NEW YORK -- Minutes after topping his career with a World Series title on Wednesday, Hideki Matsui addressed the thousands still in attendance at Yankee Stadium, professing his love for both the city and the team.
"I love New York," he said. "I love the Yankees. I love the fans here."
Yet, Matsui, with an expired contract and an uncertain future, may not be able to return. Asked after Friday's ticker-tape parade whether he might continue to play in New York, Matsui softened his previous words -- "I hope so" -- to reflect the uncertainty of the offseason.
"At this point, I don't really have an answer to that question," Matsui said. "I think anything is possible at this point right now."
Matsui used the same answer when discussing a return to the Yankees, a potential contract with another Major League team or even a homecoming in Japan. Asked whether he would consider a deal with the Yankees if it meant he would have to remain a full-time designated hitter, Matsui politely held his ground.
The offseason, he said, will provide its own answers in time.
"At this point right now, I'd like to just take a little break and let my body rest," Matsui said. "I think at some point, I'm going to pick up some of the offseason topics that need to be worked out and go from there."
One week ago, it seemed unlikely that the Yankees would consider re-signing Matsui, who at 35 years old was unable to play the outfield due to issues with his surgically repaired knees. But then Matsui enjoyed a legendary postseason, winning World Series MVP honors by batting .615 and driving in six runs in the decisive Game 6.
Now, sentimentality has seeped into the picture. Even if the Yankees re-sign fellow free agent Johnny Damon -- and especially if they don't -- Matsui could return to the Bronx.
Matsui is, however, taking nothing for granted. Matsui said he plans on spending this winter working his knees back into game shape, so that he could potentially play the outfield for any suitor that comes calling.
"That's going to be a challenge that I'm going to have to work on during the offseason," he said. "Regardless of whether I could be back in the outfield or not, that's something that I'm going to be working on, trying to get back in the outfield to see how capable I can be."
After riding a float up Broadway with his teammates on Friday, Matsui returned to Yankee Stadium, said his goodbyes and departed. Before leaving, though, he considered for the first time the notion that he may never play with those teammates again.
"I guess I never really looked at it in that way," Matsui said. "Usually, we just say goodbye and go from there. If we see each other, we see each other."
And if they don't, they don't.
"That wasn't really in my thoughts," he said. "I was just filled with appreciation and I was just thankful for the fans."
Floating up Broadway, Matsui said he was "touched" by how those fans reacted to him, embracing the man who played one of the greatest roles in the Yankees' 27th World Series title.
The next three months may be critical for Matsui, whose legacy remains uncertain. But Friday, Matsui remained more interested in relishing his recent accomplishments.
"The reason why I joined the Yankees was to become world champions," he said. "That was the ultimate goal. So had I not won it as a member of the Yankees, it would have been very disappointing."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.