Kazuo Matsui is next.
Now it appears "Little Matsui" will be the next impact import from Japan after he announced Monday he would play in the major leagues in 2004. Here's a look at the star shortstop:
(Born Oct. 23, 1975 in Osaka, Japan)
Height: 5-foot-9½ (177 cm)
Weight: 183 pounds (83 kg)
Former team: Seibu Lions
(Nippon Professional Baseball,
Pro seasons: 9 (Career Stats)
Nickname: Little Matsui
Status: Free agent
Possible MLB suitors:
Mets, Dodgers, Angels, Mariners, Yankees, Red Sox, Padres, Diamondbacks, A's, White Sox, Cubs, Braves
Pacific League MVP in 1997
Seven straight .300 seasons (high of .332 in 2002); five straight 20-plus HR seasons (high of 36 in '02); five seasons of 30-plus stolen bases (high of 62 in 1997)
Four-time Gold Glove winner
Currently has the longest consecutive games streak (1,143) among active players in Japanese baseball. The streak is fifth in Japanese baseball history and the longest ever in the Pacific League.
In 2002, became the eighth player since 1950 -- and first switch-hitter ever -- to hit .300 with 30 HRs and 30 stolen bases in the same season.
Also in 2002, set records for HRs in a season for a leadoff hitter and a switch-hitter (36), and broke a 52-year-old record for most extra-base hits (88).
Homered from each side of the plate in one game against the MLB All-Stars in November.
First player in Japanese baseball history to lead off game with an inside-the-park home run.
What's been said about him:
More talented than Hideki Matsui ... Best Japanese player not in the major leagues ... Japan's finest infielder ... Best all-around player since Ichiro left ... One MLB executive: He's the real deal ... Cannon arm, extra-base power, impact player, durable ... Half-step faster than Ichiro ... Has instincts to steal bases and has punch to bat leadoff.