Kazuo Matsui may not have become the star the New York Mets were hoping for. However, he did set one of the most interesting records in recent MLB history.
Records in baseball are vast and difficult to track. Sometimes, there’s a record lurking and we don’t even know it. Fortunately, there’s enough information available for us to know the truth about Kazuo Matsui and his record set each season with the New York Mets.
Matsui is one of several Mets who hit a home run in their first major league at-bat. However, he’s the only man to ever knock a homer in each of his first plate appearances to open the season in three consecutive years. This goes for Mets and anyone else to put on a pair of cleats.
Ken Griffey Jr. did have three consecutive years of hitting home runs in his first at-bat. Matsui tops him by doing it in plate appearances.
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Matsui’s home run record began in 2004 with a dinger against the Atlanta Braves down in Georgia. A first inning bomb against Russ Ortiz got him and the Mets started on their way to winning on Opening Day; something they’ve done plenty of over the years.
In 2005, the victims were the Cincinnati Reds. In a rare loss on Opening Day, Matsui took former Mets pitcher Paul Wilson deep in his first trip to the plate.
The finale of this record came, as you guessed it, in 2006. No longer viewed as an everyday player or the star we hoped he would become, Matsui dropped in the order for his first start of the season. From batting first in 2004 to second in 2005, he was now in the number eight spot.
This didn’t stop Matsui from doing what he does best: rounding the bases.
And to leave off the top of the third inning, Matsui did just that. Except there was something a little different about this home run. This dinger didn’t go over the fence.
To complete the trifecta, Matsui hit an inside-the-park home run versus Jake Peavy and the San Diego Padres. It was the only run of the game New York would score until an eighth-inning rally that put them ahead for good.
With the four-base hit as his first home run of the season, Matsui became the first player since 1975 to accomplish this feat. Sadly, it was the last home run he would hit as a member of the Mets. He was traded in June to the Colorado Rockies for Eli Marrero.
Matsui’s time with the Mets was viewed as a disappointment. Post-Ichiro Suzuki, I think many people had high expectations for any import from the Far East.
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Despite falling short of major league expectations, Matsui at least gave the Mets ownership of one pretty incredible record I’m not sure anyone will ever break or match.