Suzuki, Matsui finally square off

Updated: April 29, 2003, 12:17 PM ET
By Jim Baker | MLB Insider
There are certainly players off to better starts than Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners and Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees, but the media attention their showdown in New York tonight is generating belies the numbers they have produced so far. They are, to this point, the two biggest names ever to cross from Japanese baseball into the professional ranks of North America and, for the first time on this side of the Pacific, they will be facing each other on the playing field.

Interestingly, they never faced each other in regular season play in Japan. Playing in separate leagues (it's nice to see that at least one country with professional baseball has not felt the need to institute inter-league play), they have only met in exhibition series and all star games, reports Mark Hale of the New York Post.

If anyone is expecting some kind of WWF-style hype to the game, they are looking in the wrong sport. Although they do not know each other at all, both players were overly diplomatic in their pre-game comments about the other. Said Ichiro of Matsui -- whom he preceded to the United States by two years -- "I am honored to see his determination. He has such a great and courageous mind to make the decision to come over here."
Jim Baker is an author at Baseball Prospectus and a frequent contributor to Page 2. You can e-mail Jim at