“I knew before the season started…”
Adios, Tigers. When asked by our staff directly, Hanshin outfielder Matt Murton (34) got candid with us about being left out of the team’s plans for next season. Despite signing for 450 million yen last offseason, a club record high salary for a foreigner, he struggled this year, hitting .276 with 9 home runs and 59 RBIs. What is going on in the heart of this “First Class Criminal” in the case of The People vs. Hanshin, who failed to capture its first pennant in 10 years?
Was this season unsatisfying for you?
Not at all. I think it was a really good season. People around here might think last season when I won the (batting) title was a better one for me, but to me this was a great year.
Looking at the numbers, though, this is your worst season in six years, other than 2012 when you hit .260…
But I was able to grow a lot as a player by playing through really adverse conditions this year. I feel like I got a lot stronger. Hitting .270 and giving it my all is a lot better than holding back a bit and hitting .300. I think I was pushed to my limits a lot more this year than last.
So in that sense it was a good year, then…
Yeah. I struggled for a long time early in the year, and I had to really think deeply about how to get out of it. I ended the year hitting .276 but for me personally, it was a good year.
But even if you personally are satisfied with the season you had, the club maybe doesn’t see things that way.
I know. I mean, I knew that. I knew before the season started that there was no contract lined up for me for next year. The club never really made clear to me what their expectations were for me.
So you had already accepted the fact that this was going to be your last year with the team?
Yeah. I went into that game on the 4th thinking it might be my very last with the club, just like Sekimoto did.
So what lies ahead for you?
I’m not sure yet. Maybe Japan, maybe America. But as long as Hanshin does not offer me another contract, I have to look for a new path to walk down. It’s sad to have to leave Hanshin after six years with the club, but I just have to move on to the next stage of my life.
The fans will miss you.
I know. I’m going to miss them a lot, too. I’ve made a lot of friends in my six years living in Kobe. Not just teammates and fans, I’ve also made lots of friends and acquaintances away from the game, going out for meals with some friends and more. My kids grew up here and have gotten big. Part of me feels like this is home. It really is hard to leave.
This could be a big turning point in your life.
Yeah. I just turned 34, and I don’t know how long I’ll be able to play baseball. If no one sees a need for me on their club, I have no choice but to retire. My time to retire might have come, but it might not be here yet. No one knows. I’m just thinking about doing what God has prepared for me to the best of my abilities.