|Hikari kagayaku||光輝く||Shine your light|
|Eiko- mezashi||栄光目指し||Aim for glory|
|Yume wo nosete yatte kita||夢を乗せてやって来た||Our hope is in you|
|Let’s go Maaton. Maaton! Maaton!||Let’s Go マートン 「マートン！マートン！」||Let’s go Murton! Murton! Murton!|
Matthew Henry Murton was born to parents Bill and Susan in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on October 3, 1981. He was joined by younger brother on May 21, 1986, Luke Franklin, who played in the New York Yankees farm system for several years before eventually becoming a scout for the San Francisco Giants organization. The Murtons moved to McDonough, Georgia, when Matt was 14 years old.
Matt attended Eagle Landings High School and graduated as an honor roll student in 1999. In his senior year, he set the school record in batting average (.551) and also hit 11 home runs and 41 RBIs. His career .405 average is also a school record. He hit 24 HRs and had 122 RBI to go along with 125 runs and 32 SB over his high school career.
At Georgia Tech, where he majored in management, he hit .360 through his junior year with 148 hits, 17 home runs and 93 RBIs in 411 at bats. He also stole 23 bases.
He was then selected 32nd overall (first round) in the 2003 supplemental draft by the Boston Red Sox. During his second year of playing on minor league teams (primarily with the Lowell Spinners in 2003 and the Sarasota Red Sox in 2004), he was involved in a huge four-team trade. He was packaged along with Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs. (Other teams involved in the deal were the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins.)
Matt started the 2005 season in Double-A but after 78 games was moved up to Triple-A. He made his much-anticipated debut with the Chicago Cubs on July 8, 2005, against the Florida (now Miami) Marlins. After singling in his first at bat and walking in his second plate appearance against Dontrelle Willis, Murton stepped up to the plate to face Marlins rookie reliever (and future Hanshin Tigers teammate) Randy Messenger, who had made his big-league debut just two weeks prior. In their first showdown in the top of the 5th, Murton succeeded in driving in a run, hitting a sacrifice fly to right field. Their second round also went to the redhead, who hit a double down the right field line. In the end, Murton finished 2005 with a .321 average and 7 home runs in just 51 games. It would help him land the starting job in left field in 2006.
His lone full year playing full time at the major league level was a relatively successful one. Matt batted .297 with 13 home runs and 62 RBIs, striking out just 62 times in 508 plate appearances. He even tied a club record (still standing) for most doubles in a single game with 4. However, the Cubs were aggressive in the offseason free trade market, signing power outfielders Cliff Floyd and Alfonso Soriano, indicating Matt would not be handed the starting job again in 2007. He still played in 94 games that year, but came off the bench in some of those, racking up just 261 plate appearances. He hit .281 with 8 home runs and 22 RBIs.
In 2008, while seeing his playing time diminish even further, he was part of another big trade: along with (2015 AL MVP) Josh Donaldson and two other players, he was sent to the Oakland Athletics for pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. He did not get much more playing time with the A’s, either, and bounced between the farm and big club the rest of the season before being traded in the offseason to the Colorado Rockies for another journeyman. Once again in Colorado, he bounced between the big club and the farm, not getting many chances and not able to produce well in the limited playing time he got. He was released in the offseason.
Matt admits he was not excited about playing baseball in Japan at first. It was his wife, Stefani, who first felt a confirmation that this was the right move for the family. Seeing Japan as a great opportunity to play baseball every day at a high level, Matt Murton signed a two-year deal with the Hanshin Tigers on December 12, 2009. At his first press conference, he did his best to give a short speech in Japanese, despite having never really learned the language. Talk in the media was that this former big-leaguer would be replacing the suddenly-retired Norihiro Akahoshi as center fielder and leadoff hitter. While he did not reach the expectations of baseball analysts at spring training, he hit well enough in exhibition games (.352) and started the regular season reaching base in 15 straight games. He made the all-star team in his first season, the first “rookie” foreigner in 50 years to do so for the team. After the all-star break, the record books started to be re-written, one category at a time: most first-year hits by a foreigner, most single-season hits in team history (breaking Fumio “Mr. Tigers” Fujimura’s 60 year old record), most 3-hit games in a season in team history (24), fourth player in NPB history to reach 200 hits in a season, most hits by a Central League player in a single season, most hits by an NPB player in a single season (214, exceeding Ichiro’s 1994 mark by 4). His single season hit record was broken by Seibu Lions outfielder Shogo Akiyama (216) in 2015, however, he still holds the CL record as well as the right-handed hitter record. Matt would be named to the all-CL team at season’s end. The Tigers would finish the year in second place but were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
His follow-up season would start with a boom, literally, as he became the second player in team history to open the season with a leadoff home run. However, his season took a turn for the worst after that, as he struggled to get his average above .200. When he did catch fire at last, he removed any doubt that he was more than a flash-in-the-pan, bringing that average up to a league-top .325 by the all-star break. Despite more struggles after the break (including being removed from the starting lineup once), Murton established a team record (and league record for foreigners) with a 30-game hitting streak that lasted from September 6 to October 11. He missed the batting crown by .005 but once again recorded the most hits in the league with 180. The club would finish in 4th place, ending Akinobu Mayumi’s 3-year tenure as team manager.
Matt did not have a particularly good 2012, as his struggles at the plate and on the field, combined with the media turning him into a scapegoat for the team’s lack of success, led to several incidents. First, during interleague play, his fielding was perceived as lazy and he responded to the media’s question about the play by saying, “I don’t like (starter Atsushi) Nohmi, so I let the guy advance an extra base.” Obviously this was sarcasm and frustration at the media’s belligerence, but it caused even more problems than it solved. Two months later, upon making two errors in the field and being pulled from the game, the team had a postgame outfielders’ meeting in the dugout. It is reported that Matt and fielding coach Sekikawa got heated, and the result was a stint on the inactive list. Overall, this was easily Matt’s most forgettable season in Japan. He batted just .260 with 5 home runs and 38 RBIs. The team ended its first year under new manager Yutaka Wada in 5th place.
