienced practicing in that kind of environment."
"When you come over on the airline and he's in the book on a few advertisements, that's pretty cool," said John Flaherty. "I have a feeling for what Matsui is all about here. It's pretty neat."
Matsui's first day in Japan was fairly uneventful. After arriving shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday, Matsui and his teammates slept, woke up, had breakfast and went to the ballpark. He said that while he knows that his schedule is tight for most of the trip, he's hoping to sneak away during the little free time he has.
"The time is limited," Matsui said. "But I'd like to try to find some time to meet some friends, go out to dinner."
"I have come back to Japan as a Yankee, and I feel very happy about this," Matsui said. "I played at the Tokyo Dome for 10 years with the Giants, but this time, it's under different circumstances, and I'm very honored to be here."
The highly-anticipated matchup between Matsui's former and current teams takes place on Sunday night, as Hanshin and Tampa Bay will square off in the afternoon.
"Japanese fans often associate me with the Giants, and I'm sure that they're looking forward to that game, as I am, myself. I'm looking forward to seeing all of my friends on the Giants' team."
"Tomorrow night is probably going to be bigger than when we play the Devil Rays," said Derek Jeter. "It should be interesting to see what that's like."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.