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Baseball: Matsui announces retirement from Major Leagues

Tampa Bay Rays' Hideki Matsui signs autographs before a MLB American League baseball game against the New York Mets in St. Petersburg, Flori
Tampa Bay Rays' Hideki Matsui signs autographs before a MLB American League baseball game against the New York Mets in St. Petersburg, Flori

(Reuters) - Hard-hitting Hideki Matsui, who set milestones for Japanese players in Major League Baseball, announced his retirement on Thursday, the organization's website reported.

The 38-year-old Matsui played 10 seasons in MLB, seven of them with the New York Yankees, producing the most home runs, runs batted in and walks by a Japanese player in the league.

A two-time All-Star with the Yankees, he was the first Japanese-born player to win World Series MVP honors in 2009, going 8-for-13 with three homers and eight runs batted in as the Yankees beat the Phillies for the title in 2009.

One of Japan's most dominant hitters with the Yomiuri Giants from 1993-2002, he joined the Yankees in 2003.

In 10 Major League seasons, he batted .282 with 760 runs batted in while playing with the Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays.

Nicknamed "Godzilla" for his powerful swing, Matsui belted 332 home runs in Japan and hit 175 more in the Major Leagues.

He spent his last season with the Rays, playing in 34 games and batting .147.

"This is a Hall of Fame-caliber player, based on the body of work that he's done," Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters last summer.

"Had he done all of that in the United States, which he may have done had he started here sooner, you're definitely talking about a player of that kind of stature."

Matsui played 1,250 consecutive games to finish his Japanese career and did not miss a game in his first three seasons with the Yankees, playing 518 consecutive games.

He was a three-time MVP and nine-time All-Star in the Central League in Japan before signing with the Yankees.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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