The 2013 season brought many changes to Matt’s game, as he shifted over to left field to fill the vacancy caused by Tomoaki Kanemoto’s retirement. Also, due to injury to Ryota Arai, he also batted in the cleanup spot for the bulk of the season. The best change came at the plate, where he bounced back a little closer to his 2010 form. In June he hit two walk-off home runs in the same week and in September he collected three or more hits in 4 straight games. He finished the year with a career-best 19 home runs to go along with 178 hits (leading the league for the third time in four years) and 37 doubles (leading the league for the first time ever). Furthermore, though everyone on the club knew things were better between them, Matt coined a famous phrase while publicly apologizing to Nohmi for the previous year’s words. When the two were co-heroes of the night against the Yomiuri Giants on April 9, Murton said in Japanese: ノウミサン、アイシテル (Nohmi-san, I love you) and then embracing the pitcher. His words were printed on shirts later in the year. The season was not without its controversy, however. Twice he was ejected from games – once for arguing balls and strikes, and once for a home plate collision. The Tigers finished the year in second place, but bowed out of the first round of the playoffs in straight games to the Hiroshima Carp.
There was no hotter player in NPB in the first month of the 2014 season. Matt carried the team on his back, hitting .365 and hitting 6 home runs while knocking in 32 runs. This included one game (4/5 vs. Swallows) in which he hit two home runs and knocked in a career best 7 runs. He got on base at a .447 clip, striking out just 11 times while walking 15 times. The next month on the 18th, he collected his 744th career NPB hit, surpassing legend Randy Bass for most in a career by a Hanshin Tiger foreigner. His play was quite consistent throughout the season, as he never hit below .286 in any month. The lone blemish on his record would be a third career ejection, this one also coming after arguing balls and strikes. The whole season was a huge success, and he collected his first batting title in five years, finishing the year with a .338 average. The Tigers finished second once again, but swept the Hiroshima Carp in the first round of the playoffs (well, a win and a tie, technically) and then won four straight at Tokyo Dome to advance to the Nippon Series, where they fell to the SoftBank Hawks in five games. Matt had some key hits against the Giants and Hawks, but the team could not produce enough runs to win more than the first game (against Matt’s good friend and former Tigers teammate, Jason Standridge).
His last season with the team got off to an ominous start when he injured his right thigh on the first day of spring training. It was not considered serious, but Matt spent the first two-and-a-half months of the season in a funk. He did not get his average over .246 that entire time, and did not hit his first home run until June 20. However, after being benched for a few games and then spending extra time practicing (and talking with coaches), he heated up and brought his average all the way up to .297 by late August. On September 3 against the Hiroshima Carp, he collected his 1000th career hit, becoming the 12th foreigner in league history and the first on the Tigers to do so. He amassed the hits in 809 career games, making him the fifth fastest player in NPB history to reach the mark. Unfortunately the season took a dive from there both personally and for the team. On September 11th the Tigers fell off the league throne for the first time in 34 days, and finished the season on a 13-23 skid, barely holding on to third place. Despite Matt hitting in all three playoff games against the Giants, the team could not take the series. Matt’s sixth and final season with the team ended with him hitting .276 and getting 9 home runs to go with 59 RBIs.
Upon leaving the country, he spoke with media at the airport, indicating that he knew this would be his final year with the club. Less than a month later, the team made it official: it would not seek to sign Matt Murton to a new deal for 2016. On December 2, 2015, he became a free agent.
Matt Murton truly endeared himself to Hanshin Tigers fans over his tenure in the outfield. His work ethic, attention to detail, performance on the field and respect and kindness towards fans has put him in a place to be forever remembered in the hearts of fans. Truly he is one of just a handful of import players to impact club history in such a powerful way.
Podcast Episode 50: Murton Interview, HTEN Awards (October 4. 2016)
Murton Officially Parts Ways with Club (November 11, 2015)
Murton Leaves Japan, Reporters Sad (October 20, 2015)
Murton Gets Candid About Future (October 8, 2015)
Nikkei Press Rumor: Murton to Giants? (August 21, 2015)
What Makes Murton Great (July 15, 2015)
Murton and Gomez Climb 990 stairs in 10 minutes (July 14, 2015)
News, Rumors and More… (June 16, 2015)
Happy Birthday to… (Part 2) (June 15, 2015)
What’s Up With Murton? (June 7, 2015)
Why Hanshin Can’t Bench Murton (April 25, 2015)
Murton Shows Japanese Skills in Interview (March 17, 2015)
Murton Meets Hakuho at Osaka Basho (March 10, 2015)
Murton to Speak at Special Event 3/24 (March 6, 2015)
Hirosawa Interviews Murton in Okinawa (March 4, 2015)
Foreigners Report to Japan for 2015 (January 29, 2015)
Murton Signs on for 2015, Wants Championship (December 17, 2014)
Messenger vs. Murton – Who Wins? (November 14, 2014)
Murton to Standridge – Throw it in the zone! (October 22, 2014)
Happy Birthday, Matt! (October 3, 2014)
Murton’s Walk-up Song (September 12, 2014)
Murton singing in the rain (August 9, 2014)
Murton hitting like a beast at Jingu (August 8, 2014)
Murton receives 12th “Modasho” of the Season (July 30, 2014)
Matt Murton declares 2014 the “Year of the Beard” (July 21, 2014)