Matsui's birthday includes Old-Timers' Day HR

Matsui's birthday includes Old-Timers' Day HR

NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui celebrated his 42nd birthday with a big blast, belting a two-run homer off David Cone that landed in the second deck in right field, highlighting the 70th Old-Timers' Day festivities on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

The 2009 World Series MVP Award winner slugged 175 home runs in the big leagues following an illustrious career in Japan, and said that Sunday's blast marked his first since he connected with one in the Hall of Fame Classic at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y., two years ago.

"It's a great feeling," Matsui said through an interpreter. "For me, the first time I ever came here and watched a Major League game was when David Cone was pitching. That was my inspiration to play here. To be able to kind of make it happen like that, to me, it's going to be something that's going to be a lasting memory."

Matsui said that Cone's pitch was "as scripted," a sly way of acknowledging that Cone agreed to groove him a fastball down the heart of the plate. Cone served up a similar blast to Tino Martinez on Old-Timers' Day 2011.

But earlier in the at-bat, Cone delivered a high pitch that sailed over Matsui's head. Matsui revealed that was the result of a pregame chat in which Matsui told Cone how hittable he looked during Game 2 of the 1999 American League Championship Series against the Red Sox, Matsui's first experience seeing a game at Yankee Stadium.

"Actually, when I talked to David earlier today, I told him about my first inspiration for watching him pitch and feeling like I could hit his pitches," Matsui said. "I think that was a warning message that he sent to me. That was not scripted."

Unlike many of the Old-Timers, Matsui said that he still swings a bat on a regular basis, though he does it from the right side of the plate. Matsui regularly participates in the Nippon Club recreational sandlot league in New York City, where he also pitches for his team.

He laughed when asked if he ever considers a big league comeback, saying that he probably wouldn't last one game before going on the disabled list.

"These kinds of games, it's fun to play in, but when you're talking about the real season, playing the game seriously, then that's a different story," Matsui said. "I don't really miss that."

Matsui also stays close to the game as a special advisor to general manager Brian Cashman, working with young hitters at each level of the team's Minor League system.

"I get to watch baseball from a completely different perspective from my position," he said. "Being able to watch the game and also working with the young players and helping them out with their hitting aspect, that's been educational for me. It's been fun working with the young players."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.