ST. PETERSBURG Inside a jammed auxiliary clubhouse, some 50 Japanese media members and a large local press contingent gathered Tuesday morning for the official introduction of the highest-profile minor leaguer in Tampa Bay Rays history.
Hello, Hideki Matsui.
The iconic Japanese slugger and longtime fixture for the New York Yankees took his seat on a platform beside a translator, fielding questions about the new turn in his respected baseball career one that has led him, after two weeks of speculation, into the Tampa Bay fold.
For the 2009 World Series MVP with the Yankees, the road to the Rays will lead through the farm system in the short term. Matsui agreed to a minor-league deal that will begin with the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs and, when he and the club feel hes ready, jump to Triple-A Durham.
And thats just fine with Matsui, who says he intends to travel with the minor teams and live the life of a prospect with no preferred treatment.
No, nothing special, he said. Im...