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Baseball: Ex-major leaguer Matsui to retire at end of season

Kazuo Matsui

TOKYO (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 Seibu Lions announced Wednesday.

The 42-year-old Matsui, 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.

A retirement press conference will be held Thursday.

After seven seasons in the majors, Matsui returned to Japan in 2011 and played for the Rakuten Eagles, where he was converted to 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, the oldest active position player in Nippon Professional Baseball 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 named the PL single-season hits leader twice, stolen base leader three times, and 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 he had a three-year tenure with the Astros from 2008 to 2010.

After Rakuten brought him back to Japan, he also played for the Japanese national team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic during his seven seasons in Sendai.

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

In the majors, he had a career .267 batting average with 615 hits, 32 homers, 211 RBIs, 102 stolen bases in 630 games.

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