"He obviously played a long time here at the Yankees," Ichiro Suzuki said through an interpreter. "Obviously, he had to play well for a long time and was consistent, but not just as a player.
"I know that as a human being and as a person, you have to be a good person to last with the Yankees that long. That's really what I think highly of him for, just the consistency and the fact that he was able to be here for such a long time. That tells that he's a great player and a good person."
Matsui, 38, hit just .147 with two homers and seven RBIs in 34 games for Tampa Bay. After coming to the Major Leagues from Japan in 2003, Matsui slugged 175 home runs over his 10 seasons. He played seven of them with the Yankees before moving on to the Angels, Athletics and Rays after winning the 2009 World Series with New York.
"Great player. Great professional. Great teammate," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "MVP of the World Series. Clutch hitter. Just an outstanding player."
While Ichiro showcased exciting speed and an outstanding hitting approach upon his 2001 arrival with the Mariners, Girardi said that Matsui's debut in pinstripes proved that Japanese baseball can also produce power hitters on a level equal to the big leagues.
"They're complete players, and they can do different things," Girardi said. "It's not necessarily a speed game over there. They do have their power hitters. I think what Matsui did and where he accomplished it was special. He opened the door, in a sense. You can do it anywhere. If you can play, you can play, no matter where you go."