Video: Ichiro Surprises Daisuke Matsuzaka at Retirement Ceremony in Japan

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 4, 2021

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 30: Daisuke Matsuzaka #16 of the New York Mets walks off the mound after the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies on August 30, 2014 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Japanese baseball legend Ichiro Suzuki made a surprise appearance during pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka's retirement ceremony Saturday.

The Saitama Seibu Lions of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league celebrated Dice-K's career at the MetLife Dome in Saitama, Japan. While bowing to the fans, Matsuzaka was surprised by Ichiro, who approached Matsuzaka and handed him a bouquet of flowers:

Ben Porter @Ben13Porter

Ichiro surprised Daisuke Matsuzaka at his retirement ceremony last night. Incredible moment. <a href="https://t.co/tV2SsMzQR8">pic.twitter.com/tV2SsMzQR8</a>

A clearly shocked and emotional Matsuzaka bowed toward Ichiro multiple times and shook his hand while the crowd erupted.

Speaking to Kyodo News, Matsuzaka said: "I hadn't imagined this. It was crazy. At first I was able to hold up, and then the tears came and I was done for. I was surprised and just overjoyed that, at the end, Ichiro-san came to see me. I'm happy I was able to come so far."

While Matsuzaka's greatest success as a player came in Japan, he is best known to American baseball fans for his time in Major League Baseball with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets.

After establishing himself as the best pitcher in Japan, Matsuzaka arrived in the United States in 2007 to much fanfare after the Red Sox outbid several other teams for his services.

Dice-K was one of Boston's top pitchers in his first two MLB seasons, going 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA as a rookie and helping the Red Sox win the World Series, and then enjoying his best season in 2008 when he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and finished fourth in the American League Cy Young voting.

Matsuzaka never reached those heights again in four more seasons with the Red Sox and two with the New York Mets. All told, Dice-K went 56-43 with a 4.45 ERA during his MLB career.

Dice-K pitched for Seibu from 1999-2006 and then after his MLB career came to an end, he returned to NPB in 2015, enjoying stints with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, Chunichi Dragons and Seibu.

Over 12 NBP seasons, Matsuzaka went 114-65 with a 3.04 ERA. He was also a seven-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove award winner in Japan, and he won the Eiji Sawamura award in 2001, which is the Japanese equivalent to the Cy Young award.

After missing all of 2020 because of injury, Matsuzaka pitched in only one game in 2021 for Seibu. After Saturday's retirement ceremony, he told Kyodo News: "I'm content that I was able to keep playing baseball until I could no longer throw normally in the end."

Ichiro appearing Saturday was significant not only because he is arguably the greatest Japanese baseball player of all time, but also because of his history with Matsuzaka.

They played against each other many times in Japan, and also in MLB where Ichiro primarily starred for the Seattle Mariners.

Ichiro and Matsuzaka were also teammates on Japan's World Baseball Classic teams in 2006 2009, both of which ended in titles for Japan.