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WORLD SERIES | NOTES

Matsui Remains Media-Friendly

October 23, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — After a long and rain-delayed game, as Hideki Matsui finished addressing a herd of American media and prepared to address an even larger herd of Japanese media, an ESPN camera crew asked the New York Yankee star for a favor that would have caused numerous athletes to snap and walk away. At 1 a.m. on Wednesday, the ESPN guys shoved a camera close to Matsui's face and directed him to say, "SportsCenter -- en vivo!"

Matsui shrugged and did his best to do the "SportsCenter -- live!" plug that mixed English and Spanish. Then the ESPN guys demanded that he repeat the phrase while pointing a finger at the camera, as if to say, "Coming at you!" He shrugged again and did as asked.

Matsui is regarded as the most popular athlete in Japan, and numerous Japanese media outlets chronicle his every move. Yankee publicist Rick Cerrone said 30 to 60 Japanese reporters showed up every day, even in spring training, with the number upward of 100 during the World Series.

The newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations are there only for Matsui. He graciously accommodates all with a news conference every day, a daily burden that would test the patience of even the most media-friendly American star.

"I've always done that since I was in Japan," Matsui said through a translator. "I'm used to it. It's fine."

Said Yankee Manager Joe Torre: "He's just very low-maintenance.

The Yankees are among several teams, including the Angels and Dodgers, believed to be interested in Japanese free-agent shortstop Kazuo Matsui (no relation). New York General Manager Brian Cashman suggested Hideki Matsui's smooth transition to the Yankees this season could help the club attract other Japanese stars.

"Hopefully, his experience here -- that we've gotten to the World Series and the way we handle our business -- will play well enough in Japan that it will attract people to us," Cashman said. "We want to see the Yankee brand everywhere, whether it's increasing our fan base or increasing our opportunity to acquire players."

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Although Roger Clemens said Tuesday that he is "dead serious" about retiring, save for a possible stint with the U.S. Olympic team next summer, Cashman said he is "not so convinced" that Clemens will not return to the major leagues.

If Clemens were to come back, perhaps for the stretch drive next summer or for the 2005 season, Cashman said he did not buy persistent speculation that Clemens would return with the Houston Astros or Texas Rangers so he could pitch in his home state for the first time.

"I really think he liked the Yankee life," Cashman said. "I feel confident in saying, now that he's pitched here, I just don't feel he'll pitch anywhere else."

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Despite a 39-minute rain delay in the fifth inning, the Yankees' 6-1 victory in Game 3 Tuesday night got a respectable 12.5 national Nielsen rating with a 21 share. That translates to 18.9 million viewers. The 12.5/21 overall average represents a 16% increase over the 10.8/18 for last year's Game 3 between the Angels and San Francisco. But last year's Series was the lowest-rated ever, finishing with an average of 11.9/20.

Staff writer Larry Stewart contributed to this report.

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